Wine and dine under the stars with rooftop dining in Pittsburgh
Hey, where are we? Is this Manhattan? The Loop in Chicago?
Elegant small plates, high-end craft beers, well-dressed young professionals, a rooftop patio way above the street — many surrounded by skyscrapers. Pittsburgh may not be a really big city, but it can pass for one if you're looking from the right angle. The number of rooftop restaurants and bars is climbing, so it's time to head up.
You can get big-league amenities and food without the big-city rents and stress.
942 Penn Ave., Downtown. Hours are from 4:30 p.m. to midnight Wednesdays through Sundays. It's available for private functions on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Details: 412-281.2810 or www.siennapgh.com
This rooftop beer garden is atop Mezzo Charcuterie (in the middle, not open yet) and Emporio (ground floor) on Penn Avenue, Downtown. It's in the former Trombino Piano Gallerie space transformed into a multilevel Italian restaurant called Sienna Mercato by acclaimed chef Matthew Porco, who also runs Sienna Sulla Pazza in Market Square.
Il Tetto is partially covered by glass, partially open to the sky — and the skyscrapers across the street. There are irregularly shaped wooden tables and a long, partially covered bar on one side. It's spacious, yet the surrounding taller buildings give it a shady, somewhat sheltered feeling.
The menu for Il Tetto is impressively ambitious for what amounts to a very nice open-air bar, with items like Panko Fried Head Cheese, with green lentils, soffrito, sherry vinegar and mosto; and Spanish Octopus Terrine, with green olive tapenade, roasted red peppers, lemon emulsion and baby greens. For something a little less challenging, there's Fried House Made Pork Rinds and Beer Braised Pork Shoulder with Vidalia onion marmalade, smoked house bacon, cheddar polenta and egg. The only downside is that you can't order anything from the downstairs restaurants, and the only vegetarian item up here is Marinated Mixed Olives.
This part of Penn Avenue has an almost Manhattan-like scale and density, with every building fully rehabbed or in the process — making it perhaps Pittsburgh's most pedestrian-friendly Downtown street.
1014 Fifth Ave., Uptown. Hours are from 4 p.m. to midnight daily.
Details: 412-281-2583 or www.pghuptown.com
Near Consol Energy Center, the bar atop the Blue Line Grille offers scenic views of the home of the Penguins and the Pittsburgh cityscape.
Built to sport an “urban chic” style, Uptown features a fully stocked bar with bar stools, muted neon lighting, comfortable seating inside and retractable doors that open to a patio equipped with outdoor seating, as well. This feature allows events to occur rain or shine.
The menu, specially crafted for the contemporary perch, is upscale bar food: Build Your Own Bruschetta, entree salads, Lobster BLT Sliders and handmade sushi.
Guests can choose from more than 20 draft beer selections and a wide array of wines by the glass and bottle. Best-selling cocktails include the Peach Lemon Drop, BLG Blueberry Long Island and signature Blue Lemieux.
General manager Heather Percell says their focus is on quality food and service.
“We try to stay true to our tagline: game night, date night, any night. There really is something for everyone,” she says.
Guests can rent the space for private events. A DJ plays every Friday night and a six-hour Sunday Fun Day is in the works that will showcase live music from local bands. The bar is most packed on Pittsburgh sports nights.
Carson City Saloon
1401 E. Carson St., South Side. Hours are from 5 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Mondays to Saturdays, 5 p.m. to midnight Sundays.
Details: 412-481-3203 or www.carsoncitysaloon.com
It's always fair weather when you're on the roof at Carson City Saloon.
That's because there's a retractable blue canvas roof that protects partiers, sports fans and other customers from excess sunshine or mildly bad weather and heaters to moderate the chill when needed.
The third-floor lounge has its own full-range bar and serves a full menu from its 5 p.m. opening. There also are four TVs that draw crowds on game nights.
Promoted as Pittsburgh's No. 1 sports bar, Carson Street Saloon attracts “a little bit of everybody,” manager Brian Vetere says.
According to Vetere, the drink of choice is the 64-ounce Pappa Smurf, a mixture of Pinnacle raspberry vodka, cherry and grape Skye vodka, blueberry schnapps, sours and Sprite. It's served in a humungous stemmed glass with four straws.
From 5 to 10 p.m., business people fill the deck, after that the college crowd floods in to replace them, Vetere says.
The kitchen's burgers are the entree of preference, and the menu features 11 choices from Plain Jane ($8.99) to the Doctor Larry Greenburger II ($10.50), a bacon-duster burger with pepper jack cheese, bacon and a fried egg.
5997 Penn Circle S., East Liberty. Hours are from 11:30 a.m. to midnight Mondays to Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays.
Details: 412-362-2333 or brgrpgh.com
The high ceiling inside BRGR in East Liberty gives the restaurant an airy feel, but it can't compare with the more relaxed and spacious atmosphere of rooftop dining. BRGR hedges its bets by covering the outdoor dining area on the top of its building with a sloped roof, which protects patrons when it rains.
BRGR has a full bar for mixed drinks and on-tap and bottled beers, but it is particularly known for its hard shakes and spiked floats, all but one costing $8. The Cookies N' Cream shake, $10, is made with vanilla vodka, buttermilk icing, cookie crumble, Vanilla Pastry Studios cupcake and vanilla bean.
The restaurant is best known for its burgers, of course, which are available in more than a dozen varieties made with beef, bison, turkey, duck, salmon or shrimp ($8 to $13) and served with herbed french fries tossed with parmesan cheese.
Rooftop dining at BRGR is available during the restaurant's regular hours except when heavy rain and wind make it prohibitive.
1601 E. Carson St., South Side. Hours are from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays, noon to 2a.m. Fridays and Saturdays, noon to dusk Sundays.
Details: 412-431-8800 or www.skybarpgh.com
SkyBar gives South Side party seekers a prime spot to check out great views poolside and beyond.
The AMPD Group's seventh local project opened last summer and is set atop its popular club Diesel. It's a members-only club by day and bar/dance club by night that offers sweeping views of the city's skyline — the tops of Downtown's highest buildings on one side and the South Side Slopes on the other.
The view inside the space isn't bad, either. The center of Skybar features a blue crystal-mosaic pool that's less than 3 feet deep; it is heated and has benches throughout as well as ledges for folks to place their drinks.
At night, a transparent cover is placed over the pool so guests can walk on top of it. Fire pits blaze and LED lights glow from the pool and surrounding walls.
Across the roof stretches a long, blue agate bar, where four frozen-drink machines churn up frozen and mixed drinks, all made with call liquor.
AMPD also offers rooftop dining at nearby Local Bar+Kitchen and plans to do so, as well, at its second Steel Cactus location, set to open this summer at 19th and Carson streets. Its first location in Shadyside also offers roof seating.
Bado's Pizza Grill & Ale House
307 Beverly Road, Mt. Lebanon. Hours are from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Fridays, 9 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sundays.
Details: 412-563-5300 or www.badospizzagrill.com
Not your typical rooftop venue, Bado's Pizza Grill & Ale House in Mt. Lebanon doesn't have a scenic view of the Downtown skyline or a picturesque look over top of a body of water. But it does have the feel of a relaxing place to enjoy outdoor dining outside the city of Pittsburgh.
The venue offers two choices — half is covered by an awning while the other half is open. It opened more than 15 years ago; flower pots are part of the decor, along with tables to accommodate large as well as small parties.
When you book a private party at Bado's, access to the deck is included, owner Frank Badolato says. The most challenging part of having a rooftop deck is dealing with possible weather conditions, which can happen often, he says, because you have to have staff available.
“People really love the deck in the early evenings in the summer and pretty much all day long in early fall,” Badolato says. “It gets the direct sunlight during the day, so it can be brutal up there.”
Enjoy breakfast or brunch outside on Saturday or Sunday or lunch or dinner any day of the week — weather permitting, of course. The vast menu includes everything from wings, burgers, chicken, pasta and fish, as well as the restaurant's famous pizzas.
Six Penn Kitchen
146 Sixth St., Downtown. Hours, unless there is a special event, are from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to midnight Fridays, 4:30 p.m. to midnight Saturdays and 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays.
Details: 412-566-7366 or www.sixpennkitchen.com
With a little cabana tucked away in one corner and tables from bistro-height to the common level, the rooftop at Six Penn Kitchen, Downtown, provides a variety of seating.
It goes nicely with the variety of food, which is highlighted with executive chef Cory Hughes' Tasting Menu. It is offered from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. The five-course tasting is offered for $50 and can be accompanied by a wine flight for $25. Otherwise, the regular menu is available up on the roof, but dining-room supervisor Jeanie Clark says the tasting menu is offered to make a topside visit a little different.
The rooftop is surrounded by the buildings at Sixth Street and Penn Avenue, dominated by the ornate top of Heinz Hall. The tables give the area a dark look, and Clark says some lights are going to be strung from the top of the elevator shaft to the exterior walls to brighten it a little.
Restaurant general manager Dave Fortunato says the rooftop holds about 40 people, and seating can be shifted to handle special events, such as bridal parties or weddings. The space is not large, but varying heights of the tables puts heads at different levels, making it seem a little more open.
Because of that size, calling for reservations is almost a necessity. Weather, obviously, will determine whether it is open, as will the special events that take advantage of the open-air feeling.