Pittsburgh Bars (2011)

Pittsburgh is full of wonderful bars and restaurants to grab a drink in, and there are more opening all the time. It’s time to update our 2009 list with new-found favorites:

Burgatory (932 Freeport Road in the Waterworks Mall, Pittsburgh, PA 15238, 412.781.1456)
Remember when you were younger and had that one special restaurant you would always pick when your parents wanted to take you somewhere special? Burgatory is our Chuck-e-Cheese. This place, despite what its punny name would have you believe, is heaven on a bun. They make THE BEST veggie burgers in the state – but never mind that, let’s talk booze. They spin their own milkshakes with homemade ice cream, but as if that wasn’t enough, they also put liquor in them. I was won over instantly when told they had a whiskey and caramel shake. But wait – they also have delicious cocktails at reasonable prices ($6-7) in generous tumblers with herbs and vegetables. However, our absolute favorite is the Guinness float, with that magical homemade ice cream topped with honey and a full pint (and then some, ’cause you get the can) of Guinness.

Meat & Potatoes (649 Penn Avenue in the heart of the Cultural District in downtown Pittsburgh, PA 15222, 412.325.7007)
If there ever was a phone number for a Pittsburgh restaurant to memorize, new-comer Meat & Potatoes has it. Perpetually busy, you should always make a reservation if you don’t want to have to fight for a seat at the bar. The food is amazing, up-scale bar food sent from bar heaven. The frittes with truffle mayo are to die for, as is just about everything else on their menu. We’ll have to swing by for brunch soon also.

But we’re not here to just rave about their amazing food, we’re here to tell you that you need to march yourself up there and try one of their cocktails right now. Since Embury has sadly closed this year, we need to get our craft cocktails elsewhere (although we hear tell they’re searching for a new space). Meat & Potatoes’ barrel-aged cocktails ($11-12 and worth every penny), such as the unbeatable Manhattan garnished with whiskey-soaked dark cherries, have filled that void and our hearts. Fun takes on classics ($8-12) like Gin Richards and lesser known libations like the Aviation are certainly appreciated. They, like Embury did, have gorgeous Absinthe drippers, fresh herbs, and seared fruits on the bar. However, we must recommend against the Dark & Smokey – we were disappointed in the pairing of a smoked rum with Seagrams ginger ale instead of a great ginger beer that you would expect from a high-quality Dark & Stormy. Maybe they ran out?

Sidelines Bar and Grill (621 Evergreen Avenue, Millvale, PA 15209 412.821.4492)
Everybody loves a good neighborhood sports bar – and we think that everyone in Shaler Township likes this one, with good reason. While I always tell the story of how I ordered a Jameson and soda and our friendly bartender (who is really a great guy and there pretty much ALL THE TIME) pour Pepsi into my whiskey and couldn’t stop myself from shrieking “nooo!” Luckily it seems there was an appointed “here you drink this” guy at the end of the bar and I got my drink.

Lesson learned – don’t be snooty, order 22 ounces of whatever is on tap for a great price. Their specials are truly worth the trip, and they definitely know their beer. They also know their fried food, as it’s 85% of the menu. Good, old-fashioned, greasy bar food. Watch out on the prime bar hours of Friday and Saturday nights, this place is packed and there’s barely room to walk. Which is a great problem for a bar 10-15 minutes outside the city to have.

The short list:

  • Salt of the Earth – now has a full-length review by us! 5/5 cocktail glasses or olive picks to them (we haven’t decided on a ratings system).
  • Alchemy and Ale – Aghhhhhh just read my Yelp review. Don’t believe the small amount of hype it has gotten. Short review: save your money, go to New Amsterdam if you’re in Lawrenceville…
  • New Amsterdam – Fits the requirements of clean and reasonably priced. Good food, good seasonal cocktails, lots of parking. A great go-to if you’re looking for a dimly lit, high-off-the-ground bar stool kind of place. Not punching you in the face with the hipster vibe.
  • Eleven – Eleven also boasts a cocktail menu the rivals Meat & Potatoes (also barrel ages cocktails), and it has been around much longer than anywhere else in this post aside from maybe Sidelines, but we’ll have to give a full review once we cross it off our restaurant to-do list.
  • 1947 Tavern – If you love gourmet mac-n-cheese and/or bourbon (both their specialties) this is the place for you. It’s like its predecessor The Elbow Room, but a bit more hip to food trends. Again, it popped up so suddenly as we were moving out of Shadyside that we haven’t had a chance to grab a stool at their bar. Winter is coming though, so the allure of Harris Grill’s outdoor seating won’t be so much of a deterrent.
  • And, as always, our favorite bar in Pittsburgh still is and will always be Kelly’s Bar & Lounge.
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