The Steel City doesn’t call itself “a drinking town with a football problem” for no good reason: Most Pittsburghers like to drink. A lot. So if your aim is fitting in, you’ll want to plan on regularly touring some of the city’s finest taprooms and alehouses.
Best to start on the South Side’s East Carson Street, which essentially transforms the neighborhood into a gigantic pubcrawl every Friday and Saturday night. Jack’s (1121 E. Carson St., 412/431-3644) is a perennial favorite, and it’s cheap, too; former frat party attendees will feel right at home. The South Side does a particularly good trade in hipster bars, the oldest being Dee’s Café (1316 E. Carson St., 412/431-1314, www.deescafe.com ), where the glory days of ’90s alt-rock never faded away.
Nearby, the Scottish-Irish Piper’s Pub (1828 E. Carson St., 412/381-3977, www.piperspub.com ) has a refined feel, not to mention a decent pub grub menu and the occasional Irish folk singer wailing away in the corner. Even better, British expats can be spotted here taking in a game of footie on Saturday mornings. True beer snobs will find their appetites satiated at Fat Heads (1805 E. Carson St., 412/431-7433, www.fatheads.com ) and Smokin’ Joe’s (2001 E. Carson St., 412/431-6757, www.smokinjoessaloon.com ), both with dozens of imports and craft brews on tap.
The Polynesian-themed Tiki Lounge (2004 E. Carson St., 412/381-8454, www.tikilounge.biz ) and the cave-themed Lava Lounge (2204 E. Carson St., 412/431-5282, www.lavaloungepgh.com ) both attract a slightly older and more moneyed hipster crowd, while Z Lounge (2108 E. Carson St., 412/716-3920, www.zloungepgh.com ) pulls in the BPM set with its frequent deejay nights.
Pittsburgh’s other favorite pubs are scattered widely throughout the city. In the East End, there’s Kelly’s Bar (6012 Penn Circle S., 412/363-6012) in East Liberty with a retro-cool vibe and phenomenal bar food. The Sharp Edge (302 S. St. Clair St., 412/661-3537, www.sharpedgebeer.com ), located on the border of Friendship and East Liberty, is known for its near- exhaustive selection of Belgian beers. Straddling the Bloomfield–Lawrenceville border is the city’s newest home for hipsters, Brillobox (4104 Penn Ave., 412/621-4900, www.brillobox.net ), which frequently hosts indie-rock shows and art events.
The Bloomfield Bridge Tavern (4412 Liberty Ave., 412/682-8611) is well loved for its Polish dishes and also for its Thursday evening dollar beer specials. Although located in slightly out-of-the-way Polish Hill, Gooski’s (3117 Brereton St., 412/681-1658) pulls in the hipster dive-bar crowd, as well as the occasional touring rock star. The grad school set kicks back at the cozy Squirrel Hill Café (5802 Forbes Ave., 412/521-3327) or at Silky’s Sports Bar & Grill (1731 Murray Ave., 412/421-9222), also located in Squirrel Hill. For a favorite brewpub that serves phenomenal wood-fired pizzas, try The Church Brew Works (3525 Liberty Ave., 412/688-8200, www.churchbrew.com ) in Lawrenceville, which is located inside an actual church. There’s also the North Side’s Penn Brewery (800 Vinial St., 412/237-9402, www.pennbrew.com ), which offers a carb-heavy menu of wonderfully prepared German fare.
Need a break from the beer? End the night with burgers or sandwiches at the legendary, 24-hour Primanti Brothers (46 18th St., 412/263-2142, www.primantibros.com ). Open until 2 a.m. on the weekends, the Beehive (1327 E. Carson St., 412/488-4483, www.beehivebuzz.com ) is a popular spot for a late-night cup of organic coffee.