Three Awesome Bars You've Never Heard About
That's it, really - no gimmicks, just three great watering holes.
When writing about bars, there are some weeks when a theme makes itself clear. If necessary, one can make up a preposterously specific theme. (I have long considered writing “Best bars for hanging out with a college or high school friend you don’t really have anything to talk about with anymore but need to see out of obligation,” but that doesn’t fit on the website as a headline.)
Even in the case of this entry, I tried to lump the trio of places I’ve recently sampled into a handy little category. “Best Bars in Forgotten Neighborhoods,” I was thinking. But then I remembered that the neighborhoods in question are certainly not forgotten, just occasionally forgotten by me. That’s an important difference. Also, I didn’t want to disparage the fine residents of Highland Park, Bridgeville and the North Hills.
So, there’s no theme here. These three bars are just ones that I enjoyed after recently visiting for the first time. That’s all there is to it. But if you come up with some connecting link between them that I didn’t notice, please put it in the comments, and we’ll steal it immediately.
Hal’s Bar and Grill, North Hills
The nightlife options in the northern suburbs remain sadly limited. There are a number of fine restaurants and a couple of cozy neighborhood joints, but very few bars worth the trip from the rest of town. In fact, when I wrote the 20 Hot Bars feature last year, The Hop House stood as the only northern entry. Fortunately, that bar has some healthy competition just down the street. The expansive Hal’s, sitting on Babcock Boulevard only about a mile from McKnight Road, has the best beer selection north of the Allegheny, boasting a worldwide selection of fine bottles and a number of alluring drafts. The food isn’t bad either, particularly the appetizers, most of which are meant to be shared—try the fried pickles. This is a fine place to watch the game or catch up with friends and an easy choice if you call the area home.
(3225 Babcock Blvd., North Hills. Mon. 4-12 p.m.; Tues.-Fri., 4 p.m.-2 a.m.; Sat., noon-2 a.m.; Sun., noon-10 p.m. Info: 412/364-3230, halsbar.com)
Park Bruges, Highland Park
If you’re going to open a branch of your successful restaurant a mere 2.5 miles away from the original, it’d better feel like its own place. Fortunately, Park Bruges—the sister establishment to the nearby original Point Brugge Café—very much stands on its own. The menus are similar, although Park Bruges adds a fantastic selection of Tarte Flambee (think crispy, light flatbread with crazy-fresh toppings). The difference is a matter of mood: While Point Brugge is a bustling gathering spot where you’ll be rubbing elbows with your neighbors and enjoying an energized meal, Park Bruges is a dimly lit, low key spot to get away. If you love the great food, cocktails, wine and beer at Point Brugge but seek a more secluded evening, divert ever-so-slightly toward Highland Park.
(5801 Bryant St., Highland Park. Tues.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Info: 412/661-3334, pointbrugge.com)
There’s a huge, inviting party in Bridgeville. You’ve had a standing invitation for a while now—you just didn’t know it. At Sauce, the owners and staff will greet you like you’re an old buddy stopping by for a cookout and quickly start producing a free-flowing supply of drinks and food that will have you tipsy and stuffed before you know what hit you. It seems like the whole neighborhood is hanging out, and they’re all in a good mood. I’ll make brief mention of the specials—of which there are several every night on both food and drink, with the words “all you can eat” thrown about liberally—and the burgers, which are delicious and touted as Sauce’s specialty, but the main attraction for me is the ridiculous mac n’ cheese. Pick your toppings from an exhaustive list, and they’ll bring you a platter big enough to feed three or four normal adults. Make sure you have someone with you who can carry you home after eating this dish.
(500 Washington Pike, Bridgeville. Mon.-Fri., 11:30 a.m.-1:30 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 8 a.m.-1:30 a.m. Kitchen closes nightly at midnight. Info: 412/221-2300, saucepgh.com)