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They're eating the world in Pittsburgh. So can you.

Plus, viral T-Swift bracelet's PA ties.

Welcome to PA Local, a free weekly newsletter about the great people, amazing places, and delicious food of Pennsylvania.
Your Postmaster: Tanisha Thomas

February 2, 2024
Inside this edition: Groundhog Day, cookie season, Coachella slot, Black-owned, and how to eat the world in Pittsburgh. It's Black History Month.
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A Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

What was Punxsutawney Phil originally called?

A. Dapper Dan
B. Bob the Builder
C. Br’er Groundhog
D. Pux

(Keep scrolling for the answer, but don't miss all the good stuff in between. Like what you read? Forward this email to a friend.)

Our five favorite Pennsylvania stories of the week.

» One story worth sharing: Punxsutawney Phil won’t be the only groundhog making weather predictions. FOX43 rounded up other local groundhogs you can check out for second opinions.

» One bracelet worth highlighting: The viral “TNT” bracelet Taylor Swift wore at last week's AFC championship game was made by a business in Lancaster. The owner of “Wove” talked about it in a TikTok.

» One cookie order worth making: It’s Girl Scout cookie season, and The Inquirer (paywall) has everything you need to know about the cookies and the only bakeries in the U.S. allowed to make them.

» One band worth following: Pittsburgh indie band Feeble Little Horse will be performing at Coachella in April. Pittsburgh Independent’s profile covers the band's Pitt origins and studying for finals between shows.

» Two breweries worth trying: Philly has a new Black-owned brewery from the Two Locals Brewing Company at uCity Square. For midstaters, there's also the Harris Family Brewery in Harrisburg.

🤔 PA NEWS QUIZ: Think you know what's happening in Pennsylvania? Prove it with the latest Great PA News Quiz: budget season, abortion ruling, election plans, and 2024’s river of the year.
The top stories published by Spotlight PA this week.
» Police complaint records missing, reports hidden

» Public transit foresees huge fiscal cliff without aid

» How Spotlight PA spurred new medical pot research

» Has the end of Roe affected PA abortion access?

» How Spotlight PA will cover PA’s 2024 election

» Court grapples with PA's Medicaid abortion ban
A group of people seated around a picnic table during outdoor dining.
Eat@Pitt club members at The Pub Chip Shop in Pittsburgh's South Side neighborhood. (Photo submitted.)

Fries on everything. Pittsburgh food is known for its starchy staples. (Comedian Steve Hofstetter once joked about ordering a baked potato there and being asked “fries on top or on the side?”) But a local student organization has set out to prove there’s much more to the city's dining scene by highlighting as many local, immigrant-owned restaurants as it can. 

Founded in 2018, the Eat@Pitt club makes monthly trips in search of the city’s best hidden gems. Club President Jackie Honkus said the group orders various meals at each eatery to get a full sense of what the menu has to offer. Blog posts are published highlighting the experience and profiling the owners too.

“There is a lot more than what meets the eye on the surface,” Honkus said of Pittsburgh food. “It is worth searching for these hidden gems. I always encourage people at career fairs — all we ask is to go visit these restaurants. These are people who deserve the visits.”

Her tip for getting the best experience your first time trying a new restaurant or international cuisine?

“Ask your waiter or the chef what their favorite dish is. A lot of times you will get a meal with passion,” she explained.

When owners are asked why they chose Pittsburgh to start a business — City Paper recently profiled a growing Bhutanese population’s influence on the food scene along Route 51, aka the Himalayan Highway — Honkus said the answers have been consistent.

“It was the right place at the right time,” she recalled. “They also say Pittsburgh is an affordable city when it comes to standards of living or being able to find niche communities within different parts of neighborhoods.”

Eat@Pitt Vice President Haley Wilkerson said for her the club has been an excellent way of finding new and exciting dining options: “Not only have I been able to try all different types of foods, but I’ve been able to connect with the owners of these local businesses… It’s made me have a deeper appreciation for the food, the culture, and local businesses.”

Wilkerson said each neighborhood in Pittsburgh has its own niche: “If you’re in the mood for Asian food, check out the Squirrel Hill area. If you’re looking for Polish food, go to the Strip District or North Side. If you’re craving Italian, look at Oakland, the Strip District, or Shadyside.”

She added: “Pittsburgh’s international food scene has an amazing combination of unexpected and diverse cultural experiences. If I could describe it in 5 words, I would say it’s flavorful, endless, surprising, vibrant, and comforting. My word of advice is to come, pick an area of the city to visit, and just explore.”

Here are their suggested starting points: 

Tanisha Thomas, newsletter writer / reporter
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A quote from a Pennsylvanian that we found interesting this week.

“I did not expect chest hair to be so appetizing. At this point we stopped officially taking orders because it's crazy, it's crazy."

Hannah Stumpner of Eileen's Colossal Cookies in Missouri on a cookie inspired by this viral shirtless moment starring Eagles center Jason Kelce

Our favorite reader-submitted photo of the week.
Barb J.'s dog Niqi, on the banks of the Loyalsock Creek, Pennsylvania's 2018 River of the Year. This year the honor went to the Allegheny River. Have a photo of your own to share? Send it to us by email, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
a black dog chilling in the sand next to a frisbee
The answer to this week's Pennsylvania-centric trivia question.

The answer is C. "Br’er Groundhog."

Before Punxsutawney Phil received the name Phil (in honor of King Phillip), he was called Br’er Groundhog. His full name is now Punxsutawney Phil, Seer of Seers, Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Profit Extraordinary, according to his handlers.

Thanks for reading. We'll see you back here next week.

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