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 Inclusive Barspace


 

Blue Moon

What is the best gay bar in Pittsburgh like? Well ... like a prototypical Pittsburgh spot, really. But with framed pictures of notable drag queens on the walls. Blue Moon for years has been gaining a reputation for can’t-miss events such as the T&A Thursday drag shows and the uproarious, utterly bizarre Quick & Shameless Comedy Hour. Since its 2002 opening, however, it’s been an unpretentious and effortlessly inclusive example of a neighborhood gay bar — and one where all are most assuredly welcome. The drinks are cheap, the atmosphere is friendly and convivial, the staff is friendly and the back room, oddly laid out though it may be, is a perfect hangout.

5115 Butler St., Lawrenceville
 


 


 

Best Old-School Neighborhood Bar


 

Nied’s Hotel

Plenty of watering holes, from Burgettstown to Blairsville, preserve the traditional look and feel of the western Pennsylvania neighborhood bar: Cold beer in short-pour glasses, massive quantities of food for minimal expense, the evening news on a ceiling-level TV. None, however, are as worthy of your time and regular patronage as Nied’s, which continues to serve as both the platonic ideal of the form and a perfect everyday tavern. This is a place to stop whenever you’re hungry and thirsty — or whenever the Nied’s Hotel Band is playing.

5438 Butler St., Lawrenceville, niedshotel.myfastsite.com
 


 


 

Best Longstanding Urban Dive


photo by evan custer

 

Squirrel Hill Cafe (Squirrel Cage)

It’s been a long day. You don’t want anything complicated; you don’t want anything grandiose. In a few days, you’ll want craft cocktails, thoughtful menus, careful decor. Today? You want the opposite. You want a room free of pretension where you can have a few drinks without going broke, get a no-nonsense bite and hide away for a few hours. And so you return to the eternal Squirrel Cage, the spartan dive that always has felt like an alcove of simplicity in an ever-changing neighborhood. Sure, it’s smoky in here. Because it always has been. You’re here because it hasn’t changed. It never will. Aliens could conquer Earth, and twentysomethings would still be drinking at the Squirrel Cage.

5802 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill, 412/521-3327
 


photo by evan custer
 


 

Best Whiskey and Cocktail Saloon


photo by evan custer

 

Acacia

It may be hard to picture in 2016, but it wasn’t long ago — less than 10 years — when great cocktails were hard to come by in Pittsburgh. Bygone Strip District saloon Embury stood at the vanguard of the scene; from its ashes rose Acacia, an island of impeccable drink creation in the middle of Carson Street. This is the sort of place where one should ignore personal preferences and ask the bartender for a recommendation; whatever is created may well be the best drink you’ve had in weeks. The whiskey list is unparalleled as well, and the hush-hush newspaper-on-window aesthetic makes Acacia the local go-to for clandestine meetings with undercover agents. Or anyone else with whom you’d like to have a quiet conversation.

2108 E. Carson St., South Side Flats, acaciacocktails.com
 


photo by evan custer
 


 

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