Drinking Al Fresco
Pittsburgh's best spots to nurse away a summer day.
Beer tastes better outside.
This is one of those things that’s absolutely true, even though there’s no empirical evidence to back it up. It’ll never be proven in a laboratory setting—though, if someone tries, I’d like to be a part of that research team.
Most food tastes better outside, too—especially anything that’s really delicious and slightly indulgent, like giant burgers, wings, ribs and everything that’s made at the ballpark.
Our fair city has no shortage of places for you to test and prove this maxim, but a few go above and beyond. These are spots where you won’t just want to stop to have one drink but where you’ll consider just how many warm hours you can while away with a cold glass under the summer sun.
BRGR BAR, EAST LIBERTY: This restaurant already worked its way into my heart by virtue of its perfect, innovative burger constructions. But with the recent addition of a rooftop bar, BRGR Bar has become one of the best places in the East End to gather a big group on a Friday night. The young at heart will do well with the spiked milkshakes and root-beer floats; I’m personally itching to try the Cupajoe, a dark-chocolate shake with Irish whiskey and espresso. Climb the stairs, and eat and drink heartily under the stars.
REDFIN BLUES, WASHINGTON’S LANDING: For all the water we’ve got flowing around here, it doesn’t exactly feel like Key West; the three rivers lend themselves more to catfish angling and Iron City than umbrella drinks and Jimmy Buffet. Not so at Redfin Blues. The sole establishment in Washington’s Landing is a tranquil escape—shaded by the 31st Street Bridge overhead. Don’t think too hard about what you’re drinking here. Just grab a cold beer or a glass of white wine and relax. Watch the Allegheny turn into the Atlantic for an evening.
DUKE’S UPPER DECK CAFE, HOMESTEAD: Eighth Avenue in Homestead might not be the first place you think of when it comes to outdoor dining, but Duke’s will quickly change your mind. This sprawling sports bar is known for having the longest beer list on the far side of the river and darn tasty bar food (the wings are a must), but it also boasts two floors of fenced-in outdoor territory. The lower level is full-service (in terms of wait staff) while the titular upper deck is more spread out, hosting game nights (including the ever-popular cornhole) throughout the summer.
ROUND CORNER CANTINA, LAWRENCEVILLE: The art of the true beer garden—an enclosed space behind a bar or restaurant for your nighttime revelry—is one that has very few sterling examples in Pittsburgh. Perhaps the best, though, is at Round Corner Cantina, where you can down your favorite Mexican brew or a tasty margarita under the stars. Get some of the mahi-mahi taco plates to pass around (unbelievably fresh ingredients here) and enjoy Lawrenceville without the hassle.
UNDER THE BLUE SKY, NORTH PARK: Not looking to booze it up (and crush your wallet), but still want to dine under the summer sun? There are plenty of perfect spots to have a picnic around here, but I’ve got a semi-secret one for ya: Hop on the Parkway and make your way to North Park. Follow signs to the park office, and keep going a bit farther. You’ll see a small parking lot on your right and a footbridge on your left. That bridge leads to a tiny island densely covered in bushes, and if you follow the trail around to the far side, you’ll find some secluded benches overlooking the lake where you can have a perfect lunch for two. Just don’t feed the geese.