For those of you not from around here, the strip district is just north of downtown, an old warehouse district where the rail lines came right downtown and offloaded fruit, fish, and everything else.
Now it's kind of a mixed use neighborhood: some warehouses still thriving, a couple of nightclubs, I think, and a sort of foodie center. Lidia Bastianich's restaurant is there, Primanti Brothers, where you get fries on your sandwich, all served on a square of waxed paper instead of a plate, and you can go to Wholey's Fish Market, or the Chinese, Mexican, or Italian grocery stores. Or a variety of more upscale food shops.
Usually when we've been there, we've seen a few street vendors hawking Pittsburgh Steelers merchandise, but when we got there today, a whole section of Penn Ave was blocked off, and the street vendors had practically taken over the whole place.
The atmosphere was festive and everyone was in black and gold, waiting in line to get into some of these places--especially the ones with Steelers stuff, like Mike Feinberg's. You could get a shirt that had a map of Slovenia and said "Slovenian Steelers Fan--Part of Steelers Nation." (Or similar ones for "Mexican," "Afro-American," and even "Hunky" Steelers Fans...that's Hungarians in the local parlance.)
So we went to the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company, got our two bags of stuff: semolina flour, pesto, some cheap shallots; had a very nice lunch at Cafe Raymond; and got a bag of Dutch process cocoa.
And here it was twenty-five degrees outside, and the street was like a party, despite the slushy puddles (and trampled black and gold streamers) everyone was standing in. Everyone seemed happy, spending their money on Steelers hats, shirts, and everything else like there was no recession. There's something pleasingly unpretentious about a town where you can go to the gourmet district and buy all the football gear you could ever need.