Beer Run: Oakland Edition
While most identify Oakland as the land of Pitt and CMU students, The Original Hot Dog Shop and frat parties, there’s a lot more to Oakland than the college culture that inhabits it. Dubbed as Pennsylvania’s third largest “downtown” (aside from downtown Pittsburgh and Center City in Philadelphia), the neighborhood’s strong economy houses a variety of small businesses that have set up shop and cater to the variety of patrons who frequent Oakland. Everyone from students to medical professionals to parents and visitors alike have had the chance to walk the streets of Oakland – and if you ever get lost the Cathedral of Learning is a great navigation point. We had a chance to visit 10 of these places and gift each with a case of Iron City‘s new Variety Pack. Here’s what we saw.
The first stop on our tour of Oakland was Caliban Book Shop. Touted as Western PA’s “premier source for quality used and rare books” the shop buys, sells and appraises books, autographs, photographs, printed material, and original art. They also carry a variety of indie zines and works from local authors. Housed within the shop is the music store Desolation Row, specializing in indie, folk, jazz, Americana, and blues in a select mix of LPs and CDs.
Our next stop is responsible for enhancing the vision of many Pitt students and Oakland residents. 3 Guys Optical Center was once housed on the North Shore in Pittsburgh’s historic Clark Building under the name of Sosniak Opticians and built a reputation over 60 years for providing expertise, friendly service, and inexpensive prices on great, quality products. The name change has ushered in a new era of ownership but the same quality service remains. They carry a variety of both designer and more affordable eye wear and their personalized customer service provides a memorable experience for every patient.
Top Notch Art Supply is the go-to center for professional designers, architects, and fine artists, as well as art students. Their in-store specials are what keep patrons coming back for more, as they frequently discount commonly purchased items. Whether you’re looking for paint, paper, brushes, canvases, easels, sketch books and anything in between, Top Notch is likely to carry it. They have also recently introduced a wide format printing service, printing artwork on quality photographic paper, archival canvas and montval watercolor paper.
We visited the folks at Iron City Bikes because nothing else goes better with fixing bikes than a cold beer! We got there just before closing time and they remarked “looks like we’ll be here late” because they had plans to crack open a cold one right away. They even let their pooch get in on the photo. In addition to hosting a racing team, Iron City Bikes has been serving Oakland’s bike community for many years and providing its patrons with sweet bike-themed gear. The next time you’re in the market to juice up your bike, get a tune up or need a repair, consider Iron City Bikes and their friendly, knowledgeable service.
The Culture Shop is a South Side staple. We were happy to discover a smaller version of the same shop in Oakland that offers incense, earrings, belly chains, tapestries, skirts, dresses, purses, shawls, ponchos and more – the perfect accessory for any college student or hippie in your life. If you’re in the market for any of these items but don’t feel like driving to the South Side and dealing with all the hustle and bustle that goes along with it, consider visiting their Oakland location.
Dozen Bake Shop & Cupcakes resides in Lawrenceville, offering lunch options and a bigger cafe, but they also have a smaller pastry shop located in Oakland. The trendiest pastry around, cupcakes have been popping up everywhere from fancy, red carpet events to weddings and everything in between. They make custom birthday cakes and have recently started offering cake decorating classes. Their Craig Street stop is a convenient reminder of why we love the Lawrenceville institution so much. Stop by either of their locations for a tasty treat you won’t regret!
A group of passionate and creative students and alumnus of Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh have recently teamed up to open Kbox Karaoke House, an Asian-style karaoke club. Kbox is the very first karaoke club available in Pittsburgh and offers four boxes each that hold six to eight guests. They’re about to complete their second phase of building and will expand their capacity to nine boxes. Rooms are rented on an hourly basis and provide all the karaoke you need to get the blood flowin. They also host gatherings, with reservations recommended two weeks in advance for larger parties. Otherwise, a few days notice is all they require!
Back in the day when we were Pitt students, Salvatore Puccini’s Hair Design was the best spot in Oakland to get your hair cut. The combination of knowledgeable staff, a convenient location and reasonable pricing made this spot very desirable. We’re glad to see that business is still booming even today, as they’ve managed to open a second location in Cranberry. Fun fact: they were selected as one of the best style stops by the readers of Esquire. Keep an eye on their Facebook page. They run frequent promotions and giveaways!
Our last two stops have the same owners and cater to the same kind of patrons – nerds. Even nerds enjoy beer, and we couldn’t have been happier to kick back at Phantom of the Attic Comics and check out their very large selection. Each Wednesday they spend the morning opening boxes of new arrivals and open the store late that day to prepare for the new releases. They also offer a subscription service with discounts that vary depending on the number of titles you subscribe to and can add or drop titles from your list at any time. Although it’s called Craig Street home since 2008, it’s been in business since 83.
Phantom Games, the sister store to Phantom of the Attic, is a nerd haven, housing tournaments and selling games galore. They often feature prizes and provide attendees with complimentary donuts. They’re good to their customers, so why not be good to them and embrace your inner gamer! Whether it’s Dungeons & Dragons, Mage Wars, or Ascension, Phantom Games has the hottest selection of what’s out right now!