3616 Louisa St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
If you’re a college student living in Oakland, Gene’s Place probably isn’t a secret to you, but tucked on the corner of Louisa Street and York Way, it falls off of Forbes Avenue’s beaten path. This tiny bar is typically packed with regulars knocking back 22 ounce beers (the typical pour at Gene’s) from local breweries like Duquesne and Iron City, or sharing a pitcher of Yuengling or Stoney’s on Tuesday for the wallet-friendly price of $2.75. Owner Gene Ney hangs out at the bar on most nights, having a beer right alongside his patrons.
The Squirrel Hill Cafe
5802 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
The Squirrel Hill Cafe (also know as The Squirrel Cage or simply The Cage) is a delight hidden in plain sight. Located on Forbes Avenue at the heart of the busy Squirrel Hill neighborhood, you might walk past its retro outer facade without a second look, but on any given Friday or Saturday night, The Cage’s booths and tables are packed with a mixed bag of personalities. Though it tends to be dark and smoky, it is also worn-in and comfortable. After a few strong, but moderately priced drinks or a craft beer or two, you’ll start to wonder why you haven’t been there before. They also offer a menu of pretty standard bar fare on the cheap (the fries are delicious) and a jukebox with everything from Hall and Oates to Rihanna next to the pinball machine.
1101 Bradish St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
A true destination for those looking to party, Pittsburgh’s South Side packs more than 80 bars into 20 short blocks, each with its own theme, style and vibe. If you move off of crowded East Carson Street though, you might stumble upon a small bar with a more non-conformist approach. With virtually no signage acknowledging its existence, you’d probably miss it if you weren’t looking for it, but Bar 11 is an experience not to be neglected. A combination of loud music, black lights, large drinks and a seriously laid-back atmosphere, Bar 11 is the place to go crazy without anyone batting an eyelash. Crowds peak on the weekends, so they charge a cover of around $3. Upon ordering a drink, you’ll have a candy necklace and some random toys (ranging from plastic rings to rubber insects) tossed at you, and you might notice a stack of name tags and highlighters on the bar. Those can be used to decorate yourself, your friends or the bar itself, just be careful of the highlighters if you have to work the next day.
630 S. Millvale Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
When it comes to bars in Pittsburgh that are more off-the-radar, Sonny’s Tavern is it. Tucked way back on South Millvale Avenue in Bloomfield, Sonny’s is truly a hidden gem. Though on the outside it appears as any Pittsburgh dive-esque bar would, the inside comes alive thanks to patrons, staff and a Simpsons pinball machine. The pinball machine pales in comparison though to the tavern’s specialty drink: pickle shots. Yes, that sounds exactly like what it is. Sonny’s keeps patrons coming back with trivia nights, beer tastings, special theme nights (every Tuesday is pickle night) and special discounts for those following them on Facebook. If Sonny’s Tavern sounds like fun, that’s because it is. Plain and simple.
403 E. Ohio St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Residing in one of the city’s most historic neighborhoods, The Park House, on the North Side’s East Ohio Street is a bar teeming with history. Actually, The Park House was Pittsburgh’s very first licensed bar and the rich decor, exposed brick and tin ceiling lends itself to the time warp. Sitting just outside the shadow of the stadiums, it’s a great pre- or post-game spot to grab one (or a few) of their large rotating selection of craft beers, and there is always popcorn and peanuts (just throw the shells on the floor) to munch on and keep you thirsty. If your appetite requires more than snacks, The Park House offers a non-traditional menu featuring falafel, pitas and a spinach burrito.
Really only a small smattering of bars occasionally overshadowed by the South Side’s neon glow, these bars are some of the best in the city. So step out of your routine and try one, or all of them and you might just find yourself becoming a regular if you aren’t already.
Head to CBS Pittsburgh’s Best Of page for more local tips on family fun, shopping, nightlife, food, culture and more!
Brooke Keane is a freelance writer who stayed in Pittsburgh after college to explore it’s hidden gems some more. She was found, and writes about delicious dishes, brimming boutiques and libations galore. Here work can be found on Examiner.com.