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Underrated Bars: Dormont

Our late-night guru stumbles into Dormont and finds open pool tables, great dogs and a whole bunch of character.

As we were working on the roundup of Pittsburgh’s suburbs in our City Guide, I realized that I had never really had a full night out in Dormont. The streetcar suburb beyond the borders of Mount Lebanon has one of the most unique (and fastest growing) business districts around, and I was certainly familiar with the Hollywood Theater and Tom’s Diner. I hadn’t, however, simply been out drinking in this dyed-in-the-wool ‘Burgh neighborhood.

Unfortunately, my schedule limited me to a Labor Day visit, and more than a handful of bars and restaurants were closed for the holiday. Unable to check out a few places I had heard about— Mexi-Casa, the Apple Inn, and the new location of Eljay’s Used Books among them—I set off undaunted and without a plan. Could I take Dormont on a rainy Labor Day evening? Would the character of this community shine through despite the closures? Should I give up and just move some things around tomorrow?

I parked on Potomac, near the Hollywood, and wandered into Breakers Billiards and Lounge. A sizable pool hall and cozy bar are both open seven days a week, and if you’re looking for a game, this is the place; sixteen tables await, tournaments are held weekly, and they’re happy to accommodate all skill levels. My destination was the bar, however. It’s an intimate place right on the street, where you’re bound to strike up a conversation with some locals, or at least overhear some vigorous debate.

There’s a beer special every night—usually for $2.50 or less—and a food special as well. The menu is brief, but Breakers has a knack for comfort food—simple staples like nachos, wings and onion rings—but delicious. If you’re craving beer and grub, it’s a perfect stop.

(1413 Potomac Ave, Dormont. Open daily, 11 a.m. -  2 a.m. Info: 412/531-2250 or breakersbilliardsandlounge.com)

I sighed with frustration on my exit, seeing that Dormont Dogs was also closed for the holiday. On a previous visit, I was introduced to the taste paradise they call the Louisiana Avenue dog, smothered in Cajun slaw and Frank’s Red Hot sauce. The small storefront offers a number of mouth-watering and creative takes on the classic dog, and it should be an automatic stop before you head to Dormont Lanes or the Hollywood.

Pittsburgh’s got a new hot dog triumvirate with Dormont Dogs, Franktuary (Downtown,) and D’s Six Pax n’ Dogz (Regent Square;) at the risk of blaspheming the latter two, Dormont may have the champion.

(2911 Glenmore Ave, Dormont. Mon-Sat, 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.; Sun, Noon - 8 p.m. Info: 412/343-0234)

I was now firmly craving a dog, but getting hungry enough that I’d take a substitution. I walked along Liberty Avenue for a while before ducking in to Jamison’s, a big sports bar by the Mt. Lebanon edge of Dormont. It’s another shot-and-a-beer kind of a place, comfortable and welcoming, and, to my delight, open 365 days a year. Like everywhere in town, it’d be perfect for a Steelers game, with a wide variety of beer, perfect gameday food, and darts and Golden Tee galore for halftime.

I sipped a Penn Dark and surveyed the menu, discovering that missing Dormont Dogs could be redeemed: Jamison’s has a hot dog platter. Two dogs, macaroni and fries for $12. The arrival of this dish was a guilty-pleasure food revelation, as the waiter presented me with a veritable mountain of food, mac-n-cheese on top of the dogs with fries strewn liberally about the whole scene. Comfort food, indeed.

(3113 West Liberty Ave, Dormont. Open daily, 11:30 a.m. - 2 a.m. Info: 412/561-3088)

Holiday closings aside, I figured that I had nailed the character of Dormont. As I attempted to finish the second (gargantuan) hot dog at Jamison’s, I realized that “comfort” goes beyond the food around here. As a working-class neighborhood that’s skewing younger in recent years, Dormont is all about taking some time to relax, whenever the mood strikes. Whether that’s through a classic movie for cheap at the the Hollywood, bowling at Dormont Lanes or pool at Breakers, a good book from Eljay’s, or just a giant plate of food pretty much anywhere, it’s time to hang out. It might just be a couple miles down Liberty, but Dormont is a local getaway. Hang out. Have a hot dog.

Don't miss our Best of the 'Burbs feature, which includes Dormont.

Photos by michealgoodin on Flickr


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