Many Pittsburgh bars have solid beer lists, well-mixed cocktails or a bartender who's handy with a shot and a story. We need more than that. What makes these bars the best?
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Best Bar with a History
Photo by Evan Custer
It’s a typical Wednesday night, and the Park House on the North Side is packed with Pittsburghers dancing to the brilliant bluegrass of the Shelf Life String Band. These weekly jam sessions are Park House’s reminder that Pittsburgh sits at the tip of Appalachia. Park House also can be a refuge for the quiet reader; a mellow Thursday night is an ideal time to post up at the long bar or in a wooden booth with your favorite novel, a beer and a bowl of the free popcorn or peanuts. The Park House building was constructed in the 1890s; ownership lays claim to it being the oldest post-Prohibition licensed bar in Pittsburgh.
430 E. Ohio St., North Side, parkhousepgh.com
photo by evan custer
Best Bar for Unexpected Entertainment
photos by cory morton
Hambone’s could’ve become an afterthought, enveloped and devoured by the endless march of Lawrenceville development. After all, in 2016, a good draft list, friendly bartenders and above-average food don’t quite separate a bar from the crowd. So Hambone’s, under the guidance of General Manager Jeff Holt, distinguished itself by offering the most varied lineup of entertainment to be found at any Pittsburgh-area pub. Sure, normal staples of bar entertainment — comedy and music open mics, say — pack big crowds. But burlesque, improv comedy, acoustic-music Sunday brunches, psychic services and who knows what else? There’s only one spot in town that hosts them all.
4207 Butler St., Lawrenceville, hambonespittsburgh.com
Best Neighborhood Bar for Everyone
Photos by Evan Custer
Kelly’s Bar & Lounge
You’re sitting in Kelly’s, feeling content and anonymous in the low light, sipping on your favorite cocktail. Not your favorite new creation, no, your go-to favorite classic cocktail — the one that any bartender worth his shaker could create, but the bartenders here do just right. The server — tattooed, friendly, assuredly the coolest person in the room at most parties — just took away your plate, which had been filled with a comforting and filling meal. You could be with friends, you could be on a first date, you could be catching up with a long-lost someone, you could be alone. Regardless of who, when and why, you’re going to be happy at Kelly’s. Because it’s the platonic ideal of the neighborhood bar — whatever your actual neighborhood might be.
6012 Centre Ave., East Liberty, 412/363-6012
Best All-Day Hangout Bar
photos by cory morton
There may be no bar on this list that feels less like ... well, a bar. Mixtape’s feel is equal parts coffeeshop, co-working space and postmodern barspace, the polar opposite of the traditional Pittsburgh dive. As such, it serves a specific purpose; Mixtape is where to go if you’d like to remain in one spot for most of the day. Roll in at 12:30, order a sandwich and a coffee, and get some work done throughout the afternoon. Have a friend pop over with some take-out — outside food is allowed for paying customers — around dinnertime. Switch to one of the entirely respectable cocktails and gather a group for board games until it’s time for bed. Repeat as often as possible.
4907 Penn Ave., Garfield, mixtapepgh.com