Pittsburgh is a beautiful city with plenty of ethnic diversity and several unique churches. Residents and visitors agree that Primanti Bros. is a mandatory stop when visiting, and that if you take in a Pirates game, you’ll be treated to a pierogi race. Or, check out a Penguins game and enjoy the home team winning.
Months ago, Pittsburgh priest Fr. Alek Schrenk, (check out his twitter thread to see the beginnings of this!) created a dream pilgrimage for Catholics who love their church, and enjoy brews. Thanks to Fr. Schrenk, we have a definitive list of the must-see churches of the ‘Burgh and not-to-miss eateries nearby. You’ll get a taste of the faith and the flavor of Pittsburgh this way!
St. Anthony’s Chapel and Penn Brewery (Troy Hill/North Side)
St. Anthony’s Chapel is home to the largest public collection of relics (about 5,000 total!) in the world, outside of the Vatican. This collection and the chapel were amassed and financed by the founder of the chapel, Fr. Suitbert Godfery Mollinger and include pieces of the true cross, first and second class relics from saints, and also a life-sized wooden sculpture of the Way of the Cross. It was dedicated in 1883 and again in 1892, always on the feast of St. Anthony of Padua (June 13). Find more information about the chapel here.
Close to St. Anthony’s Chapel is the Penn Brewery, where their Jaegerschnitzel is recommended. They also serve have their own microbrews, in addition to their large selection on tap. Check out their full menu, specials, and hours here.
Attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form at St. John XXIII and Max’s Allegheny Tavern (North Side)
Located in the old parish building of St. Boniface (St. Boniface was merged with other local parishes in 1994 to form Holy Wisdom), St. John XXIII parish celebrates the TLM daily and has high and low masses on Sunday. For mass and sacrament times and more about the parish, look here.
After the High Mass, head down to Max’s Allegheny Tavern (above) in historic Deutschtown neighborhood for Sunday brunch and good German food. If there are more than 5 people in your party, reservations are recommended. Check out their full menu here.
St. Patrick’s and DeLuca’s Diner (Strip District)
For this pairing, it’s recommended to eat first, and DeLuca’s Diner serves up some amazing home fries! “Home of the best breakfast in town since 1950.”
Serving breakfast and lunch all day, every day, DeLuca’s is a popular spot. This location only takes cash, so come prepared, and only accepts reservations for groups of 6 or more. To see their menu and learn more about them, check out their website.
After you fill up, head over to St. Patrick’s Church (above). Though the congregation merged some years ago with St. Stanislaus parish, the church itself is still open and magnificently beautiful. Work off all those home fries you just ate by walking the Holy Stairs, which are a replica of the original stairs rescued by St. Helena and now in Rome. You may only ascend on your knees, though, as this is a devotion and practice in uniting oneself to the sufferings of Christ. Find out more about the history of the parish and the Holy Stairs here.
St. Paul’s Cathedral and Union Grill (Oakland)
No pilgrimage would be complete without a trip to the dioce! The first St. Paul Cathedral was built in 1843 in downtown Pittsburgh, but then was moved to Oakland as the downtown area was increasingly taken over by industry. St. Paul’s now stands right in the intellectual heart of Pittsburgh, surrounded by the city’s most prestigious institutions — universities, concert halls, museums, libraries, and research centers. Find out more about the Cathedral here.
After discovering the Cathedral, head over to Union Grill for some good eats. The menu boasts plenty of sandwiches and burgers, a decent beer selection, and ‘Burgh favorites like Matzo Ball soup, Italian beans and greens soup, and of course, pierogi. For the menu, reviews, and info, check it out here.
St. Bernard and Pamela’s Diner (Mt. Lebanon)
St. Bernard parish began in 1919 and building the structure began in 1942. It was named for St. Bernard of Clairvoux and was designed in 12th century Romanesque style, which was the style of architecture en vogue when St. Bernard lived. Jan Henryk de Rosen, who went on to paint the murals at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., painted the murals for St. Bernard and was placed in charge of its interior decorating. Find out more about the parish here.
Pamela’s Diner, serving “the best breakfast in Pittsburgh” since 1980, is a delicious spot to go for brunch after Sunday mass at St. Bernard’s. Fan Favorites (as designated on their menu) include the Tex-Mex omelette and Gail’s Favorite Eggs. But do not miss their famous crepe-style pancakes! Find more info and their menu here (make sure to select the Mt. Lebanon location).
Assumption and Joe’s Rusty Nail (Bellevue)
The Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Beautiful River was founded in 1903 in Pittsburgh’s newer (at the time) Bellevue neighborhood. A local story says that the Catholics there wanted to go to the first mass there so badly that they snuck around guards during a smallpox outbreak to get to the church! Take in the beautiful mural of the Assumption above the altar which includes depictions of 42 unique saints flanking Our Lady; the parish even offers a notation guide for them. Find out more about the church here.
Joe’s Rusty Nail restaurant boasts a menu of classic favorites and am impressive amount of creative and delicious sandwiches. The Devonshires and specialty sandwiches are especially wonderful. If you go to a later. mass at Assumption, stop by Joe’s Rusty Nail for breakfast first and try the Harvest Fruit Roll Up. Find out more about the Rusty Nail here.
St. John the Baptist Byzantine and Fat Head’s (South Side)
St. John the Baptist Byzantine was first started in 1891 with two distinct groups of Byzantine immigrants: the Rusyns (Ruthenian) and the Ukrainians. As membership grew, the Rusyns founded their own parish. The current church was built in 1958 and was constructed in a modern motif with classic Byzantine lines. The icon screen is the original from the old church which was reduced to scale and redone to help blend the sanctuary and the nave into an integral whole. The central crystal candle chandelier also was transferred from the old church and is the only candle-lit chandelier known to still be in use in a Byzantine church in the Metropolia. The cemetery also has a famous resident: Andy Warhol. Find out more about the parish here.
Fat Head’s was founded in 1992 and established itself as an early pioneer of craft brews in the area. It boasts an impressive amount of beers including a dozen seasonal brews, and (currently) about 30 limited release tap brews. This is a great place to try some local beers and catch a sports game while eating some tasty pub grub. Perfect for an afternoon after Mass and watching the Steelers (or Penguins). More info here.
St. Nicholas Croatian and Grant Bar (Millvale)
St. Nicholas Croatian Church is a historic landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It boasts beautiful murals by artist Maxo Vanka, which he painted in 1937 and 1941, and include Immigrant Mother Raise Her Sons for American Industry and The Capitalist. The murals tell the story of the Croatian immigrant experience in Pittsburgh. The parish was founded in 1894 and was the first Croatian Catholic parish in America and the current church was built in 1922. Find tour and mass times and other information here.
Grant Bar and Restaurant was opened by Matthew and Maria Ruzomberka in 1933, the half-timbered tavern still features a traditional Ruzomberka in the kitchen. Matthew and Maria’s boy, Frank, is now in his 80s. Late in life, he became a pie-maker, and as a result, Grant Bar has become a mecca for pies.
Past the bar, you enter a lobby with walls plastered to resemble, well, it’s hard to describe. The inspiration seems to have been some form of Central European public house, passed through the imagination of a long-ago craftsman who covered the walls with faux stone and timber, augmented with details like a relief of a log beer barrel, complete with a carved stein being filled. “Truly, this is singular vision, an utterly unique folk-art interior that must be seen to be appreciated,” write Angelique Bamberg and Jason Roth for the Pittsburgh City Paper. Find out more about the restaurant here.
Thanks Fr. Schrenk for the excellent recommendations!