Residential Squirrel Hill shouldn’t be turn-off for students

Although Squirrel Hill is often viewed as Carnegie Mellon University’s domain because of its proximity to the neighboring university, Pitt students should still be encouraged to venture down Forbes Avenue to see what is happening in that part of town.

For the most part, Squirrel Hill is a sector of the city that supports more families than it does college students. However, there are still plenty of worthwhile attractions that warrant a visit to the area.

When looking for entertainment, Squirrel Hill is home to one of the better movie theaters in the city, The Manor Theatre. 

Located near the corner of Murray Avenue and Darlington Road, the Manor is a small movie house that features plenty of limited-release films that you wouldn’t be able to see elsewhere.

“When I hear ‘Manor Theatre’ what comes to mind is a friendly environment with a neighborhood feel and an amazing movie selection,” Trevor Litz, an employee at The Manor, said. “In short, a charm and quality that has been lost in the larger chain theaters.”

It is also the only place in the city where you will be able to catch the Jewish Film Festival and showings of “The Exorcist” after midnight.

For food, the stretch of Forbes that runs between Murray and Shady Avenues has enough broadly described Pan-Asian cuisine to satisfy the palate of anyone who craves General Tso’s chicken and sushi, but only wants to go to one restaurant. Also, if you like consuming ramen in a more civilized way than fresh out of the microwave, Squirrel Hill is a solid place to go with its array of noodle options. 

But the Squirrel Hill area especially excels in its coffee shops — it arguably offers the best selection in the city. 

Commonplace Coffee Co. is both a coffee bean roaster and a cafe, and the selection of premium coffees offered is extensive. More importantly, customers don’t have to settle for only what’s on drip at the moment — baristas at Commonplace will make a fresh cup of your coffee of choice via a pour-over method of brewing. 

“We provide specialty coffee but also an atmosphere that is pretty welcoming,” Lexi Buda, a barista at Commonplace, said. “A lot of our baristas really enjoy talking to people about the coffee we make.” 

Buda, who has worked at Commonplace for a little more than a year, also acknowledges their large college clientele.

“Being in Squirrel Hill makes us pretty accessible to the universities, so we have a lot of students coming through,” she said. 

If you are not specifically a coffee snob and are just looking for a place to study outside of Oakland, the 61C Cafe, located further down Murray Avenue, is a great option. A small cafe that is both welcoming and conspicuously independent, 61C is a quiet corner coffee shop that offers above-average coffee and great smoothies as well. And, if you’re a tea snob, it’s a good place to stop in — they make their chai in-house.

Those of age looking for a good watering hole can find two solid options in Squirrel Hill: the Independent Brewing Company and the Squirrel Hill Cafe, which is more commonly referred to as the Squirrel Cage. 

If you have the money, the IBC is a great place to get a good beer. For a bar that just recently opened, it has a surprising amount of character. 

“We never wanted to separate ourselves, good or bad, but we are definitely different,” Pete Kurzweg, IBC’S owner, said. 

“And if there is one thing that differentiates us from everyone else it’s just that we are having fun and trying to do things right.” 

“Doing things right” entails only serving beer that is locally brewed and playing strictly old vinyl for background music. There are no televisions, either. The IBC may be the only bar that allows you to listen to all of side A from Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road while drinking a beer that was brewed in a basement in Highland Park. 

If you happen to be on a budget, the Squirrel Cage — a haven for mustache-twirling post-grads and yinzers alike — is the best place to be. The beer selection is rudimentary — the classiest thing on tap is Yuengling — and it is a verifiable fact that the bathrooms have never been cleaned. But the home-town bar atmosphere coupled with the cheap eats makes the Cage one of the better dives in the city. And, oddly enough, you find yourself craving an I.C. Light once you walk in the door.