Graduate To The Square

Fall is in the air and that means college students are back in Market Square. As far as extra curricular activities, the Square has plenty to offer from fab fashion finds and affordable food to free nightlife and quiet study spaces. So we're going to take few moments here to offer a refresher course to help students from Point Park University, the Art Institute, Duquesne University and all the others get reacquainted with the Square.

Okay, so you're back in town. You met your new roommates. Your class schedule is set. And you said good-bye to your parents. Now you're ready to hit the town to see what's new and catch up on your favorite places. Funny thing is, one of the newest places is a very familiar face. Okay, we won't keep you guessing because Las Velas is back and better than ever. After closing to repair damage from an electrical fire, the Mexican hotspot is back in business in its old perch overlooking the Square. The menu still features some spicy standbys, plus new dishes that pack plenty of authentic South of the Border heat. And with an appetizer menu that's easy on the budget, you'll say "Ole!"

No matter how many clothes you bring to school, there's always something missing from your wardrobe. Luckily, the Square is the place to go when a fashion emergency strikes. If you just happened to discover Serendipity in the Square, you'll find one of the hippest shops in all of Pittsburgh for the latest accessories from New York and LA. And for a new pair of jeans or sunglasses, check out WEAR for hot looks at cool prices.

Look, no matter how good the food in the school cafeteria might be, students need a little variety on their menu. Well, there's no better place in Pittsburgh to seek out dining diversity than in the Square, where you'll find everything from freshly ground, all-American hamburgers at Wingheart's Burger and Whiskey Bar to traditional slices of Italian pizza at Fat Tommy's. But that's only the start. Take a trip around the Square to sample the choices.  For student budgets, it's sometimes good to take half home or split with a friend.  For a meal to stretch, try the heavy duty Tex-Mex burritos at Chipotle and Moe's Southwest Grill, super subs at DiBella's, Pepperoni Rolls at Mancini's, giant burgers and the amazing veggie burger at Winghart's, a foot-long at Subway, or a pizza or toasted sub at La Gondola.  For a "just right" meal with a "just right" price, try the mini fish sandwich with homemade chips from the Oyster House at $2.79, or one quick taco at Moe's to get you through that next 3-hour class.  The breakfast sandwiches at Bruegger's, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks offer some light-weight prices any time of the day that are easy to scarf down as you run to down a City block.  We think you're not having a real Pittsburgh experience if you don't eat the whole gut-busting sandwich at Primanti's so that's an outlier in this list.  And the Cajun flavored menu at NOLA and gourmet Italian offerings at Bella Sera are perfect places for dinner when mom and dad are picking up the check.  More new restaurants are in the works for fall openings so check back here soon!

So maybe you'll need a quiet place to study, away from that roommate who can't find figure out how to turn down the volume on the iPod. The tables in the Square are ideal for catching up on reading assignments. And the comfy corners of Starbucks and Crazy Mocha are well suited for sipping a cup of coffee while studying Shakespeare.  Of course, if you need your java during an all-nighter, you can grab some freshly roasted beans at Nicholas Coffee along with some tasty snacks to munch as you type.

Some things you might not immediately think you need but will be glad you knew about... Dry Cleaning!  Spilled coffee on your interview outfit but need it back ASAP?  Try Galardi's 30-Minute Dry Cleaning on lower Forbes.  If it's good enough for the movies and concerts that come through Downtown, it's good enough for us.  And when you get stressed out mid-semester, head on down to Zhang's Massage above NOLA and let their staff make you feel as new as the renovated Square.

The nights are also a bit brighter this year. Not only are many of the businesses open later in the evenings (and on weekends!) but Market Square is sporting some bling.  Local artist, Carin Mincemoyer's work Diamond Diamonds dangles and decorates the light posts on Market Street, connecting the Square and the Cultural District, just as it's diamond imagery connects the Square with it's past. Did you know "the square" used to be "the diamond?"

For some nightlife that won't take a big bite out of your budget, the sounds of the Crescent City fill the Square as live musicians play at NOLA every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. And the best part is that anyone can sit in the Square and enjoy the music for free - the front wall of NOLA opens up so you can see all the way back to the open kitchen. It's the best entertainment value around. Plus, check the Market Square Events Calendar for special happenings, for example: free Friday evening concerts from 5 - 8 p.m. continue through September 16.

And before we forget, the Farmers Market is open for business every Thursday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. right up to Thanksgiving. It's a great way to stock up on fresh produce, vegetables and meats produced on local farms, and you don't even need a car to get there!  Take an extended lunch break to stock your mini-fridge with some healthy snacks or taste some of the great food prepared right there in the Square.

So welcome back, students.
We look forward to seeing you in the Square!


What's Brewing In The Square

It's up in the morning and off to school — again — as Labor Day looms on the calendar. And while the students in your life deal with the three Rs, you might be looking for a little R & R after a hectic morning of getting the kids off to school, before you pop into the office for your own daily grind. And if you're reading this, you already know there's no better place to unwind and steal a few precious moments than Market Square, with a cuppa of Joe and a sweet treat before heading off to your own busy day of work Downtown.

Everyone knows that the some of the city's favorite and oldest dining institutions call the Square home. But one of our favorite drinking establishments —the Nicholas Coffee Co. — has been a mainstay on the Square for more than 80 years. One of the perks of being the old kid on the Belgian blocks is that Nicholas Coffee roasts and brews a hearty, straight-up traditional black coffee that's always right on the mark.  For a more modern twist on your morning kick start, Nicholas Coffee serves a tasty mix of specialty concoctions that's sure to please just about any taste.

While Nicholas Coffee is part of Pittsburgh history, Crazy Mocha is busy adding new chapters to its own story. Just a little over a decade old, this fast-growing regional chain started with three locations and is now kicking up its heels at more than two dozens spots around the area, with more sites opening just about everywhere these days. For a quick, nutritious breakfast on the go, choose nutty, fruity or any of the wholesome flavors of Umpqua Oats with your java. Tucked in the southwest corner of the Square, as part of PPG Plaza, Crazy Mocha brings a modern touch to the coffeehouse tradition with its bright, colorful stores and adds another local flavor to the scene.

Another Pittsburgh favorite earned a sweet reputation in Shadyside before opening a location on the Square. If you haven't figured out our next stop, Prantl's is the place. Sharing space with Mancini's on Market Street, Prantl's is great for coffee on to go, plus an old fashioned doughnut or two. Of course, there are plenty of fresh made tasty cakes, cupcakes and other pastries, including its famous burnt almond torte. Great for a mad dash morning stop on the way to the office, Prantl's and Mancini's are perfect for a more leisurely mid-day or lunch time break, too.

We do love our hometown brews. But a couple of chains serve some great fresh blends on the Square, too. The new-look Dunkin Donuts in the Square is open early and late every day, including Sundays. Which is perfect for Steelers fans who park Downtown and need a caffeine and sugar boost to kick off their football frenzy. And for those happy souls not under the guidance of a sweet tooth, they've got plenty of flatbread sanwiches to keep you warm on that walk across the bridge.  And Breugger's  puts the "brew" in bagels with its bagels and coffee.  Make it fun for the kids with bagel bites and grab a soup and salad for lunch to maximize efficiency.  At Starbucks the line can look long but they move you fast.  Don't worry though, there's plenty of time to decide which artisinal breakfast sandwich will start your day right and let you leave the hectic morning behind.

As the kids prepare hit the books to start another school year, you can always count on finding a cup of coffee in the Square that always makes the grade.


A Good Read — And More — In The Square

We're going to keep turning the pages for the Carnegie Library's Tuesday Reading Room in Market Square. Just in case all you bookworms didn't already mark your calendar, staff members from the Library's Downtown branch will park its book cart in the Square every Tuesday right up to October 11. That means there's plenty more chances to browse this rolling bookstore that's packed with great reads at bargain prices of just 50 cents for paperback books and $1 for hardcovers. And every time you buy a novel, how-to guide, memoir or any of the terrific selections on hand each week, the proceeds will help keep the Carnegie Library system and programs like the Reading Room going strong.

But there's more to the Reading Room. Each Tuesday through the end of the month, a special guest speaker will be on hand from noon - 1 p.m. to help Reading Room fans to, well, read between the lines, you could say, on various topics. For instance, this week, writer and local entrepreneur Razi Imam will speak about Junoon, an amazing force that helps people overcome barriers that often prevent them from reaching their true and full potential. Razi also will talk about his best-selling self-help book, Driven: A How-To Strategy to Unlock your Greatest Potential. Ravi has harnessed this force to start several local high-tech companies, including Landslide Technologies and 113 Industries. So why not stop by to discover how you can be all that you can be?

Did you ever wish you could speak another language — or even three? Well, let's just say that the Mango Languages system could put a few new words in your mouth. Praised by The Los Angeles Times as a great resource for travelers, Mango can help you master 30 languages from French to Mandarin Chinese through a variety of audio and visual tools. Best of all, you can get a taste of Mango for free with your Carnegie Library membership. Save the date of August 23 for a free, noontime demonstration of Mango and how to set up a Mango Languages account to start learning now.

Back by popular demand, "30 Books in 30 Minutes" is a speedy way to get a quick read on a book that maybe didn't quite make the radar as far as best-seller lists or even Oprah's Booklist. Selected by the Library staff, these choice picks include new, old and some offbeat titles selected by the people who know best what's worth reading on the library's shelves. Quick and to the point, this fast-paced half-hour book review is sure to help you check out a couple titles just right for you.

Now, we have an inside source at the library who tells us that these lunchtime talks will continue during September and October, with a special floral arrangement session where attendees can bring their own live blooms or dried flowers for tips on creating an amazing autumn bouquet. And for a really sweet treat, Danielle Spinola of Tupelo Honey Teas will steep a pot or two of her specialty brews that A-List guests are sipping at some of the city's swankiest parties. When she's not at the Square, you can catch a buzz from Danielle's teas at the Pittsburgh Public Market in the Strip.

One thing we've learned about Pittsburghers who visit the Square during lunch each Tuesday is that they have a big appetite — for books. But we really hope that everyone who stops by the Reading Room discovers what Molly Krichten already knows about the Carnegie Library system...

"We are glad to be a part of everything that's going on in Market Square," says Molly, who is the coordinator of LYNCS, which stands for Libraries in Your Communities and Schools. "The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership has dedicated itself to making the Square an exciting place. When people visit the Reading Room in the Square, we want them to learn that the library is doing really cool things in Pittsburgh, too."

Lesson learned, Molly. And you can be sure we'll be booking it to the Square.

For the latest list on upcoming Reading Room programming, keep checking back with the Market Square Calendar.


Summer's Last Stand in The Square

We're not ready to pull the plug on summer just yet. But the end is near. Just look at all those back to school ads, earlier sunsets and even some leaves on the trees are turning brown. Of course, there's plenty going on in Market Square, even after Fall descends upon us. Still, we wanted to remind you that time is winding down to enjoy a few of our programs in the Square. So get ready to catch these great events.

KidsPlay: Only two more play dates left in the Square for the youngsters. This Friday, Pittsburgh's own Macaroni Kids drops by the Square with the good folks from UPMC, who run the CHIP health care program for youngsters. While the Macaroni Kid team dishes out the inside scoop on where parents can get great deals on family meals, vacations and other child-related matters, the CHIP crew offers the perfect prescription on delivering vital health care services for children whose families might be struggling to make ends meet.

To close out KidsPlay for the year on August 19, That Guy With The Birds returns for an encore performance of his wonderfully wacky and talented winged friends. Always a treat for kids and grownups, That Guy With the Bird's fine feathered friends are guaranteed to put on a show that soars.

For a bit of Mid-Week Music in the Square, a trio of Wednesday noontime concerts remain, kicking off this week with the Sun Kings and finishing out on August 24, when the Lava Game performs under the Square's performance tent.

Thursdays in the Square: Don't worry. The Farmer's Market will continue to set up shop in the Square until almost Thanksgiving. But if you've got the music in you, there are only two more Thursday free concerts on tap. First up is The Whiskey Holler this Thursday at noon to play their raucous version of roots rock ’n’ roll.

And to close out this summer's set is Emily Pinkerton, who strums a delicious fusion of  South American and bluegrass on her banjo and guitar. An incredible talent, Emily's appeared at the hip SXSW festival in Austin and played on NPR. Don't miss this fantastic finale.

Sweatin'  in the Square: If you're still trying to shed a few pounds for those new fall fashions, you can sweat away a few calories during the PNC Y's last three free exercise sessions in the Square. These free al fresco workouts, every Friday from noon- 1p.m. are a great way to shape up in the great outdoors and soak up a few of those rays during these dog days of summer.  It's also a chance to try something new, with a different type of exercise each week.

There's still some sizzle left in this summer.  And several programs run later into the Fall: the Farmers Market, Tuesday Reading Room and music at Monday lunches and Friday happy hours from the Market Square Merchants Association.

As always, we want to thank all our great sponsors who've made summer in the Square so much fun this year:

• Farmers Market Sponsor — Renewal by Andersen
• Supporting Market Sponsors — First Niagra and Back to Nature
• Kidsplay Media Partner —WISH 99.7FM
• Thursday Concerts Media Partner —City Paper


A New Chapter In Reading

Get ready to open a new chapter on borrowing your favorite novel, how-to manual or celebrity biography when the Digital Bookmobile rolls in to Market Square this Friday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.  Instead of carting thousands of hard-cover volumes and paperbacks like a traditional bookmobile, the Digital Bookmobile packs dozens of Internet connected computers inside a nearly 75-foot long trailer to provide borrowers with an almost limitless selection of e-books to download to their laptops, smart phones and other mobile devices. And all you need is a valid membership card to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to get started. It's really that easy.

Based in Cleveland, the Digital Bookmobile is freewheeling across the the U.S. — with two stops in Pittsburgh — to introduce readers to their local library's e-collections and make borrowing e-books, audiobooks, CDs and other downloadable materials easier than ever. Best of all, there are never any late fees to worry about since all digitally borrowed items are automatically returned on their due date. And if you already have a Carnegie Library card, you can start borrowing now at the library's e-book site, where you'll find thousand of current best-sellers and classics.

Inside this branch library on 18 wheels, e-book-worms can explore the digital catalog for their favorite authors and titles. For those who tend to get tangled up in the World Wide Web, friendly staff and interactive videos will help even the most Internet challenged folks successfully navigate the online catalog.  If you've got an ear for the spoken word, stop by the AudioBook Alley to listen to the thousands of titles available to download to your MP3 player. In the Gadget Gallery, you'll discover which of your computers and mobile devices are compatible with the Digital Bookmobile lending library. And the Video Lounge is a great place to preview downloadable documentaries, feature films and more in a comfortable theater setting on an IMAX HD screen. It's just like being at the movies — without buying a ticket.

And you can pair your trip to the Digital Bookmobile with one of our other Friday programs in the Square.  Stop by for KidsPlay with tomorrow's special guest, the Toonseum.  Join the PNC Y for Sweatin' in the Square - a free exercise class during lunch (tomorrow we get to play with exercise balls!) and come back for happy hour with a free concert at Friday Night Live.

If e-books aren't quite your idea of a good read, you can always stop by the Square each week for the Carnegie Library's Tuesday Reading Room. Open for business from 11 a.m.-2 p.m through October 11, the Reading Room is a great place to find bargains on used books of all kinds. With paperbacks priced at 50 cents and hardcovers selling for just $1, the Reading Room is one of the best deals in Downtown. And don't forget to create a bookmark in your e-calendar for the special programs coming up in the Reading Room schedule. Be sure you stay current on the many special events and guest speakers on tap for the rest of the year. If you're hooked on books of any kind, we'll see you soon in the Square.