Emily B. King
Published in The Strip
“Vendors in the Strip”
Weekend after weekend (and some on weekdays as well), these dedicated entrepreneurs sell their wares and delicacies on the street despite harsh weather and economic conditions. Though they don’t conduct business in a physical building, many of them have shown just as much loyalty and dedication to their customers as any bricks and mortar store. These are a few samples of the eclectic mix of vendors that claim the sidewalks and parking lots of the Strip District.
Anyone with a penchant for sweets will have a hard time walking away from Espresso’s outdoor bake sale. Every Friday and Saturday, Espresso sells their freshly baked goods between 17th and 18th on Penn Ave. Customer favorites include biscotti, brownies and macaroons. Canolli remains the biggest seller, which contains a rich and creamy filling, a sweet crisp outer shell and a drizzle of chocolate.
If you’re looking for some Pittsburgh gear to show support for your favorite sports team, check out the Looney Bin, across from Penn Mac. Paul Dausch sells a comedic selection of t-shirts and sports paraphernalia at discounted prices. His latest in-demand t-shirt design is a commemorative Mellon Arena shirt that says “Dome Sweet Dome”.
Mokabob’s American Grill
You can’t miss the spicy grilled aroma coming from Ron William’s grill at Mokabob’s. Mokabob’s sells three varieties of chicken on a stick. The biggest seller, the original recipe, combines chicken, pineapple and onion. Other options include the Backyard Barbecue with onions and red peppers and the Buffalo Chicken with grape tomatoes and onions. If you can’t get enough of the taste, Mokabob’s also does catering.
Ribs n’ Things
Ribs n’ things sits right next to Mokabob’s. If you’re craving a thick rack of smoky ribs, stop here. They slow-cook the ribs for four hours and grill them to perfection. Then they smother them in a special mustard sauce, which helps keep the ribs tender and juicy. Ribs n’ Things opens on Saturdays and they will cut your ribs to order.
Al and Tony’s Street Treats
Al and Tony’s Street Treats puts a gourmet twist on favorite fair foods. They offer a tempting menu of funnel cakes, all beef hotdogs, hand-dipped corn dogs, fried Oreos and more. Al and Tony’s also claims to have the best Delmonico steaks in Pittsburgh, which they serve on a fresh Mancini’s roll. They make the batter for their corn dogs and funnel cakes, which they fry fresh when you order them. They also special-order their grilled bratwurst from Parma Sausage. You can’t get much more local than that.
Are you looking for a replacement cell phone charger without spending a fortune? Curtis McGriff of DC Designs has a solution. He has been selling discount phone chargers at his stand across from Wholey’s for ten years. He also sells customized t-shirts at DC Design.
Cinco de Mayo
After you buy all the fresh produce from your Saturday morning jaunt in the Strip, you’re going to need something to spice it up. Visit Cinco de Mayo, located outside of Enrico’s for some of the freshest salsas and sauces. Make sure you get there early, because Arturo Vizzuet, aka “the Salsa Man”, often sells out of his stock quickly. The preservative-free homemade salsas and sauces come in flavors like Fresca, Mango Chutney, Aunt Carmella’s Black Bean and Spanish Peanut.
Robert Ching and Kathleen Narciso of Moonlight Express offers a full menu of Asian dishes, like fried rice with shrimp or chicken, jumbo eggrolls, barbecue chicken kabobs, General Tso’s or Sesame chicken, Pad Thai noodles and rice noodles. For twenty-one years, this popular joint has been cooking up warm lunches in their kitchen on wheels in the alleyway beside Kim Do’s Oriental Groceries.
Wild River Kettle Corn
Everyone who passes the Wild River Kettle Corn stand holds out their hand and gets a warm ladle full of fresh kettle corn. You don’t need much advertising when the samples sell themselves. They cook the popcorn in giant kettles on the street with a dash of sugar. It’s cooked in soybean oil, which has zero cholesterol. This may make you feel a little better about yourself after eating the entire bag. Wild River sells a lot of kettle corn, but they also make caramel corn, chocolate covered caramel corn, chocolate covered kettle corn and cheese popcorn, depending on the season. Check them out between 18th and 19th Streets.
Little Athens of Sewickley
The Little Athens tent between 18th and 19th offers a sample of the goods that they sell in their Sewickley restaurant. The Greek delicacies include baklava, spinach pie, rice pudding, grape leaves, Greek lasagna, Greek wedding cookies and much more. They may be famous for their Super Duper Gyro but they also claim to have the best baklava in Pittsburgh. Try a piece from here and Labad’s to try to settle the debate.
Earth’s Age Soap
If you are a regular to the Strip District, you might recognize “the Soap Lady” and “the Soap Man”. Adriane Pacella and her father, Tony, have been selling her handmade soaps in front of Penn Macaroni since 1996. In fact, their family tradition of making soap goes all the way back to her grandparents in Italy. Adriene buys all the ingredients to make her soaps right in the Strip district and sells them locally at places like Roxanne’s Dried Flowers and the East End Co-op. Many of the Pacella’s loyal customers swear by her extra virgin olive oil soaps to help their skin conditions, like eczema, allergies, sensitivity, dryness and acne.