The Art of the Nightcap

I'm on a lucrative search for the best spots in Pittsburgh to have a nightcap: The bar you head to for one drink at the end of the evening, after wherever you were before.

murray avenue grill

Photo courtesy of Murray Avenue Grill

 

My lovely girlfriend, Stephanie, had our Valentine’s Day date planned about six months in advance this year. See, February 14 also happens to be my birthday, and she wanted us to be in the right spot—it was our first V-Day/B-Day together, after all—so when we discovered the utterly charming back room of the always fabulous 17th Street Cafe, she immediately got to work on pinning them down for the corner table on the 14th.

But as we were getting ready yesterday, we found ourselves wondering where we would head afterward. We both agreed that a second destination was in order, but where? Most of our favorite spots are all-night outings, like Sharp Edge Beer Emporium or Kelly’s. We’re in the habit of picking a place to spend a few hours, then head home. Where to for a brief visit?

And thus, we found ourselves contemplating a dying tradition: The nightcap. The bar you head to for one drink at the end of the evening, after wherever you were before. There are some requirements to this search; obviously, the place has to be open late. It also needs a bar that you can stroll right up to, grabbing your seat without concern or crowding; the nightcap is not meant to be enjoyed while standing in the corner. And the nightcap is a drink for winding down—that means no loud music, no raucous crowds, and if there’s a TV, it better be muted.

With these requirements in mind, here’s a list of my favorite nightcap spots, by neighborhood. Before we get going, you’ll note that I’m once again adjusting the format of this young blog—please be sure to comment and let me know what you think.
 

Downtown/Strip District: Embury

I praise Embury often and with good cause. It fits in as a perfect nightcap spot, though, because you should only ever have one drink here. These cocktails are crafted works of art, meant to be savored and sipped. Furthermore, they’re $10; sticking with one is a sound financial decision. Grab a candlelit table by the window, and the bluesy soundtrack will deliver you comfortably into the night. (2216 Penn Ave., Strip District. Info: 412/434-1230, firehouse-lounge.com)
 

Oakland: Joe Mama’s

It’s a chain restaurant and can be a bit rowdy with the college crowd at certain times. Still, “a bit rowdy with the college crowd” is a description of absolutely every Oakland bar, so you take what you can get—and at Joe Mama’s, that’s a focus on old-school cocktails that are carefully prepared. Something classic is always best as a nightcap; and the best nightcap bars don’t always lend themselves to beer, wine or newer hyper-sweet mixed drinks. Order an Old Fashioned or a Tom Collins and unwind. (3716 Forbes Ave., Oakland. Info: 412/621-7282, joemamas.com)
 

Bloomfield/Shadyside/Garfield: Cafe Sam

I’m going to sing the praises of Cafe Sam at great length in an upcoming issue of PM, but this place has quickly become one of my favorites. There’s a million unique and compelling things about Cafe Sam, but the one that will strike you quickly is how friendly and fun the staff is, and that’s perfect when it’s late and you’re already feeling happy and sociable from the evening. Try one of Sam’s signature cocktails. (5242 Baum Blvd., Oakland. Info: 412/621-2000, cafesam.net)
 

Lawrenceville: N/A

The following things have no place in Lawrenceville: 1) Bars where you go to get one drink; 2) Quiet contemplation; 3) Calm. Move along.
 

Squirrel Hill/Greenfield: Murray Avenue Grill

This was my go-to for a late night drink when I lived in Squirrel Hill. Many would recommend Gullifty’s, which is also a fine choice, but I’ve found that one drink at Gullifty’s quickly turns into three drinks and lots of dessert. Most importantly, Murray Avenue Grill is quiet, which is unique among the limited nightlife options around Murray and Forbes. Sitting at the bar here is wholly peaceful. (1720 Murray Ave., Squirrel Hill. Info: 412-521-1272, murrayavenuegrill.com)
 

Regent Square/Edgewood: The Map Room

Regent Square is great because every bar has its own identity, and pairing your mood with your pub is remarkably easy. For winding down, The Map Room is the clear choice; the bartender will know a thing or two about what to make, the crowd will be thinner and more mature than most of the neighboring bars and you won’t go broke. The best bar in the neighborhood (and beyond) for a long conversation. (1126 S. Braddock Ave., Regent Square. Info: 412-371-1955)
 

As always, I’m skipping worthy neighborhoods and fine establishments. Leave a comment and tell me where you head for a nightcap.
 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference Helps Writers Tell Their Stories

Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference Helps Writers Tell Their Stories

The fifth annual Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference brings writers from across the country together to improve their craft.
Watch: Radio-Synced Highlights of Pens 7-0 Win in Game 5

Watch: Radio-Synced Highlights of Pens 7-0 Win in Game 5

Nothing beats listening to Mike Lange describe a Penguins' goal.
Break It Down: Byham Theater

Break It Down: Byham Theater

When you walk into the Sixth Street entryway of the Byham Theater, Downtown, you will see patches of green and black tile on the walls: These are originals from the early 20th century, says John Mumper, facilities manager at the Byham. The grand theater has plenty of history to go with its 100-plus years; let’s break it down.
 Wiz Khalifa to Headline Thrival 2017

Wiz Khalifa to Headline Thrival 2017

It’s the first time a Pittsburgh artist is headlining the annual innovation and music festival.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

Top Ten Things to Do in Pittsburgh in June

This month's best bets in the ’Burgh.
Best Restaurants 2017

Best Restaurants 2017

This year Pittsburgh Magazine's independent Restaurant Review Panel recognizes 34 establishments as our regions's top restaurants. Our list includes All Arounders, Killer Casual, Fancy Night Out, Best Budget and Classic Comfort establishments.
Pittsburgh Chef of the Year: Bill Fuller

Pittsburgh Chef of the Year: Bill Fuller

Bill Fuller’s portfolio includes overseeing five specialty restaurants — Eleven Contemporary Kitchen, Casbah Mediterranean Kitchen and Wine Bar, Soba, umi and Kaya — as well as 14 fast-casual Mad Mex restaurants and a full-service catering operation. Even in an increasingly competitive environment, his restaurants remain in-demand and relevant.
Pittsburgh's Best New Restaurant: Apteka

Pittsburgh's Best New Restaurant: Apteka

Apteka, operated by Kate Lasky and Tomasz Skowronski, is a vegan eatery that draws on Lasky’s sixth-generation Pittsburgh roots and Skowronski’s Polish heritage.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference Helps Writers Tell Their Stories

Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference Helps Writers Tell Their Stories

The fifth annual Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference brings writers from across the country together to improve their craft.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Station's Hours Expand and Le Lyonnais Opens Downtown

Station's Hours Expand and Le Lyonnais Opens Downtown

Station, the excellent Bloomfield eatery, now offers lunch service. The Big Y Group opens a French bistro in the space previously occupied by Sonoma Grille.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

Five Inexpensive But Memorable Date Spots in Pittsburgh

These spots are tailored for couples who are looking for a simple, chill night out on Valentine’s Day (or any other day). If your significant other isn’t the type to be wooed by expensive wines and chocolates, this is the list for you.

Comments


Vital Happy Hour Alert: Great Cocktails at the Wigle Tasting Room

Vital Happy Hour Alert: Great Cocktails at the Wigle Tasting Room

The third outpost of local distillery Wigle, found in the Omni William Penn Hotel, is an instant destination for cocktail fans.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Time Running Out for Penguins to Respond to Senators

Time Running Out for Penguins to Respond to Senators

The Penguins suddenly have a lot to sort out as they attempt to respond to another disappointing playoff loss.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Pittsburgh on a Plate

Pittsburgh on a Plate

The way to a beer lover’s heart is mapped out on notNeutral’s plate, which highlights Pittsburgh breweries (and other points of interest) across the city.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
The Alien Series Jumps the Shark with Covenant

The Alien Series Jumps the Shark with Covenant

Reviews of "Alien: Covenant" and "Everything, Everything," as well as local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
New York Bridal Designer Shares Her Secrets

New York Bridal Designer Shares Her Secrets

Pennsylvania native Jaclyn Jordan brings her newest collection to the Blanc de Blanc Bridal Boutique in Carrick.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Get to the North Side for Home & Garden Tour, Epic Yard Sale

Get to the North Side for Home & Garden Tour, Epic Yard Sale

Explore lavish homes and gardens with the West Allegheny Historic District’s annual Tour and Tasting, or go on the hunt for hidden treasure during The Great Mexican War Streets Yard Sale.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Explore Your Future with Point Park University

Explore Your Future with Point Park University

The university will host three summer workshops for high school students from July 17-20.

Comments