South Side gives Pittsburgh communal night-life scene

The greater city of Pittsburgh houses dozens of smaller neighborhoods, each with their own culture and attractions. Oakland is home to Pitt students, of course, while the North Shore is known for its beautiful stadiums, and Downtown is lauded for its many shops and restaurants.

But one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, especially for young adults, is the South Side. Look no further than East Carson Street, the “Great American Main Street,” according to East Carson has it all — restaurants, bars, music venues, boutiques — if you can name it, you can find it on East Carson Street. 

Some standout places to eat on East Carson Street include Fat Head’s Saloon, The Milk Shake Factory and Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh. Fat Head’s is known for its original craft beer (including 42 continuously rotating taps) and monstrous burgers, wings and sandwiches — nicknamed “headwiches” because they’re about the size of one’s head.   

The Milk Shake Factory takes ice cream to a whole new level. The unique shop offers 50 different types of milkshakes and features about 20 add-ins that you can mix into any shake, including brownies or fresh bananas. 

“We let you customize your order to any extent that you wish,” said Kaylee Ritchie, the assistant manager at The Milk Shake Factory. “We also have a whole display of chocolates and truffles on display.” 

If you’re not into chocolates and you prefer your ice cream without a straw, The Milk Shake Factory also has an extensive sundae menu.  

Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh offers South Siders a unique bar experience that’s a little different from the typical South Side bar. Modeled after the historic Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany, customers can enjoy traditional German dishes and beers, which are all brewed on site in a German-decorated environment similar to a nationality room in the Cathedral of Learning — but with a bar. 

If bars aren’t your scene, South Side also offers many music venues that feature a wide variety of acts. Some notable venues for music lovers to check out include Charlie Murdoch’s, Diesel Club Lounge and the Smiling Moose — all on East Carson Street.

Corey Pisarski, a bartender at the Smiling Moose, said what differentiates her restaurant from some others around South Side is its affordability.

“We consider our food more than just bar food, but gourmet bar food that you’re not going to find for a cheaper price,” said Pisarski. 

The venue and stage upstairs also make for a fun, energetic night out in South Side. 

“We don’t discriminate, so we have acts of all genres,” said Pisarski. She added that some of the acts are for all ages, making it family friendly on most nights. 

South Side is just a short bus ride away from Oakland, which is a perfect form of transportation for of-age Pitt students who might want to check out the multitude of bars and restaurants while trying some drinks. For families going to South Side, there is a movie theater, many shops and chain restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory and Primanti Bros.

But South Side also provides a reliable environment for smaller shops to engage with the night-life reputation of the neighborhood.

John Bechtold, owner of Pittsburgh Guitars on East Carson Street, has seen a connection between South Side’s offerings and his clientele.

“There are a lot of people in the neighborhood who play musical instruments, and there’s also a lot of businesses in the neighborhood that have live music, so a lot of those bands also shop at the store,” Bechtold said.

He also noted the appeal of its small, communal atmosphere.

“I think that South Side is one of the staple communities in the city,” Bechtold said. “It’s a lot of little independently owned businesses in a very cool neighborhood.”