Lifestyle & Culture

Getting Your Pittsburgh Buzz

June 23, 2017

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WE LOVE COFFEE, and sharing a cuppa with a friend makes the brew taste even better. We’ve mentioned our top places to caffeinate and linger over a pour-over in and around DC.  Now, summer intern and University of Pittsburgh student Emma Larkin lures us to do likewise in the city of driver-less cars.

Beehive Coffeehouse
1327 East Carson Street
Sunday-Monday 8am-11pm, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 8am-12am, Friday- Saturday 8am-2am

This colorful spot on East Carson on the city’s South Side self-identifies as “chill” with “funky vibes.” It’s perfect if you like pesto mozzarella sandwiches, and Halloween is your favorite holiday. Every inch of this establishment is painted with bright murals and store-bought cobwebs hang high on the cloud-painted ceiling. Homemade extra-buttery rice crispy treats are to die for. Seating options range from large booths to tiny tables that seat two (a tight squeeze). Wall outlets abound, so bring your tech and sit down to work. Or come with friends after shopping to take a break and review your good buys.

1737 East Carson Street
Monday-Friday 7am-9pm, Saturday 8am-9pm, Sunday 8am-9pm

If the term microbrew, whether it refers to coffee or beer turns you off, Delanie’s straight-up espresso drinks, smoothies and food are for you. For breakfast, egg sandwiches and salmon on a bagel are a hearty wakeup call. Great grilled cheese sandwiches, including “The Devil Wears Gouda.”  The decor is updated periodically by work from local artists.  If you plan to stay a while, snag a seat in the loft in the back. It’s cozy and good for meetings, although outlets are sparse.

Coffee Tree Roasters, Shadyside
5524 Walnut Street
Daily 6am to 11pm

When the weather behaves, the sliding glass door retracts and the cafe spills out onto busy Walnut Street. Order beverages and snacks, including trendy packaged oatmeal bowls, in the front.  This spring I had a coconut peep-flavored latte. I wouldn’t usually spend money on novelty coffee, but this was absolutely one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. The store’s midsection is devoted to selling coffee beans and coffee paraphernalia; think bean grinders and presses. There’s plenty of seating with lots of little tables up front and several couches with tables in the back. For an atmosphere more conducive for meetings, study sessions or preparing your taxes, reserve a conference room in the back.  Coffee Tree Roasters have several locations, but this is a fave.

61c Cafe
1839 Murray Avenue
Monday to Thursday 8am to 11pm, Friday 7am to midnight, Saturday 8am to midnight, Sunday 8am to 11pm

A favorite among locals and students, 61c has had devoted customers since it opened in the 1990s. Part of what makes this place special is its community vibe. And then there are the baked goods made fresh most morning:  scones, muffins, bagels, cookies, croissants and bear claws. Granola, yogurt, no-sugar-added smoothies, fresh-squeezed juices and cake are also available every day of the year besides Christmas. There are too many tables to count and several coveted spots near outlets. Another reason to stop by is their patio, tucked in a garden on their corner of Murray Street, where sipping a cappuccino with perfect foam is not a bad way to while away a morning or afternoon.

Common Place Coffeehouse
5827 Forbes Avenue
Monday to Friday 7am to 9pm, Saturday-Sunday 8am-9pm

A little too sleek and modern to be considered common, this Squirrel Hill coffeehouse offers several long wooden tables to be shared. The artsy drinks are most Instagram-able. A photo is bound to last longer than their delicious mocha drinks.

Espresso a Mano
3623 Butler Street
Monday to Friday 7am to 9 pm, Saturday 8am to 9pm, Sunday 8am to 6pm

If you want to escape to a cool dark space, listen to music and caffeinate, Espresso a Mano is for you. This indie artisan coffeehouse on the main drag of Lawrenceville where a host of boutiques beckon, makes it the ideal start or end to any shopping spree. The tables are tiny, which is not ideal if you want to spread out papers and laptops, but good if you want to be closer to the person across from you. High-quality espresso and scones and honey are highlights.

The Abbey on Butler
4635 Butler Street
Monday to Thursday 6:30am to 10pm, Friday to Saturday 7am to 2am, Sunday 7am to 10pm

Unlike other coffeehouses in the city, The Abbey on Butler is part restaurant, part bar and part coffee bar, all separated to function individually. Note the ornate lighting and wood columns. Above the coffee bar is an antique rose window from a church.  Meeting friends to catch up and everyone’s hungry? Walk down the hall for a Yorkshire Chicken and Gouda sandwich. Answering emails, and realizing you missed a message two weeks ago that could have saved you half of this week’s trouble? Walk across the foyer for a drink.  During the winter, the bar fireplace is a big draw. Outside, there’s a swan fountain, centerpiece of a large patio space. The coffee shop serves up a bounty of  baked goods beginning at 6:30am weekdays.

Big Dog Coffee
2717 Sarah Street
Monday to Friday 6am to 10pm, Saturday to Sunday 7:30am to 10pm

Perhaps my favorite coffeehouse in all of Pittsburgh, Big Dog delivers on coffee (Intelligentsia brew and Mercurio’s), space (it’s a converted turn-of-century bakery) and art. Located on a quiet street a few blocks from Southside Works, the exterior is inconspicuous enough you may miss it if you’re not looking closely. Inside, the first thing you notice are the brightly colored paintings hanging everywhere. Coffee and espresso drinks are carefully made by the friendly staff;  bagels rock. Of all the tables in the three seating areas, the best is in the right window. It’s small but seats four, is in close proximity to the life-giving coffee counter and has a private outlet. It’s hard to pinpoint its appeal. Perhaps it’s the judicious use of hot pink here and there, or the fact that they once forgot my order and made up for it by triple sizing it and giving me free biscotti, which was unnecessary considering very little time had passed. I could camp out here and never miss my desk at home.

—Emma Larkin

Editor’s note: Relatively new on the scene is Arriviste Coffee Bar (5730 Ellsworth Avenue, 412-204-7320).  It serves “single-origin” coffees from Commonplace Coffee Company (Pittsburgh) and Passenger Coffee Roasters (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) and “are the first coffee shop in the city to use an under-counter Modbar espresso machine…” What’s more relevant to me is that I’ve had some very smooth cappuccinos there (small cookie included) and will return. Arriviste hours: Monday to Friday 7am-6pm and Saturday to Sunday 8am to 5pm.  

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