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From parks to pizza, the things we love about Squirrel Hill

November 24, 2018

From the Manor Theatre on Murray Avenue to the shops and restaurants along Forbes, Squirrel Hill is known as an iconic, welcoming Pittsburgh neighborhood.

One of the largest Jewish neighborhoods outside of New York, the historic enclave is also known for its diversity, vibrancy and friendliness. There are dueling pizzerias, Kosher markets, delicious Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants and exquisite, tree-lined side streets like Shady Avenue, Beechwood Boulevard and Northumberland Street.

There’s so much to love about this Pittsburgh crown jewel.

We’ll share some of our favorites.

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Mineo’s Pizza House

Mineo’s, a Squirrel Hill staple along Murray Avenue with the signature red awnings, recently celebrated its 60th birthday. Giovanni Mineo dedicated his entire life to the pizza business, starting with the homemade pie and some pasta dishes then adding hoagies and salads and other items to the menu. Many questioned his decision to open a pizza shop in a primarily Jewish neighborhood. But the family business has thrived.

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The Pizza Rivalry

“Mineo’s or Aiello’s?” It’s an age old question evoking passionate responses. For decades, Aiello’s and Mineo’s have occupied the same block of Murray Avenue. There’s even a Facebook group dedicated to the heated, crusty rivalry.

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The parks

Frick and Schenley parks bookend Squirrel Hill and provide an enormous green space to walk and explore. The terrain ranges from steep hills to open meadows. Frick also contains the beloved Blue Slide playground.

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The Manor Theatre

It’s one of the oldest movie houses in the city, screening both indie and mainstream hit movies. The lounge features a cozy cocktail bar. In 2017, Cosmopolitan.com named the Manor the coolest theater in Pennsylvania.

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Chinese and Asian restaurants

Chengdu Gourmet, Tac Lac Vien, How Lee, Sichuan Gourmet, Everyday Noodles, Ramen Bar and Taiwanese Bistro Cafe 33. I’m sure we forgot some. The choices of bold, spicy flavors are endless. Squirrel Hill is all about the fabulous food and culinary adventures.

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Littles Shoes

The full-service shoe store on Forbes has been around for roughly 100 years. There’s a massive selection of shoes in this 20,000-square-foot shop. Justin Sigal owns the store on Forbes with his dad, Joel, who previously owned J. Sigal shoes before purchasing Littles 35 years ago. “We know a lot of customers by name,” Sigal told the Tribune-Review. “People know me and my father and our many loyal employees.”

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Taylor Allderdice High School

The high school on Shady Avenue with the dragon mascot opened in 1927. It boasts a list of famous alumni, including: actor Jeff Goldblum, rapper Mac Miller, Mayor Richard Caliguiri, Hall of Fame NFL running back Curtis Martin, sports broadcaster Myron Cope, rapper Wiz Khalifa, journalist Howard Fineman, Mayor Bob O’Connor and film director Rob Marshall.

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The vinyl of Jerry’s Records

This Murray Avenue haven for vinyl lovers has selections ranging from rock to folk, ethnic to jazz, classical to new wave and punk and bluegrass.

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Pamela’s P&G Diner

Oh, those pancakes. President Obama’s love affair with the diner began during an April 2008 campaign stop when he raved about the strawberry pancakes at a Strip District location. Larger than the plate they’re served on, light with crispy edges, Pittsburghers love to devour the breakfast fare at this Murray Avenue location.

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The Jewish Community Center

The Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh is one of the largest social service, recreational and educational organizations in the region.

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The Squirrel Cage

Technically this Forbes Avenue tavern is called the Squirrel Hill Cafe, but everyone knows it as the Squirrel Cage. Known for its tasty, affordable cheeseburgers and fries, the dimly lit cage also still allows smoking.

“It’s an institution of sorts,” bartender Jan Cavrak told the Trib. “The food, the people, couples meet here and end up getting married. It’s comfy in here. Everybody who works here is great. I don’t own the bar, but I’ve worked here 30 years. It’s such a great place. Everybody has a story: happy, sad, long short. It’s just a good neighborhood bar.”

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Its spirit

“I love how everyone gets along, people of all races, religions and orientations,” Greenfield native Rocco Ieraci wrote in a Facebook message. “I love the business district. I love seeing the families walking around, chatting, laughing, enjoying their time together. I also love how everyone sticks up for each other, and always has each others’ back. You never hear of trouble in Squirrel Hill -- you only hear about love and community.”

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What did we miss? Let us know.

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