Most Tuesdays my friend Susan and I spend the afternoon knitting in a coffee shop. We try to explore new areas and neighborhoods in Pittsburgh when we can. Susan moved here just a couple years ago from Illinois and I returned to Pittsburgh in 2004 after a decade in San Francisco <sigh>. Although I grew up in the area, I lived in the South Hills and rarely traveled to town, let alone beyond it. There’s some strange phenomenom here in Pittsburgh were people don’t cross the rivers. I guess if you live in the suburbs there’s not much reason to cross a river or two only to end up in another suburb. There are many neighborhoods that I’ve never stepped foot in that are within 10 miles of my home!
This week we found Aspinwall Beans ‘n Cream on Brilliant Avenue.
First, a little bit about Aspinwall. Aspinwall is named after the New York landowner that the area was purchased from. It sits across the Allegheny River at the other end of the Highland Park Bridge. The area of Aspinwall is small – less than 1/2 mile square. Neighborhood homes are beautiful old homes with many mature trees and lovely, walkable sidewalks. The main commercial areas are on Brilliant Avenue, Commercial Avenue, and the very busy, Freeport Road. On the other side of Freeport Road is the river.
Brilliant Avenue is a cute area with two blocks of shops, including the coffee shop, Aspinwall Book Shop, Nota Bene card shop, a spa, variety store, bank, laundromat, the Brilliant Market, Fox’s pizza, and Luma restaurant (to name a few). Susan and I spent our time at the cafe.
Beans ‘n Cream’s theme is rock ‘n roll. Classic rock played on the speakers and the walls were adorned with posters and album covers for the Beatles, the Mamas & the Papas, Dylan, the Doors, the Dead, the Stones… you get the idea. Guitars were not only decorating the walls, they were also lying around on chairs. A coffee table was littered with hippy books, design magazines, and sheet music. I had the sense the guitars belonged to no one in particular – since we were the only customers in the cafe – but that a jam session could break out any time.
The decor was not my style (though I loved listening to some songs I haven’t heard since high school). The only “comfy” seats were really worn, leather padded, wicker chairs. The chairs were not comfortable and the lighting was not good for knitting, so we moved outside to the little courtyard. It felt great to have the sun warming us.
Susan is the true coffee aficionado and she’ll have to leave her comments on the quality of the coffee.
We had little time to explore the other shops on Brilliant Avenue. I would like to go back soon to check out the flea market held Sundays (March through October) at the municpal parking lot.
All in all I’d say Aspinwall will not be a destination place for you to take your out-of-town visitors, but if you live in the area spend an afternoon walking around.