On Pittsburgh's rivers, restaurants have outdoor waterfront options
Dining out is often as much about the atmosphere as it is the food.
Since Western Pennsylvania is blessed with an abundance of rivers, those restaurants offering outdoor dining along the waterways have all the atmosphere they need, courtesy of Mother Nature.
Riverside dining can be found along the Monongahela, Allegheny, Ohio and Youghiogheny, offering everything from burgers to fine seafood, and, at many, you can even drive up in your boat.
Jerome Bettis has long been a lucky man, both on and off the football field.
His North Shore sports bar, Jerome Bettis' Grille 36, is just one piece of good luck after another. It's in the perfect spot on the river to not only people-watch and boat-watch, but also Incline-watch and Point Park fountain-watch.
Grille 36 has plenty of neighbors — McFadden's, The Tilted Kilt, Rivertowne, Pittsburgh Grille — facing the river, who dutifully put out tables and chairs. The walking path connecting them is pleasant, and you do catch some cool breezes off the water. But when the trees are at the height of their summertime greenery, you can really only get small glimpses of river between the branches. When the thin screen of trees finally loses its leaves for the year, then your own shivers are probably more important than the rivers.
Grille 36 (412-224-6287; www.jeromebettisgrille36.g3restaurants.com) has a fairly basic sports-bar menu, with a few unique items, like mini-pierogies and a tempura-battered deep-fried cheeseburger. The other North Shore restaurants with river-facing outdoor dining also are basically very big sports bars. Rivertowne (412-322-5000; www.myrivertowne.com) brews its own beer, like the Belgian-style Grateful White and Maxwell's Scottish Ale. McFadden's (412-322-3470; www.mcfaddenspitt.com) has a few Irish-theme specialties on the menu. Tilted Kilt (412-235-7823; www.tiltedkilt.com) has its female servers dressed in skimpy pseudo-Scottish kilts. Pittsburgh Grille (412-321-2121; www.pghgrille.com) offers some upscale items like almond-crusted tilapia, along with regular bar fare.
All the North Shore Drive restaurants can easily be reached by boat, which can be tied up along most of the length of the North Shore Riverfront Trail & Park.
— Mike Machosky
Rivers Casino, on the Ohio River site of Heinz Field, does something casinos usually hate to do — face outward instead of inward. Casinos usually like to keep you guessing as to what time it is, in the hopes you'll just stay there and keep gambling. But the Rivers Casino's glass walls not only let in light, they give you a nice view of the river, particularly from the upstairs dining room aptly named Grand View Buffet, which also has a balcony with outdoor seating.
The buffet has a little bit of everything — from pizza to Chinese to tiramisu.
Grand View Buffet, Rivers Casino, 412-231-7777; www.riverscasino.com/pittsburgh/
— Mike Machosky
Dig your toes into the sand, watch the branches of the 10-foot-tall palms sway in the breeze and enjoy the sounds of a steel band as you watch boats move along the water.
This tropical paradise moment is brought to you courtesy of Kelly's Down by the Riverside Saloon in Beaver.
It operates in the winter as an indoor, Irish pub. But every spring for the past 17 years, owner Lisa Kelly has overseen the planting of a truckload of towering Florida-grown palm trees and replenished the sand for opening of the saloon's outdoor fantasy-island retreat that overlooks a tranquil back channel of the Beaver River.
Enter through the side gate and grab an umbrella-covered table. Laid-back diners sip tropical drinks and peruse a menu of sandwiches, salads and wraps, many of which come with a Caribbean-taste twist.
Sun-seeking customers bring in 70 percent of Kelly's annual income, between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Many are lured by two popular weekly specials — Sunday brunch from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Monday night special of all you can eat crab legs and (in summer only) corn on the cob from 4 to 9 p.m.
Kelly's Down by the Riverside Saloon, 1458 Riverside Drive, Beaver. 724-728-0222; www.kellys-pub.com
— Alice T. Carter
Neville Island, with its Ohio River location, may not be a Jimmy Buffet-style Margaritaville paradise, but it might be the closest beachy imitation you'll find on a river. Paradise Beach is an actual sandy beach with neon palm trees, and a restaurant and bar. Paradise Beach, which also includes sand volleyball courts, is adjacent to Paradise Island Bowl, so you can make an evening out of bowling and eating, and eat inside the bowling alley if you prefer. Menu staples include burgers, pizza, wraps, salads and breakfast foods. Boaters can tie up their boats at the dock.
Paradise Beach, 7601 Grand Ave., Neville Island. 412-264-6570; www.paradiseislandbowl.com
— Kellie B. Gormly
For a wide selection of spots to sit and sup with the Monongahela River in view, Station Square is the ideal destination for tourists and locals alike. There seems to be something to satiate every craving in its lineup of restaurants, ranging from casual to more high-class.
For outdoor seating on warm days, head to Bar Louie, the Hard Rock Cafe or Joe's Crab Shack. Each eatery has tables outdoors with just a set of railroad tracks separating the diner and the river.
Bar Louie (412-394-0500), known for its martinis and oversize sandwiches, offers an urban feel, with enlarged photographs on the walls and tile artwork. Hard Rock (412-481-7625) has an array of starters, salads, sandwiches and entrees for those seeking a side of music with their meal. Joe's (412-690-2404) transports diners to a Gulf Coast fishing camp with its beachy tchotchke and steampots stuffed with shrimp, crab, corn and more.
Around the corner is the new Texas de Brazil (412-230-4004), which has a few outdoor tables. At the authentic Brazilian-American churrascaria (steakhouse), carvers serve various cuts of seasoned beef, lamb, pork, chicken and Brazilian sausage, all accompanied by traditional side items and house-baked Brazilian cheese bread.
Restaurants are in and around Bessemer Court. www.stationsquare.com.
— Rachel Weaver
Baja Bar and Grill
Just nine miles upriver from Downtown Pittsburgh, the Baja Bar and Grill, at Fox Chapel Yacht Club and Marina in O'Hara, has the feel of a resort.
Good vibes music emanates from the large outdoor pavilion bar and restaurant. On the riverside, boats ease into docks and their swimming-suit and shorts-clad occupants stroll to where all the action is.
Bad weather? No problem, mon! The fun just moves indoors (it's open year-round) where a boat-shaped bar, nautical-theme dining room, decorated with stunning photographs of the river, and another stage and dance floor await. Generous views of the river are to be had out the expansive windows.
“We're not a sports bar, but we have several large-screen TVs,” says Baja owner James “Bimmy” Joyce.
The menu includes good-ol'-fashioned American food, he says, including burgers, fish, chicken and steak sandwiches and other lighter fare; as well as dinners such as Baja strip steak, a variety of pastas, grilled salmon or tuna steak and Baja Crab Cake dinner.
Baja Bar and Grill, 1366 Old Freeport Road, O'Hara. 412-963-0640; www.bajabargrill.com
— Rex Rutkoski
“We're not exactly on the beaten path,” says Tricia Larkin, standing inside the Allegheny Mariner, the restaurant she and her husband, Jeff Larkin, own.
That, and the special serenity of the upper Allegheny River, is just part of the charm of the facility, with dining indoors and outdoors. The restaurant is nestled on the banks of North Water Street, about a mile north of downtown Kittanning, and just above Lock No. 7.
It is open year-round, serving lunch and dinner, with meal prices ranging from $7 to $22.
People have been coming here for years for the food, the relaxed, friendly, atmosphere, nautical-theme decor and the view. “It's all water and trees. In the fall, the foliage is beautiful,” Tricia Larkin says. “You can see the river from anywhere in the restaurant.”
Outside, umbrellas extend from tables overlooking the river, near a full, boat-shaped bar with seating.
Seafood, steaks, pasta and chicken are among the stars of the Mariner menu. Crab-leg specials are offered Tuesdays; all-you-can-eat pasta Thursdays; and prime rib is the king Fridays and Saturdays.
If you are arriving on the water, docking is free.
Allegheny Mariner Restaurant, 1301 N. Water St., Kittanning. 724-545-6646. The website is under construction, but the restaurant is on Facebook.
— Rex Rutkoski
Silky's Crow's Nest
Nestled right along the banks of the Allegheny River in Sharpsburg for more than 20 years, Silky's Crow's Nest offers outdoor dining space for about 100 people on three decks that overlook the river. You can dock your boat at the courtesy docks, and you also can eat inside if you prefer.
The menu includes casual offerings such as burgers, salads, sandwiches and homemade soups, along with entrees, pastas and daily specials. Multiple televisions fill the restaurant, so people often come here to enjoy the atmosphere as a sports bar. Silky's Crow's Nest's sister restaurants are Silky's Sports Bar in Squirrel Hill, and Silky's Pub in Bloomfield.
Silky's Crow's Nest, 19 River Heights Drive, Sharpsburg. 412-782-3701. It's also on Facebook.
— Kellie B. Gormly
The closest marina to the Point is at Washington's Landing, formerly Herr's Island, by water about 2½ miles up the Allegheny River. Landlubbers can access it from the 31st Street Bridge, or from the north via River Avenue.
Those dining at the Redfin Blues restaurant's outdoor tables may see speed boats, houseboats, cabin cruisers, even a yacht.
Seafood figures prominently on the menu, from lobster, shrimp and crab bisque, to beer-battered fish sandwiches, made with homemade beer batter, to crispy fried shrimp. Burgers and hot dogs also are available. Redfin also serves classic cheese, margherita, and shrimp and crab pizzas.
Redfin Blues, 100 Waterfront Drive, Washington's Landing. 412-322-5837; www.redfinblues.com
— Mark Kanny
The outdoor tables at the Boston Waterfront offer a calming view of undisturbed nature across the Youghiogheny River. The excitement takes place on the inland side of the restaurant, where predominantly local bands and DJs offer a wide array of musical styles from country to Motown and rhythm-and-blues.
The menu includes Boston scrod and shrimp scampi, New York strip steak and filet mignon, and chicken marsala, as well as a children's menu.
Thursday night is Bike Night, with special prices on food and drink for motorcyclists, including a buck-a-bone pricing for ribs. Sunday afternoons, when pig or lamb is roasted outdoors, have family-friendly programming.
The Boston Waterfront, 2422 St. David Drive, Boston. 412-751-8112; www.thebostonwaterfront.net
— Mark Kanny
Riverside dining is so popular at the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh in the SouthSide Works, manager Dennis Varitek says the staff works hard to “keep it going” even through changing weather, getting diners back on the porch overlooking the Mon as fast as they can when bad weather clears up.
Diners can keep an eye on boat traffic as well as bikers and walkers using the Eliza Furnace Trail across the river or heading across the Hot Metal Bridge.
There is first-come seating for about 150 on the outdoor spot, so you might want to come early.
All entertainment, with a Deutschland flavor, is inside the restaurant, but bands can still be heard outside.
Food at the Hofbrauhaus runs from pretzels with beer cheese to five types of schnitzel as well as burgers and sandwiches. The menu is hefty with enough variety to please those looking for Germanic food to others who are happier with more-domestic items.
The Hofbrauhaus, 2705 S. Water St., South Side. 412-224-2328; www.hofbrauhauspittsburgh.com
— Bob Karlovits
Gateway Clipper fleet
The Gateway Clipper fleet based in Station Square does dining on the water, literally.
The fleet has eight dinner cruises and three luncheon cruises, as well as a Sunday ice cream social cruise. There are six boats including the newest, the Three Rivers Queen.
New this year is the Three Rivers Barbecue cruise, featuring a menu full of hickory-smoked barbecued pork ribs, bourbon barbecue beef and whole chicken legs, and wine-tasting cruises with vino, dinner, dessert and appetizers.
Others include the signature Captain's Dinner Dance, which features hand-carved rosemary-encrusted roasted strip loin of beef and Tuscan lemon chicken breast; and the Oldies Dinner Dance, with strip loin of beef, sauteed chicken breast and Caesar salad, as well as music by bands such as Johnny Angel & The Halos, The Skyliners and Pure Gold.
The Lock and Dam Dinner cruise has what the staff calls the “Taste of America” buffet including barbecued beef on a bun and four-cheese baked macaroni and cheese. The Saturday Family Picnic has fried-chicken sandwiches, nachos and strawberry shortcake.
Most meal cruises are served buffet style. A cash bar is available for soft drinks, mixed drinks, beer and wine.
“The best way to see Pittsburgh is from one of our three rivers,” says Hannah Wirginis, marketing manager for the Gateway Clipper, whose father, Terry, owns the company. “One of our dining cruises is an opportunity to see the city while enjoying a delicious meal.”
Prices range from $25 for adults and $12 for children for the Ice Cream Social to $65 for the Oldies Dinner Dance or Wine cruise.
Details: Gateway Clipper Fleet boards at Station Square, South Side. 412-355-7980; www.gatewayclipper.com.
— JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
Drive through the Waterfront in Homestead and you will pass a row of restaurants with outdoor riverside dining.
It all starts with Mitchell's Fish Market, where the menu is always changing, with 80 seafood choices. Dine riverside with crispy calamari or a jumbo shrimp cocktail for an appetizer, Chilean sea bass or wild sockeye salmon topped off with a “Sharkfin” pie, which is butter fudge ice cream, honey-roasted peanuts, fudge, peanut butter, and Oreo cookie crust.
Also along East Waterfront Drive is Red Robin (412-461-2044, www.redrobin.com), famous for its burgers; Uno Chicago Grill (412-462-8667, www.unos.com), for those pizza lovers; as well as T.G.I. Friday's (412-462-8443, www.tgifridays.com); and Eat'n Park (412-464-7275, www.eatnpark.com).
None of these restaurants has a perfectly clear view of the water, because it is set farther away and blocked somewhat by trees, but you still get the feel of being close to the river, away from the main traffic of the Waterfront.
— JoAnne Klimovich Harrop