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From August 26th to the 28th, Pittsburgh and Professional Event Service (PES) will be hosting the first Grand Prix in the city since 2002. That year, the team of Justin Gary, Zvi Mowshowitz, and Alex Shvartsman won the Onslaught Team Limited event. This year features the Standard Format, and it's shaping up to be one of the largest Grand Prix in history! It will also be the last stop before Pro Tour: Philadelphia, making it the perfect place to stop through on the way to the Pro Tour. Since the Grand Prix only lasts 3 days, you will need to find ways to distract yourself that don't include slinging cards all day. Pittsburgh is a vibrant city with many attractions to see and visit while staying in the Steel City.
Downtown and Strip District
The David L. Lawrence Convention Center is located right in downtown, with the wonderful Westin Hotel attached to the Convention Center. PES has been kind enough to block off a section of rooms for gamers in town for the Grand Prix, so call quickly before the cheap rates are gone! Get there early so you have time to familiarize yourself with the Convention Center and see all the wonderful dealers that will be at the Grand Prix such as EmpireCards.com, Troll and Toad, and StarCity Games. There are many fine restaurants in the vicinity, as well as several classy bars and attractions to see in the downtown area. One of the better restaurants to visit is the Original Fish Market which serves the city's freshest seafood as well as a wrap-around sushi bar that features some of the best sushi in the city. After dinner, I would recommend Bossa Nova Bar to relax and let off some steam before the next day of the Grand Prix. One of the nicest bars in the city, Bossa Nova is a bit pricey, but the service and atmosphere are unique enough to offset the price.
If you are quick enough in the mornings, I suggest taking a short cab ride down to the Strip District and trying to find a seat at DeLuca's. This famous eatery was featured on Travel Channel's Man vs Food as being one of the highlighted places to eat in the entire city. DeLuca's is home to massive portions for a very fair price. Their pancakes are about the size of your average Magic player, so make sure you have room when you visit. Get there early: lines start to form before they even open at 6am! Another featured place to eat from that very same episode is the renowned Primanti Bros. Restaurant and Bar. The sandwiches served there are huge, and the French fries and coleslaw are thrown right into the sandwiches.
The biggest draw of the downtown area is the Rivers Casino. Opened in August 2009, it features 3,000 slot machines and over 100 table games. The ranges for their poker games go from 1/3 and 2/4 (and higher, as long as there is interest), and there will almost always be a game going at some level or another. There are also daily tournaments held at Noon, 3pm, and 6pm. There are also many fine dining options at the casino. The Grand View Buffet and Wheelhouse Bar & Grille are two of the most popular restaurants in all of Pittsburgh. There are also several nightlife options at the casino: Drum Bar, Levels, and Spiral Bar are all unique clubs, each with their own theme and atmosphere.
Southside and Station Square
Arguably the two liveliest of places in Pittsburgh are Station Square and East Carson Street in Southside. Station Square is home to the world-famous Gateway Clipper fleet and many nightlife attractions. The Grand Concourse is one of Pittsburgh's most famous landmarks. Around this area are nearly 20 restaurants, with everything from the well-known Hard Rock Cafe and Buca di Beppo to local flavors like Pittsburgh Rare and Steelhouse Saloon. If you are looking for a bit of nightlife, Station Square will be the place to go. The trifecta of Steelhouse, Saddle Ridge, and Bar Room are all connected and all offer something different, so no matter who you are, you can find a location to your liking. Possibly the most popular of Pittsburgh's nightlife locations, Zen and 5ive Lounge are THE locations to find an invigorating atmosphere. Zen is an upscale multi-level nightclub with an Asian-inspired theme; bottle service and VIP treatment at Zen are something I would strongly recommend while you are staying here in Pittsburgh. Directly next to Zen, 5ive Lounge is a more laidback lounge setting, with a dance floor and several VIP booths.
Heading up East Carson Street from Station Square, you come to the shops on East Carson along with all of the dining and nightlife options you could ever want. Some of the more well-known restaurants in the area are Nakama and Fat Heads. Nakama is arguably the best sushi bar in all of Pittsburgh. The seafood is fresh and the happy hour is one of the most popular in the city. Get there early, as it starts to get packed around 7pm and stays that way till closing time! Fat Heads is home to a large selection of massive burgers and sandwiches and the biggest selection of beers in the city. They serve every burger with their home made fries, and every other meal comes with their potato chips that they make right in the kitchen. If you choose to visit Fat Heads, I would recommend coming hungry!
Down at the far end of East Carson Street is the Southside Works, home to the world famous Hofbrahaus. This local brewery is home to some of the best brews in town. The atmosphere is one of a kind, with everyone singing and jumping on tables while enjoying their favorite seasonal flavors. Also in the area is Claddaugh's Irish Pub and the Wine Loft. Each with their own unique atmosphere, they offer some of the best happy hours in the city.
There are several other attractions that Pittsburgh has to offer. The Carnegie Science Center is right downtown by PNC Park and Heinz Field and is a great place to spend the day. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History and Art is another attraction that some might find more relaxing than the normal affairs. Ross Park Mall has every store you can imagine, and is conveniently located between the city and the Pittsburgh International Airport.
As for places to get your Magic on, I can recommend a few places around the city. In Oakland there is the famous Carnegie Mellon University, otherwise known as CMU. This is the birthplace of one of the greatest magic teams ever, at one point being home to Randy Buehler, Mike Turian, Nate Heiss and many other famous players and WoTC employees. Every Tuesday at 5pm at the student union building, otherwise known as the "O," players gather to draft (with several boasting Pro Tour experience). If you are looking for the best gaming in the city outside of the Grand Prix, this would be the place to go. A bit outside of Pittsburgh is Legions Games. They have some of the biggest turnouts for FNM in the city. If you are coming up from 79, I can recommend the Gaming Dungeon in Washington, PA. The owner Anthony is one of the nicest people you will meet, and they have a great selection of singles as well as a weekly FNM. Another store in the area is called The Vault. Located in Greensburg, PA, it hosts some of the area's larger FNM turnouts in addition to as much booster drafting as you can possibly handle.
I hope this has been very informative for you about Pittsburgh, and what the highlights of the city have to offer. Hope to see you all at the Grand Prix, and good luck!
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2 thoughts on “Grand Prix: Pittsburgh City Primer”
You forgot to mention Mr. Nice Guy Games in Oakmont. Incredibly well priced singles and Wednesday standard tournaments with good prize support. If you are in town on wednesday and need a place to do some testing, that is definitely where you want to be.
Definitely didn't forget to mention them.