Founded in 1902, when everyone walked uphill both ways, the Bulls have evolved into one of the country's best-known minor-league teams. Boasting a rich history and talented prospects making their way to the majors, the Bulls play in the 15-year-old Durham Bulls Athletic Park. Featuring a 10,000-seat capacity, comfy extra-wide seating, a new video board, and a sublime view of the bull perched atop the 32-foot Blue Monster in left field, the Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a superb place to witness the 2009 AAA National Champions run, hit, and skillfully communicate with a flurry of dexterous semaphore. Stocked with young talent, the Bulls will showcase several players in 2010 that are sure to soon end up on a major-league roster. Inspired by 23-year-old Desmond Jennings—who posted a .325 batting average and .419 on-base percentage last year—and 22-year-old, hard-throwing Jeremy Hellickson—who fanned 70 batters and walked only 15 in 57.1 innings—the Bulls are primed for another title run through an action-packed schedule this year.
Tunes from a digital jukebox float throughout Somma Pizza, from the black-and-white-tile floors up to the sports jerseys hanging high above patrons’ heads. Next to walls painted Steelers black and gold, oven-baked hoagies and wraps jockey with burgers for table space. Shareable pizza pies—made fresh daily from hand-tossed dough—arrive topped with olives, hot-pepper rings, and sausage. TVs broadcast sports games, and a video-game room keeps thumbs busy, like a piano concerto composed for players wearing mittens.
AVA is an upscale lounge that dishes out nutritious, Mexican-inspired meals in a softly lit atmosphere. To start, dig into a tortilla chips basket, furnished with cups of green salsa and fried beans ($4, $5 with guacamole). Beer-thirst can be slaked with one of five brews on tap, such as the Franziskaner weissbier ($5.75) and Woodchuck amber cider ($4.50), while myriad bottles, specialty drinks, and wine round out the portal to potable potations. For a main course, fill up on health-conscious eats such as the veggie burrito, a mixture of tofu, rice, spinach, and mozzarella encased in a multigrain tortilla ($7). Satisfy a jones for poultry with a nontraditional torta, which piles breaded chicken, mozzarella, a bean spread, avocados, and chipotle sauce on top of toasted bread or a multigrain wrap ($7). To correct the false belief that avocados are vegetables, order a side of guacamole ($3), proving once and for all that they're actually concentrated happiness.
The cooks at Harris Grill populate their menu with American classics. They've got a bacon cheeseburger by the name of The Burghermeister Meister Burgher, a dish of marinated chicken skewers dubbed Britney Spears, and a grilled pork dish called Prime Pork Flatiron. To complement seasonal entrees and keep patrons on their toes, the selection of draft beer rotates often.
Kaleidoscopic Egyptian tapestries hang on the stone walls of both Sphinx Cafe locations, while tendrils of jasmine- and mango-scented smoke drift up to high, vaulted ceilings. Though it was once a church, the space now exudes an aura of opulence and leisure that matches the warmth of the coffee houses in Egyptian owner Remy and Syrian Amera's native homes. “Hookah bars are different from the norm [in the U.S.], which is either a restaurant or a bar. It slows you down. You just relax here.”
Plush cushions help patrons relax at both of Sphinx Pittsburgh locations, as do more than 30 imported tobacco flavors that servers can enhance with creative add-ons such as wine, fruit syrups, and talking caterpillars. On some nights, belly dancers, fire eaters, and live musicians wind their way between hookahs. On quieter nights, Ms. Andrawes says you can find people playing card games, chatting, and sampling platters of homemade hummus and kibbeh.
Hookah Bookah wafts the gentle aromas of its tobacco arsenal, allowing patrons to customize their hookahs with various flavors, a number of bowls and hoses, and an appetizing menu of munchables. A single bowl ($9.95) can brim with one of 22 premium, flavored tobaccos, such as mango, jasmine, or honey ($1 for single flavor), or with a heaping of 1 of 14 exotic tobaccos from a list that includes banana split and pomegranate ($3 for single flavor). Lung-powered fog machines can arrive sporting up to three distinct hoses ($4), although Hookah Bookah's policies foster sanitary smoke-ring creation by mandating that no more than three guests may share a multihose hookah and only one person may use a single-hose hookah. Patrons can accessorize their mini-cloud generators with natural coals, ice in the base, or political bumper stickers for additional fees.