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After Dark Hall of Fame: Sharp Edge

The local pubs that fly the Sharp Edge banner remain a favorite for top-notch beer and tantalizing grub.




photo by Neil Strebig

To date, there are five entries in the After Dark Hall of Fame.

Eat'n Park
was inducted first, by virtue of always being there for late-night gatherings. East Carson Street joined the list for constantly riding the rise and fall of neighborhoods as a perennial nightlife destination. Western Pennsylvania Social Clubs were brought in as a class, deserving of recognition as perhaps the truest sort of regional watering hole. Nied's Hotel rode a wave of affordable beer, good times and big fish sandwiches to be the first individual bar to join the group. And the versatility, reliability and undeniable fun of Arsenal Lanes made it an easy choice.

But in making those selections, I was putting personal preference aside. Sure, I love all of the aforementioned places and have found myself at each when the sun goes down. But in choosing that inaugural quintet, I was not asking myself a simple question: Where do I find myself the most? To put it more metaphysically (and why not get metaphysical in a nightlife blog?), if I could snap my fingers and find myself transported to any local pub, to which would I teleport?

I know the answer; it’s not one that required much deep thought. Because at any given moment, I would always be happy to find myself at Sharp Edge, seated in front of a healthy serving of Buffalo Bites and a glass of Wittekerke.

Add a side of Belgian frites? Yes, I think I will.

I first grew attached to the small, local chain of pubs while living in Friendship. Sharp Edge’s aptly named Beer Emporium location — technically over the border into East Liberty — was within walking distance of my house, a blessing for anyone with a love of great beer and satisfying food. After I moved out of the neighborhood, I found myself trekking back to the tucked-away spot whenever possible.

When the Sharp Edge Bistro Penn opened in the Cultural District, it became my Downtown go-to. Anymore, that’s quite an achievement; the Golden Triangle is packed with places at which I’d be happy to sit, sip and eat anytime, and more are opening on a monthly basis. Yet, my loyalty to Sharp Edge is great. More times than not, it gets my vote when a group is deciding where to end (or begin) an evening.

Which is to say nothing of the three other locations in Sewickley, McMurray and Crafton, which let those fortunate enough to live in those parts of the county drink as well as anyone within the city limits.

At Sharp Edge, everything starts with the beer. There’s no finer collection of European imports — focused primarily on Belgium but with nearly every beer-loving corner of the continent represented in spades — to be found in the city, with thoughtful and varied draft lists at every location. The chain’s exclusive (yet Belgian-brewed) house beer, Over the Edge, is a pleasing IPA worth ordering even in the face of so many excellent choices, like that Wittekerke (a refreshing Belgian witbier) I mentioned above. The daily Mystery Beer — a discounted draft choice which is not revealed to the purchaser — has been my option on many nights. (Want to find out what you were drinking the night before? You can call in to have it revealed the next day. It’s like a blind date with your brew.)

And while my love affair with the aforementioned Buffalo Bites — certainly my favorite among local spicy chicken items — is well-documented, there is plenty more on the Sharp Edge menu to explore, particularly in the burger category. Seasonal and special offerings have never let me down either.

If I’m being honest with myself, when I evaluate a bar for the first time I often look for the things I love about Sharp Edge. I’m looking for beer I can’t find every day, atmosphere that makes me want to stick around for hours on end and food that will draw me back. Yes, there are plenty of places around here that offer those qualities. But no matter how many good bars I find, I know I’ll be ordering those Bites (Buffalo bleu is the flavor to choose) and a Wittekerke sometime soon.

Welcome to the After Dark Hall of Fame, Sharp Edge. I’ll have the usual.

 

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