Sunday, December 11, 2022

A Brief Review of Places to Buy Books and Food in Pittsburgh

This is a very on-brand post.  




Rickert & Beagle, Dormont

Pour one out for R&B. A good store, gone too soon. Still sad about it. Got the Dictionary of Imaginary Places here for $14.

Fungus Books & Records, Edgewood-Wilkinsburg

While conveniently located near both a bakery and a tea/coffee shop (I recommend both of these), the selection is scant, the shelves are unsorted, and the space is very cramped. There's an entire empty room at the back of the shop. The shelf of $5 paperbacks (decent collection of old sci-fi pulps) is stacked two rows deep so you have to remove books from the shelf to see what's behind them. I hope that the store's able to grow into its stride, but right now it's pretty rough around the edges.

Amazing Books & Records, Squirrel Hill & Downtown

My favorite. Excellent selection, great location (in Squirrel Hill, specifically: they recently moved to the Forbes strip proper, practically next-door to Games Unlimited and across from Everyday Noodles and the Bagel Factory. Downtown location is fine quality-wise, but really only to be visited if you have something else bringing you downtown.)

City Books, Allegheny-West

Visited only once, several years ago now. Selection was less "used" and more "archaic", could not find so much as a mass market sci-fi shelf. Maybe there's been some good stock turnover since then, but my short time there did not engender any desire to return.

Caliban Book Store, Oakland

Still can't get over how the prior owner was caught stealing rare books from Carnegie Main. Good store, though it is very crowded inside and thus a bit overwhelming. Right next to Phantom of the Attic Oakland.

Shadyside Books, Shadyside

The one time I visited this location I was informed that they do not (or did not, at the time) accept trade-ins. Selection felt like it was as if a bunch of retiring college professors had just cleaned out their offices all at once, but after their colleagues and favored students had all had their pick of the good stuff. Vibes were off the entire time. Did see a copy of Again Dangerous Visions when I was there, but did not buy it. Turnover might have improved things.

Half-Price Books (Ross Township)

The parking lot on this one is an absolute nightmare. If you want to visit you will have to be heading northward on McKnight Road, which I would not wish upon my worst enemies. Even if there wasn't a concrete lane divider, making a left turn out of that lot would be suicidal. McKnight Road is a blight and should be torn up and replaced with a high-speed train line.

Half-Price Books (Monroeville)

Probably your best option for a chain bookstore in the area. Big store, very good selection, have gone home with a lot of winners. I regret to this day that I did not pick up the WEG Star Wars rpg the day I happened to find it here. I've seen century-old National Geographics in there (and surprisingly numerous copies of of 40k Kill Team). Solid all around if you are on that side of the city.



Everyday Noodles, Squirrel Hill

The good shit. Sometimes you want Americanized Chinese food, I get it, episodic cravings for General Tso's are part of my life. but when you want the good shit, you go here.

Bagel Factory, Squirrel Hill 

No matter how bad the day is, it will be improved by an egg & cheese everything bagel. That's just how life works. Don't make the rules. 

Ramen Bar, Squirrel Hill 

I got really unlucky and got sick the last time I went, which is a fucking tragedy, as it is very tasty and I've not had any other bad experiences. Go get ye a bowl and a flight of gyoza (gotta have gyoza!)

Blue Monkey Tea, Squirrel Hill

Not a restaurant, but you're in Squirrel Hill already you gotta go pick up some tea. Monk's Blend and Russian Caravan are my big favorites, but the decaf peach is not to be disregarded. Lots of imported candy and snacks as well.

Madeline Bakery & Bistro, Edgewood-Wilkinsburg

Go. Go now.


Biddle's Escape, Edgewood-Wilkinsburg

Hardly 45 seconds by foot down the street from Madeline. You already got a pastry, grab a coffee or a tea while you're out. Get a GOAT oatmeal (chocolate chunks and banana slices). They have food trucks on Wednesday nights.

Nikki's Thai Kitchen, Downtown

NTK is a glimmer of light among the dirty grey nastiness and enormous, empty buildings of downtown. Just a couple blocks from the convention center. Wonderful place.

Cilantro & Ajo, South Side Flats (+ food truck)

Venezuelan street food. If you want something fried golden brown that makes your stomach happy, can't go wrong here. They've got this green house sauce, you get it with everything, it is fucking delicious. 

Mr. Bulgogi, food truck 

Korean food. Get ye some marinated beef and kimchi. Extremely good, clean plate club every time.

Mercurio's, Shadyside

The good shit, pizza edition. Char bubbles on the crust, just the right size for a full meal for yourself. Get yourself a glass of wine and gelato mwah!


Angkor, Greentree 

Supremely unassuming entry in an ugly little strip mall, but tasty as hell and the time I went in person, despite there being only 1 guy on floor staff, the man kept the rice and drinks topped off for everyone.

Big Rigs Barbecue, Monroeville

Thinkin' bout thos beans.


Apis Mead and Winery, Carnegie

Been a while since I've visited, but it's well worth dropping by. Very good mead, they had comedy and food truck nights before the pandemic and those are likely well back in swing.



Phantom of the Attic, Oakland/Greentree/Monroeville

Now, fun fact, the three Phantoms of the Attic are all independent (apparently, when the original stores were sold off part of the contract was that the name had to stay regardless of the new owner) There's one in Greentree, one in Oakland, and one in Monroeville. Never been to the Monroeville one but I know that's mostly comics, the Greentree one is both games and comics but was overall just kinda eh. Oakland is the biggest and best (technically two stores across the street from each other, one for games, one for books). Great selection of mainstream, indie, and used game books, lots of boardgames, do a 20% off everything in the store sale Black Friday weekend, and pre-pandemic they did in-store DCC games (great crowd, lots of fun)

Games Unlimited, Squirrel Hill

Recently moved into a new location and positively thriving.Excellent indie selection, you can easily find books by folks you know in the scene (last time I went I nabbed Charlie's Into the Wyrd and Wild). Will soon open up the upstairs for folks to rent tables for public games and I cannot wait. 


The Secret Manga Shop, Bellevue

A bit out of the way, small, and still getting its sea legs, but very solid selection of manga plus some extra things (local teas, imported stationary supplies, even proper hanafuda sets!) Nice little place.


Carnegie Museums & Library, Oakland

No such thing as a good billionaire, but sometimes you can build some real good stuff with their money. Always worth a visit.


  1. Haven't been able to make it to White Whale Books just yet, but it is on the list.

    You will notice that there is no Primanti's entry; this is because Primanti's is a self-evident aspect of the universe and thus does not need a review.

  2. ...Dude, if you think there's no such thing as a good billionaire, go skim Carnegie's Wikipedia page.

    If modern billionaires were running around offering to buy independence for colonies and arguing for progressive taxation the world would be a very different place.

    Also, I feel like there's an interesting RPG campaign in "billionaire has purchased independence for colony. Go implement it."

    1. Oh he was certainly a recipient of the "Not As Bad As You Could Have Been" Award, but that doesn't mean there wasn't blood on his hands and skeletons in his closet.

      Frick might be a convenient fall guy for the Homestead Riots but let's not forget Carnegie signed off on his plans. Or that he and his circle of friends were directly responsible for Johnstown Flood by buying and then not properly maintaining the South Fork Dam.

  3. Taking notes if I am ever in Pittsburgh