Road trip! Day one: Pittsburgh PA

In early August we loaded up our Suburban (sadly without our Bowlus, but that is a tale for it’s own post) and headed West. We began our journey in Connecticut, with our final destination being Bozeman Montana. Charting our course at a leisurely pace, we ensured we would have plenty of time to sightsee and experience America at its best. While the first real highlight on our cross country tour was set to be Pittsburgh, we headed out the night before and made it to Mechanicsburg PA in order to pack in a full itinerary of activities the following day.

We did some research and discovered Issei Noodle in nearby Carlisle. Not only had we read positive reviews, but the restaurant’s website and menu was filled with so much detail and parameters for ordering, information on their mission, as well as their Covid -safe dining regulations that we knew we had a winner. As they offered take-out only we ordered our food and ate it in a park across the street.

We were impressed by the care and attention that went into our order of Seaweed Salad, Katsu Don Special, Spring Rolls and Veggie (Tofu) Salad. Once we picked up our food and settled in, we ate happily until a swarm of flies surrounded us. They seemed to be fans of Issei Noodle as well. If you happen to find yourself in Carlisle craving Asian cuisine, Issei Noodle is the place to go.

Our evening’s accommodations were booked at The Courtyard Harrisburg West/Mechanicsburg . The proximity of the hotel to nearby Hershey Park helped to explain the large number of (boisterous) families staying the night. The best I can say is that it was adequate. One thing that saved the day was the fact that we brought our own pillows. Chalk it up to the fact that we are getting older (and more germaphobic) – but I just can’t bear to lay my head on some of the pillows in these hotels. As a side note, that TV remote had been sterilized and wrapped in plastic before it made it’s way onto the bed (I hope)!

We woke up bright and early the next day and set out towards Pittsburgh. We had purchased tickets in advance at The Andy Warhol Museum, so our 11:00 am time slot was dictating our schedule. Currently the museum is not accepting walk-ins, so be sure to book ahead.

Andy Warhol is a favorite son in Pittsburgh, as you can see from the designation on this particular bridge (others are named after Roberto Clemente and Rachel Carson). Pittsburgh is affectionately known as the City of Bridges, as there are 446, more than any other city on record, including Venice. The Bridges create an easy way to cross the Allegheny River, and add to the beauty of this small city. Pittsburgh has had a real resurgence over the past decade, and we were looking forward to exploring.

The Warhol Museum does a great job charting the artist’s humble beginnings and rise to a superstar pop art icon. The exhibit includes many of his own woks, but also several collaborations I had never seen before, including several with Jean-Paul Basquiat and Keith Haring. The timed tickets avoided crowding, and there was plenty of time to immerse yourself in the works.

After soaking up lots of art, we decided to grab a quick bite at Wholey, a classic Pittsburg institution dating back to 1912. Wholey started as a local seafood market, but it’s appeal has grown to a much broader audience thanks to Goldbelly. Not only is the selection of fish impressive, it also serves as a grocery store to the community. They are best known for their batter-fried Icelandic Cod sandwich, so that is exactly what we ordered. There were tables available in a parking lot across the way, which were filled with others enjoying their fresh hot sandwiches. My husband said it was truly delectable – worth the trip!

Next stop on our whirlwind tour of Pittsburgh was the Heinz History Center, 6 extensive floors of not only the Heinz company’s integral part of Pittsburgh history, but other iconic exhibits as well, including the original set from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood which was filmed in the city.

There were so many treasures here we could have easily stayed for hours, but we got a good overview and vowed to return. There are also exhibits here that are presented through an affiliation with the Smithsonian, so all in all- worth a visit.

Since I skipped the fried cod at Wholey, it was my turn to pick the snack. My choice was Page Dairy Mart a destination for ice cream lovers since 1951. As you may know from reading this blog I am a sucker for soft serve vanilla with hot fudge. Page did not disappoint! It was that perfect artificial vanilla flavor, super creamy with a big squirt of fudge. My husband got the shaved ice, which to me is a waste of calories!

With all of our walking I believe we circled the city at least twice. We came upon PNC Park during a Phillies game, and hoped to buy some tickets to watch an inning or two, but we were unable to purchase them from the box office since the game had already started. It is terrific to have the stadium so accessible though!

It is of course hard to discuss Pittsburgh without mentioning the Steelers. Black and Gold jerseys are everywhere. I would say that among locals and tourists that we came across, approximately 20% were repping the Steelers in some way, and it wasn’t even Football Season yet. This is a town that loves its teams.

I think we had logged about 8 miles circling Pittsburgh, so it was time to check in to our hotel and rest our feet for a short while. We had booked ourselves into the Industrialist, which is in the business district. Because this was a Sunday night, downtown was very quiet, and somewhat deserted, as was the hotel. The hotel is part of Marriott’s Autograph collection, and was most certainly a step above the Courtyard we stayed at in Mechanicsburg.

As an aside, we made this cross country trek with our dog in tow, and while he loves hotels as much as I do, High Rises are generally not the best for him. He likes to ride in elevators, but doesn’t appreciate when new people want to ride on them with us.

The Industrialist is a tall building, but we were saved by the fact that it seemed quite empty during our visit. The room was very clean, and the bed comfy- so we were happy.

Dinner was set to be at Primanti Brothers, a Pittsburgh favorite since 1933. We had walked by the original location down on the Historic Strip, and had planned to return for dinner, but a sudden thunderstorm caused us to rethink our plans and go to a satellite restaurant located at 2 Market Square, which was very close to our hotel. Rather than eat outside in the rain, we brought the world famous french fry stuffed sandwiches back to our room for an impromptu feast. Our set-up does look a bit sad, but tasted very good. I had a deluxe double egg and cheese (I removed the bread) and my husband had the New Yorker Tall Boy. The sandwiches were a little worse for wear following the trip back to the hotel, but honestly, you cant beat the addition of fries and coleslaw to a sandwich. I would most certainly recommend, but if you can enjoy it in the restaurant, all the better. There are currently Primanti Brothers all over Pennsylvania, but I think it is something that should be eaten in Pittsburgh.

Our first real day on the road was a great success. I think we explored every nook and cranny Pittsburgh had to offer, and tasted many of this historic city’s iconic offerings. We would very much like to return when there is a Steelers game being played to get a sense of the real passion of the Yinzers*.

*an affectionate name for the inhabitants of Pittsburgh

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