Underrated Bars: Back Door Tavern
Think finding an excellent beer for under $5 is a thing of the past? Not in New Brighton.
Photos by Sean Collier
A Shiner Black Label for $4? Sounds impossible, right? Especially anywhere near the city. Travel outside of your comfort zone and you shall find it, young adventurer.
My quest to locate great bars in hidden places somehow brought New Brighton’s Back Door Tavern to my attention last week. Perhaps it was the online reviews that mentioned the best fish sandwich in the county. Perhaps it was a reputation for wings that hit the sauced-chicken trifecta — large, flavorful and inexpensive. Perhaps it was the promise of an impressive beer list in the untamed north.
This song plays in my head whenever I head North of The Wall (Wexford)
Perhaps it was the fact that I’d already be in the area at lunchtime. Let’s not quibble.
In any case, the Back Door Tavern is an assuming set of connected buildings well off the beaten path. (Actually I’m not sure that there is a beaten path nearby, but if so, the BDT isn’t on it.) Half of the place is devoted to a sports bar with a golf fetish — lots of memorabilia, posters and curiosities for those who love the links — and the other half is a humble dining room of booths and tables.
Fine enough for a stop, but as I sat down, I wasn’t sure whether there was any cause for attention. Then, however, a waitress brought over the bottle list. A full, two-sided menu listing 100-plus bottles of global provenance — micros and locals, too. The bottle list is so strong that there would be a buzz about it in Lawrenceville, let alone Beaver County. The vast majority of offerings would cost you $6 or $7 downtown, but at BDT, they go for less than $4 apiece.
So after that, I’m not sure that any other recommendation is necessary.
Bar-food fans will find plenty of choices here, though I have to confess that I took a wrong turn; the quesadilla I ordered was fine but distinctly not a quesadilla. Other patrons have recommended the fish sandwich — which I saw, and it was indeed massive — or the plain burger-and-fries options. The wings are indeed cheap at $4 for a half-dozen. I can recommend the Reuben bites — fried bits of I-don’t-know-what (maybe hash and sauerkraut?) served with thousand island dressing. This is an app that needs to catch on the way buffalo chicken dip has ascended throughout the last 15 years.
BDT is in a distinct class of places that fly well under the radar of ’Burghers at large, but it’s an indispensable go-to for those living nearby. Once, we all had a neighborhood bar that was nothing more than one-dollar drafts and bags of Utz chips. Now, we all have a nearby watering hole with an enormous bottle list and a loaded menu of pub-grub favorites. (In my neighborhood, it’s Foli's, a perfect hidden gem and makers of one of Pittsburgh Magazine’s 25 Favorite Pizzas.)
This is a great development. If you have a place to watch the game with your favorite beer and a couple dishes you love, you can stay happy for a very long time.