Bar Exam: Gus’s Cafe

Like roomy outdoor booths, acceptable (and reasonably priced) brews and some mean, polished bar grub? Then this spot’s for you.


Some bars will draw you in with great beer; others do it with cocktails. Sometimes it’ll be the wine list and sometimes the whiskeys or the tequilas. You’ll find yourself gravitating again and again to a certain bar for the jukebox, or the games, or even the layout of booths and tables and televisions. Often it’ll be the food — a certain burger or wing. For many people, it’ll be their own personal history; again and again they’ll go to the bar where something important, something meaningful, happened.

But sometimes it’s completely unexpected. Like Gus’s Cafe. Because Gus’s has a lot of cool stuff to its credit — but most importantly to me, it has really awesome outdoor booths. And I love sitting in them.

The cash-only Lawrenceville bar and restaurant opened in December, slightly beyond the bulk of the Butler Street hustle (it’s just across from the main entrance to Allegheny Cemetery, right around 47th). If you’ve heard about Gus’s, it likely has been from someone raving about food — and with good cause: This place has mastered highly craveable comfort food.

Take the only local sandwich I know of with a “Breaking Bad” moniker, the Heisenburger: a half-pound of peppercorn-crusted beef with blue cheese and caramelized onions on a toasted bun. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed with myself for not eating one right now. Or the already-famous tachos, tater tots drenched in cheese, jalapenos, green salsa and more.

Inclined toward Italy? Gnocchi mac ‘n’ cheese. Need a sandwich to warm your soul? Try the jalapeno-popper grilled cheese. There are Belgian fries. There’s a banh mi dog. There’s even a Nutella sandwich, for crying out loud.

There frequently are DJs to be found at Gus’s after dark, with weekly events focused on alternative rock and ‘70s-to-’80s darkwave; plenty of other genres and themes get occasional evenings, as well.

The beer list is well-curated, but it must be noted that a great deal of Pabst can be yours for $1.50. And as much as I love good beer, I also love spending nearly nothing on acceptable beer. Cocktail specialties tend toward the equator, with mojitos and rum drinks aplenty; a fine selection of whiskeys and scotches is available as well.

In other words, the food is great. The drinks are great. There’s music, there’s parties and there indeed are TVs to stare at.

But those booths, man. Those booths. Big, spacious wood-backed booths, under umbrellas. Out of doors. The umbrellas even have lights on them. What an awesome place to hang out.

Categories: After Dark