Nestled into the heart of the North Side is one of Pittsburgh’s many hidden gems, The Mexican War Streets. Originally named The Buena Vista Tract, by Alexander Hays is the cobblestone street neighborhood between Drovers Way and Sherman Ave. Alexander Hays was responsible for the planning of the streets’ layout as well as their unique names. The majority of their names were derived from various battles and generals of the Mexican-American War like Buena Vista, Monterey, Sherman, and Palo Alto. General William Robinson owned the tract of land which encompassed the Mexican War Streets and had a vested interest in maintaining the historical heritage of the neighborhood. As a veteran of the war he sought to bring a little piece of it to his new home in Allegheny.
One of the most strikingly unique attributes of the Mexican War Streets stems from it’s rich historical past. Despite the recent number of new structures being built, many of the homes have retained their original Victorian Era character and grace. Their architectural style is a mix of Greek Revival, Italianate, Richardsonian Romanesque, and the French Second Empire. Built during Queen Victoria’s reign 1837-1901, some of these homes still bear signage from when they were constructed.
Pictured above is the Mattress Factory’s Monterey Street Gallery “Within”. It is the work of New York native, Janine Antoni and Stephen Petronion, who’s creative vision is showcased in the various exhibits on display. Antoni’s affinity for natural elements is evident in her use of trees and intricate bone sculptures. If you’re in the area this is definitely something to check out, just be prepared for a nontraditional gallery experience.
As far as interesting places to grab a bite to eat, the Mexican War Streets are residential, but just around the corner are two great restaurants tucked away. Wilson’s Bar B-Q on North Taylor Ave and Buena Vista Street specializes in home-cooked southern style cuisine. Wilson’s looks a little like a hole-in-the-wall but their primarily takeout food, the creation of Mr. George Wilson and his secret rib sauce is known and loved throughout Pittsburgh.
If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, Lola’s Bistro is just a short walk from the Mexican War Streets at 1100 Galveston Ave. Started by husband and wife duo Michael and Yelena Barnhouse, Lola is a “gourmet comfort cuisine” restaurant with an eclectic international twist.
Coffee wise, Buena Vista Café is one of the Mexican War Street’s best kept secrets. Nestled in between Jacksonia Ave and Buena Vista Street, this little shop is stocked with delicious brews and baked goods. The Italian Breakfast Cake is said to be “to die for” and I definitely will be making a point on my next trip back to try some. The café is only a few steps away from Sampsonia Street, making it an ideal stopping point for those touring the Mattress Factory museum and in need of a quick caffeine fix or bite to eat. For those on their way to the National Aviary on Arch Street on just into the city, Buena Vista is absolutely not to be missed.