Literary City Guide | PITTSBURGH, PA

When I first moved to Pittsburgh in 1998 I’m not sure I thought it was a good city for writers. It took me a while to get the city’s point, which is (I think): in Pittsburgh you can start things; you don’t need to be a follower.
— Sherrie Flick, author of Reconsidering Happiness and Whisky, Etc.

Tour Guide: Madeline Quigley

Madeline has been residing in and exploring Pittsburgh her entire life. Although she is a true believer in the fact that Pittsburgh is the greatest city on earth, Madeline’s passion lies in travel and photography, and she is constantly dreaming of her next great adventure. Details of these adventures (and the food that fuels them) can be found on her blog, the Gal-ivanter, or followed on her Instagram, @thegal_ivanter.



Relationship to Pittsburgh: Lifelong Yinzer (person from Pittsburgh)!

Writer you’d like to invite to dinner: Nicole Krauss

Chef you’d like to prepare the meal: My mom

Writing soundtrack: Silence

Pen or Pencil: Pen – Pilot G2 rollerball to be exact. Nothing can derail my day quite like not being able to find the right pen.

Coffee or Tea? COFFEE!

Paperback or Hardback? Kindle convert

Good Reads


East End Book Exchange. East End Book Exchange has been providing the east end of Pittsburgh with the opportunity to buy and exchange used books since 2010.  The shop has an adorable atmosphere and an incredibly friendly staff, happy to help find a title or hold a friendly conversation.  Recently under new management, the shop has started bringing in new and recommended titles, something the shop did not do previously. The shop frequently hosts events, readings, and spotlight series, all of which can be found on their facebook page.  East End Book Exchange is the quintessential neighborhood used (and new) bookstore.

Caliban Bookshop. Caliban Bookshop is located in the heart of the college district, Oakland, where the campuses for Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh overlap.  The shop has been adored by students, professors, and bookworms for years! Caliban Bookshop specializes in unique and rare books and boasts an inventory of over 150,000 books.  If you are looking for something specific, it is best to check their website catalog to see if they carry it. Otherwise, stop by their Oakland store without a plan and be amazed by the thousands of crumbling titles, overflowing bookshelves, and of course, the overpowering “old-book” smell. Caliban Bookshop is the perfect place to find a gift for someone (including yourself). With a little hunting, the perfect unique treasure can be found. 

Mystery Lovers Bookstore. Over 25 years old, the Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont is a staple in the Pittsburgh independent bookshop scene. The store carries over 6,000 titles, spanning various sub-genres within the mystery genre. The store frequently hosts events, has multiple book clubs, and runs a mystery reading series, Coffee and Crime.  All information about their events and books can be found on their website. A must visit for any mystery lover!

Amazing Books and Records. Amazing Books and Records is the only used bookstore located in downtown Pittsburgh.  The shop is a great place to buy and sell used books and records, as well as check out titles from independent Pittsburgh publishers. There is a second location in Squirrel Hill, although they only sell records at the downtown location. 


Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. One of the many places the steel tycoon’s name can be seen in the city of Pittsburgh is thrown in front of the 19 branches of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. These libraries are scattered across the city and the same (free) library card can be used at all of them. The most beautiful library is the main branch in Oakland, which dates back to 1895.

Allegheny County Library Association. The Allegheny County Library Association is an association of 46 libraries in Allegheny County area that work as a consortium to share their resources. Their website has a great library finder map and catalog search.  


Pittsburgh Contemporary Writers Series. This public reading series, hosted by the University of Pittsburgh, invites contemporary writers to read and engage with Pittsburghers throughout the year. Details of upcoming events can be found on the PCWS website.

Pittsburgh Parks Summer Reading Series. PPSRS is a 5-month summer reading series held monthly in a different park within the city. Autumn House Press, a small publisher within the city of Pittsburgh, works with the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy to present this series to the public, mostly featuring local writers.

University of Pittsburgh Speakeasy Reading SeriesSpeakeasy is the reading series for the University of Pittsburgh’s writing MFA program. This series highlights the work of the students within the program, but all are welcome to attend! 


Rachel Carson Homestead. The home of scientist, conservationist, and author Rachel Carson is located 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh! Carson published Silent Spring in 1962 which exposed the harmful effects of pesticides. The book was revolutionary, causing a nationwide ban on DDT and the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Hemingway’s Café. Like most cities, Pittsburgh has a Hemingway themed drinking establishment. Our variation hosts a summer poetry series every Tuesday, May – July, and has been since 1975! Oh, and they also have pretty great drinking specials, including a different $2.50 craft draft every day.

City of Asylum. The Pittsburgh chapter of the incredible City of Asylum movement is located on Pittsburgh’s North Side. The City of Asylum project provides a safe home and space to work for writers currently in exile and under threat of persecution. Pittsburgh’s City of Asylum homes are decorated with text based artwork and artistic themes to form a “public library” that can be read/viewed while journeying down the street.

Yinz. We have our own second-person plural pronoun! Yinz is the equivalent of “y’all”, but specific to a group of Pittsburghers or people in Pittsburgh. You will see and hear it all over the city. An example of usage: “Yinz watch the game last night?” “Yinzer” is affectionately used to describe a person from Pittsburgh.

Littsburgh. Littsburgh is comprehensive online resource for anything literary going on in the city.  Littsburgh highlights events, writers, and literary news within the city of Pittsburgh by using awesome features such as a literary event calendar and author bio pages. It is easy to get lost within the depths of the Littsburgh site and all of the awesome things happening in Pittsburgh!

Good Eats


4121 Main. This is a coffee shop that feels half jungle, half boutique coffee shop.  Because the shop also does floral arrangements, the entire space is filled with exotic flowers.  It is absolutely beautiful. The menu is exotic as well, serving unique drinks such as the “maple-lavender latte.”  They also boast a large tea selection.  This is more of a place to catch up over coffee with friends rather than a place to do work.

Tazza D'oro.  A place to get work done that also serves strong and fresh coffee. It may take a few minutes to get your drink, but that is because they are doing it right.  There are a ton of tables to do work and a few outside if the weather is nice!

Local Chains. Pittsburgh is lucky enough to have multiple local coffee chains, all of which are delicious!  Any Coffee Tree Roasters, Crazy Mocha, or Commonplace Coffee is a safe bet for strong and satisfying coffee. 


Dinette. I have been going to Dinette for over seven years and every time I eat there I am not just satisfied – I am wowed.  The pizza is paper-thin yet capable of supporting the expertly selected toppings – chorizo and manchego, prosciutto and arugula, onion and anchovies, ect.  The shishito pepper appetizer is blistered perfectly.

Gaucho Parrilla Argentina. Order fast and delicious Argentinian food off of the massive (both literally and figuratively) chalk menu and get ready to be wowed.  Gaucho serves all of its sandwiches on the perfect goldilocks bread – bread that supports the toppings, but doesn’t overwhelm the flavors.  The self-serve dipping sauces are the perfect complement for all of their dishes.

Franktuary. Pittsburgh jumped on the “fancy hotdogs” bandwagon with Franktuary in Lawrenceville. The result was delectable. Choose from pierogis, kimchi, bacon, pineapple and much, much more to top your dog. Wash it down with a drink from their large and frequently rotating draft list. They also have poutine that tastes straight out of Canada. 

Tako. Sometimes you wait forever to try the new “it” restaurant and it is disappointing.  Other times it miraculously lives up to the hype. Tako is the latter. “Tako” means octopus Japanese, and the restaurant serves Asian – Mexican fusion, including tacos with a tentacle in them. Throw in a guacamole bar and margaritas that will knock you down, and Tako is the place to eat downtown.  Be sure to make a reservation ASAP (weeks in advance is not too soon).                                   

Lulu’s Noodles. Though more casual than the aforementioned spots, Lulu’s Noodles is equally delicious and consistent spot to dine. Lulu’s Noodles serves a wide array of Asian dishes and specializes in – you guessed it – noodles! The establishment curates noodles from all over the world.  Although it is usually packed with Pitt and CMU students, Lulu’s Noodles prepares and serves its dishes in record time. Also, they have the best spring rolls in Pittsburgh.


Millie’s Homemade Ice Cream. Millie’s is the perfect place to get a sweet treat after a meal or on a hot summer afternoon.  Millie’s has a large selection of unique flavors – think lime curd and graham cracker - and they are all divine.  This is ice cream you scream over.

La Gourmandine. If you arrive at La Gourmandine to find a line out the door, do not be surprised.  This true French bakery located in the heart of Lawrenceville has been helping Pittsburghers fulfill their sugar cravings since 2010.  There is something for everyone’s palette – as long as you arrive early enough to get it.  Macaroons, tartes, eclairs and more - these treats are worth any wait. 

Café at the Frick. The small café on the grounds of the Frick Estate in Point Breeze offers one of the best lunches in Pittsburgh. Additionally, the Frick consistently has the best pastry chefs in the city creating unbelievable desserts.  The desserts are made fresh daily and rotate frequently.  If possible, plan this outing for a nice day and call ahead to sit on the patio, which overlooks the Frick gardens and mansion. 

Pittsburgh Trees

MADELINE's 5 Favorites

1. Favorite view: The cliché view of the point from Mt. Washington and the West End Overlook really is a must, especially for first timers. My favorite view is from “Pittview Ave” in Troy Hill. 

2. Favorite place to write: Outside

3. Favorite museum: There are many great ones, but the Andy Warhol Museum trumps. On Friday nights, admission is half-priced and there is a cash bar. 

4. Favorite coffee shop: Zeke’s Coffee. I am bias because it is close to my place of work, but it is consistent, delicious, and has the comfiest sofas! 

5. Favorite thing about Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh is genuine!  It has never tried to be anything but itself, for better or for worse.