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Downtown: THE Cultural Epicenter


Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

While many out-of-town visitors don’t realize it, Pittsburgh has countless innovative restaurants and entertainment venues that think outside the box. However, overlooking downtown in your search for authentic experiences is a common mistake.


Foodies don’t have to trek very far to find some interesting places to satisfy their palates in Pittsburgh. Some of the most popular eateries include Meat and Potatoes, Tako, Con Alma and Proper Brick Oven, all located downtown.


Proper Brick Oven
Proper Brick Oven

Looking for fresh, seasonal, and locally sourced ingredients in your meal? Proper Brick Oven prioritizes this kind of cuisine. “I’ve traveled throughout Italy and taken many trips to California, especially Napa Valley,” said Owner Suzanne Hrach. “That kind of cuisine really inspires me, and I wanted to bring it back to my hometown of Pittsburgh.”


Guests can pair their fresh fare with 30 beers from craft breweries or a fine wine from the available options. “We try to maintain a balance of different beer styles, including seasonal brews,” said Hrach. “All of the wines on our wine list have to be specially ordered through the PLCB, and they’re not available in stores, so you’re going to find some unique bottles at Proper that you can’t get anywhere else.”


Red meat lovers know another secret about one of these fine dining establishments. Tucked away behind Meat and Potatoes, in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District, is one of the most exclusive places to enjoy prime rib and premium cocktails.


The Rib Room
The Rib Room

The Rib Room, as it’s aptly called, opened in October of 2022 at 649 Penn Avenue. It’s part of the Richard DeSchantz Restaurant Group and is open only on Friday and Saturday evenings.

“Rib Room only seats 16, so reservations are highly recommended,” said Casey Henderlong, director of events and public relations for the restaurant group. “It’s not often there is an open table available. Reservations can be made via OpenTable, or by calling the restaurant directly.”

Diners fortunate enough to secure a seat at the table can feast on a rotating a la carte menu focused on prime rib that’s aged in-house.


Richard DeSchantz came up with the idea for the Rib Room after dining in some of the best restaurants in the world. “He found that some of the best experiences were when he was tucked into an intimate space with friends and family, away from the hustle and bustle, giving everyone an opportunity to savor the food and company they shared,” said Henderlong. “We wanted to create an exclusive supper club tucked away from the worries of the outside world. It’s an opportunity to indulge in the decadence of prime rib and enjoy the company of the people you are dining with without distraction.”


When visiting the Rib Room, guests can expect to be transported to an upscale, classic supper club detailed with red leather, vintage wallpaper and candlelight. The Baked Alaska is a highly recommended dessert option, flambéed tableside.


Henderlong said Meat and Potatoes was selected as the host for the Rib Room for several reasons. First, it’s the flagship restaurant for the group, located in the heart of the Cultural District. Second, the culinary team at Meat and Potatoes was the best choice to execute the vision. “The space was existing, just waiting to be transformed into something spectacular,” she said.


Enjoying a delicious meal isn’t the only reason to visit downtown. There are plenty of things to do for fun, including world-class museums and art venues.


Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra

Pittsburgh is home to one of the world’s best symphony orchestras. A unique feature of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is its sensory-friendly versions of its performances. Its Sensory Friendly Initiative began in 2015 in partnership with Roger Ideishi, the current program director of occupational therapy and professor of health, human function and rehabilitation at the George Washington University.


“The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has garnered a national reputation for its Sensory Friendly Initiative, serving as a model of accessible and inclusive arts programming for other leading arts and culture organizations around the country,” said Katie Schouten, PSO’s director of learning and community engagement.


Concert modifications include the mitigation of sudden, loud sounds, low-level lighting, and fidgets, earplugs and noise-canceling headphones for use by patrons. A complete list of adjustments is published on the their website at https://www.pittsburghsymphony.org.


One fully modified sensory-friendly performance happens each season. The Sensory Friendly Holiday Pops performance is on December 16. Other performances with Sensory Friendly options are available on the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra performance calendar and include the family series, Fiddlesticks.


UPMC Rink at PPG Place
UPMC Rink at PPG Place

At this time of year, seasonal activities take the forefront as well. One of the most popular is the UPMC Rink at PPG Place. Fun for all ages, the outdoor ice-skating rink opened for the season at 10 a.m. on November 17.


No skates? No problem. The rink offers rentals in sizes 9 toddler to 15 adult for a small fee. “We have over 700 pairs of rental skates,” said Andrew Schacht, rink manager.


There’s nothing quite like skating outdoors, Schacht said. “When you are outdoors on real ice in the elements in winter, I think it brings out something ethereal in all of us. We feel the natural world in all its seasonal beauty.”


Add in the uniqueness of the setting of the rink, being on the PPG Plaza with the six glass castle buildings surrounding the ice on all sides, the incredible Christmas tree in the middle to skate around while festive music plays, and it just oozes with holiday happiness and cheer, he said.


The popularity of the rink has a ripple effect on the other businesses downtown. “The size of the crowds that come to skate at the rink impact the local eateries and retail shops,” Schacht said. “Once people come down to skate, they often stay and eat after they skate. And there is a lot of window shopping at nearby shops, which leads to holiday purchasing.”


On December 3 and 10 from 1 to 3 p.m., guests can skate with Santa.


Handmade Arcade Holiday Market
Handmade Arcade Holiday Market

Another popular seasonal attraction downtown is the Handmade Arcade Holiday Market. This year’s market promises to be the largest to date with 275 vendors signed up to participate, said Executive Director Tricia Brancolini-Foley. In addition, the event plays host to 13 individual youth makers, one scout troop, youth makers from Protohaven’s youth maker camp and nine maker classrooms from schools across the region.


This year’s event also features the first group of makers from the BIPOC Maker Accelerator, a program that launched earlier this year in partnership with Sustainable, a woman, minority and immigrant-owned startup in Pittsburgh.


One of the biggest benefits of visiting the Handmade Arcade is shoppers are supporting the region’s robust, creative maker community. “The money you’re spending is going directly into the region’s creator economy, small businesses and makers who rely on it for their livelihood,” said Brancolini-Foley. “And you’re increasing cultural awareness.”


This year’s event is happening on December 2, with early shopping access on December 1. To reserve tickets, visit the event website at handmadearcade.org.

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