Squirrel Hill a welcoming residential neighborhood

By Gwenn Barney

Don’t let the name fool you, there’s more to the Squirrel Hill neighborhood than its… Don’t let the name fool you, there’s more to the Squirrel Hill neighborhood than its signature oversized furry rodents and mini-mountains.

Only a 15-minute ride from Oakland on any 61 bus, Squirrel Hill is home to an array of independently-owned businesses and restaurants.

The neighborhood’s business district takes up two streets — Forbes Avenue and Murray Avenue — and the selection of international cuisine options is reminiscent of Disney World’s Epcot. Wandering up and down these streets, students can find Middle Eastern, Thai, Greek, Chinese, French, Japanese, Indian and Mexican dining options.

“There’s a ton of food up here that’s really good,” said Zara Ostrander, 27, a sales associate at Squirrel Hill mainstay Color Me Mine. “It’s also a really good place for people to visit if they’re looking for something to do.”

For those with less daring pallets, Squirrel Hill is also home to more traditional eateries. The neighborhood boasts no fewer than six pizza shops.

Squirrel Hill isn’t short on dessert options, either. Students can purchase cold treats from Cold Stone Creamery, Baskin Robbins, Rita’s Italian Ice, and Ben and Jerry’s — all located on the same block of Forbes Avenue.

Of course, there’s more to this neighborhood than eats. Students looking for entertainment can find plenty of options in Squirrel Hill.

The neighborhood boasts Forward Lanes bowling alleys on Forward Avenue, a street off Murray Avenue. Students can also bring out their inner Picasso at Color Me Mine, a ceramics painting shop on Forbes Avenue.

“Chances are really good [that freshmen] forgot to bring a mug to school,” Ostrander said. “They should come visit Color Me Mine and paint one. Moms love painted stuff. Dads, too.”

Squirrel Hill is also home to the historic Manor Theater. Renovated this past summer to include a bar and both digital and 3-D projection, the 90-year-old theater plays mostly independent films, with the occasional blockbuster mixed in.

“We’re one of the only art house theaters left in Pittsburgh,” general manager Geoff Sanderson said. “We offer more of a quality selection than some of the big chain theaters. We try to retain all the art house movies but spice it up a little bit.”

In renovating the theater, Sanderson said owners Rick Stern and his daughter Alexa Stern added touches of the past to the theater, including restorations to the property’s original marble flooring and embossed rotunda. They also added old movie posters and a chandelier that replicates the Manor’s original adorned lighting fixture to add to the nostalgic motif. The Manor is keeping one 35-millimeter film projector on hand for use with smaller movies only released in that format.

“They’re trying to combine the new and the old,” Sanderson said.

Like the Shadyside neighborhood, several upper-end boutiques and clothing stores also own storefronts in Squirrel Hill. For students on a tighter budget, Avalon Exchange, on Forbes Avenue, offers used and vintage clothing options at lower costs.

It’s also not uncommon for Pitt upperclassmen to take up off-campus residence in Squirrel Hill.

“I have friends who live in Squirrel Hill,” senior Kurt Stadterman said. “It’s peaceful. There’s a neighborhood watch so you can’t be rowdy. It’s a nice place to live.”