The Ideal Night Out & About in Friendship

I’ve crafted my ideal night out in Friendship, based on a year’s experience searching for cheap drafts and tasty wings.

For the past 13 months or so, I’ve lived in a nice place in Friendship—pretty much at the intersection of Shadyside, Bloomfield, East Liberty, Garfield … it’s a busy spot. That makes for a lot of territory to become familiar with. I have usual haunts in the area, but there are other blocks I’ve left unexplored. Did I miss out on a gem? Was I wasting time in an inferior bar, chowing down an inferior fish sandwich?

Even in a city of modest size, you’ll never see everything, never do everything, never explore every corner—even if you’re literally assigned to do so on a weekly basis. You just find what you can, always try the new spot and remain loyal to your favorites.

With that in mind, I’ve crafted my ideal (long) night out in Friendship, based on a year’s experience searching for cheap drafts and tasty wings (and just a bit of entertainment here and there). I can confidently guarantee that if you follow this plan, you’ll love your night every time. Even if you don’t live within a stone’s throw of Pittsburgh’s great neighborhood mash-up between Penn and Negley, it’s worth making the trip for these joints.

Start with a hearty app (to share) and some quality jukebox time at Kelly’s. Kelly’s is locked in an eternal struggle with Gooski’s in Polish Hill for the title of finest jukebox in the city, but after careful consideration, I’ve found a higher percentage of awesome tracks at Kelly’s. While you’re reflecting on the best punk and alternative music circa 1977-1997, order the Pitt Platter, a gigantic serving of pierogies and kielbasa. Even if you split it, it’s a huge portion, so you’ll want a light drink—check the selections for a signature cocktail like a Tom Collins or Pimm’s Cup. 6012 Penn Circle South, East Liberty. Sun.-Thurs., 5 p.m.-midnight, Fri.-Sat., 5 p.m.-2 a.m. Info: 412/363-6012.

Head over to Cafe Sam for your main course, and ask to be seated on the deck. Mull over the lengthy list of nightly specials (which are always perfect), or consider one of the smaller dishes at the back of the menu (not a bad idea after the pierogies and kielbasa). I usually go for the chicken tacos or any one of the incredible burgers when I’m not fancying a huge dish, but it’s hard to go wrong with anything on the Cafe Sam menu. As for drinks, consult with Sam at the bar—you won’t get an answer (she’s a mannequin), but above her head, you’ll see a list of her favorite house cocktails. The Lemon Drop is particularly tasty. 5242 Baum Blvd., Oakland. Mon.-Tues., 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m.; Wed.-Thurs., 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri., 11:30 a.m.-midnight; Sat., 5 p.m.-midnight; Sun., 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Info: 412/621-2000,

After all of that, you won’t have room for dessert—but after-dinner wine will most likely hit the spot. Head up the road just a bit to Toast! Kitchen & Wine Bar, and resist the urge to order a cheese tray—seriously, you’re full. Instead, ask the experts behind the bar to identify the appropriate glass to follow up your menu so far—they won’t have trouble, and the selection here is impressive. Once you feel appropriately satiated in both food and drink (but can still successfully walk), it’s time to move on. 5102 Baum Blvd., Oakland. Mon.-Thurs., 5-10 p.m., Fri.-Sat., 5-11 p.m. Info: 412/224-2579,

Head back in the direction of East Liberty, and pop in Shadow Lounge, where there’s entertainment most every night of the week, and it’s all so reliable that you don’t really need to bother checking the lineup beforehand. Perhaps it’ll be a soul or hip-hop dance party, and you can burn off some of that food. Perhaps it’ll be the monthly comedy open mic night, and you can add some laughs from up-and-coming local comedians to the evening. Maybe an R&B group, maybe world music, maybe just an excellent DJ to listen to you as the evening stretches out. Whatever it is, it’ll feel like the perfect end to an evening. 5972 Baum Blvd., East Liberty. Mon.-Sat, 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Info: 412/363-8277,

Categories: After Dark