The Best Bar Food in Pittsburgh's East End
I consider myself a connoisseur of bar food, like my father and his father before him. In fact, a deep and intimate appreciation of pub grub dates back to my great, great grandfather, who first introduced to my gene pool this sacred love for the pairing of a good fermented beverage with a well crafted, often greasy, meal.
The East End, that loose consortium of Pittsburgh neighborhoods which dates back to the time of great, great grandfather, is abundant with some of the finest bar eats in Western Pennsylvania. Whether you seek a microbrew on draft with a gourmet burger, or a mountain of steaming nachos to soak up your can of Iron City, this guide will point you to the best food you can find in an East End watering hole.
At 50th and Butler, Remedy
offers the mingling crowd of old timers and hipsters a spot on menu of gastro delights, from the battered cod bites, pierogies, and vegan sandwiches to match their extensive beer draft, bottle, and can selection. However, I cannot say enough about the beautiful simplicity that is the Remedy Burger, which comes with your choice of caramelized onions, apple wood smoked bacon, and/ or shitake mushrooms. The Remedy Burger is a patty of juicy nostalgia, harkening back to the summertime cookouts of yesterday.
Stop by Geno's
one block up Butler on Wednesdays before 8 p.m. for their Yuengs and Wings special. $2 Yuenglings are perfect with 25 cent fist-portioned chicken wings served just about every way imaginable. Go for the Lawrenceville Lacquer, a flavor full of potency and mystery. The English language has yet to create words to accurately describe it.
Enjoy the summer while it lasts on the new rustic patio at Round Corner Cantina
. I recommend the tacos al pastor and one of 18 cocktails served in mason jars and made with fresh ingredients, including a stash of herbs, fruits, and vegetables.
While it boasts a trendy clientele enjoying open air seating by day and partying to blaring electronic music by night, New Amsterdam
complements its chic factor and its massive selection of draft microbrews with the Double Yoi!, a modern classic Pittsburgh sandwich topped with cheese, a hunk of bologna, and a fried egg.
Topping off the Lawrenceville list is the illustrious Church Brew Works
at 35th and Liberty, where we worship at the altar of a pint of Pious Monk Dunkel and a Pierogie Pizza.
After a Friday night of perhaps too much worshipping, head to Brillobox
for their Saturday brunch, featuring a weekly menu replete with everything a hangover could want, including the best house made kitchen sink bloody mary you've ever had. The towering mary is thrown together with a scintillating homemade pepper and fruit infused vodka. On Sunday evenings, Brillo goes all vegetarian with their $5 Starving Artists Dinner, which features a healthy chef's surprise to rejuvenate you after a weekend of expensive revelry.
Pittsburgh has no shortage of bars in which to watch the game, but do it in style at Lot 17
, where you can cheer over a rack of ribs and a selection of 14 craft beers.
Located five blocks up Liberty from Lot 17, Silky's Pub might be appropriately deemed a discerning neighborhood bar. With a different drink special every night of the week, and innocent until proven guilty claim to the best BLT in town, Silky's is a great spot for a late dinner. They're not kidding around with the BLT, though. The intimidating mountain of extra crispy slices is best left to the seasoned carnivore.
ShadysideThe Harris Grill
at 5747 Ellsworth Avenue is the ideal spot to take your wining and dining when less hearty kitchens have closed down. They serve food until one a.m.! Good food with really stupid titles and a drink menu the size of Anna Karenina. Get your tickets now for Mr. Baconpants Bacon Bash on August 14th, a Bacchanalian solemnization of the cured pork belly. East Liberty
A gastronomically minded visit to East Liberty wouldn't be right without a stop at Kelly's Bar and Lounge
at 6012 Penn Circle South. With its dark ambiance and 40's style cocktail lounge vibe, Kelly's sometimes feels like the set of a David Lynch film. I say that with nothing but love and admiration for it. They whip up some of the best rare and classic concoctions in town, the jukebox is arguably Pittsburgh's best, and although its legend precedes it, the mac n' cheese is a bar food imperative. You know when the bubbling layers of gooey cheddar creep just so around the crust-laden upper deck and slowly encase it from all sides? Carefully crafted and overwhelming, this mac is the culinary equivalent of Mongolian military strategy.
New bar menus must be approached with trepidation, for while they can be met with wonderful surprise, too often they're littered with kinks that need to be ironed out over time. Fortunately, since the popular dance music bar Shadow Lounge
at Baum and Highland started serving Mexican food at the beginning of the summer, things have gone off without a hitch. The cheese steak torta is a real torta's torta, overflowing with mozzarella, peppers, and fresh guacamole. Allow this vaquero of a sandwich to befriend the liver this happy hour, mightily sopping up the two dollars off micro drafts available Monday through Saturday from six to eight p.m.Squirrel Hill
In a neighborhood certainly not known for great dive bars, Squirrel Hill Café is a bastion for the thirsty, hungry and unpretentious. Boasting a friendly and diverse crowd, a wide selection of microbrews and a jukebox adorned with Patsy Cline and Hank Williams, the Squirrel Hill Café is an ideal place to get a little pleasantly rowdy on a weekend night. They're spinach and artichoke dip finds a rare happy medium between too creamy and too hearty, and the simple, yet flavorful and non-cardboard textured veggie burger can go toe to toe with the best of them.
Unlike Squirrel Hill Café, Gooski's in Polish Hill finds itself comfortably situated in its environment. With a clientele that's half working class patrons that have been going there since it opened at the dawn of time, half tattoos and mohawks, Gooski's is a good representation of both what the neighborhood has been and what it has become. While it's a great place to see touring rock bands and shoot pool, the cavernous space gets notoriously smoky during the evening, so much so that the staff opted to stop serving food at night in favor of allowing smoking. Not a good mix with food. However, come in on a Sunday afternoon after the smoke has cleared for cheap bloody marys and a plate of deliciously prepared pierogies.
Ah, our food and booze cruise of the East End draws to a close at bar food Mecca D's Six Pax & Dogz
on Braddock Avenue. D's storied "beer cave" is loaded with over 1,000 domestic, import, and microbrews. Highbrow beverages meet some of the finest lowbrow cuisine in the land, resulting in a veritable postmodern filling of the stomach. If you surveyed the patrons on a given night, its doubtful that favor would weigh heavily towards any particular menu item. From the cayenne drenched Red Alert dog to the Cod Father sandwich to the Texas BBQ pizza, it's all delicious.Sign up
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Pictured, from the top: Remedy; Genos; New Amsterdam; Church Brew Works; Lot 17; Squirrel Hill Cafe; D's Six Pax and Dogz.Photographs copyright Brian Cohen