Oakmont Tavern has the feel of a comfortable friend — with really good taste
It's hard to believe the Oakmont Tavern has been around since only 1995. The place just feels so comfortable, it's as if it's always been there. But 18 years ago, Dave Vivino of Indiana Township and several others came together to turn what had been Vinnie's, a local bar, into the current space along Allegheny River Boulevard.
“It had always been a decent bar,” Vivino says, “but we kinda gutted the whole place and upscaled it a bit.”
A few years later, the Tavern expanded into the building next door. Then, in 2000, Vivino and Jonathan McAndrew of Penn Hills became the Tavern's owners. “I've been in the restaurant business my whole life,” Vivino says, “and Jonathan is an accountant for PNC, so he knows the money aspect.”
In 2007, the pair transformed an upstairs apartment into a modern-flavor outdoor patio and indoor party room, complete with its own, rather ample, bar.
Vivino says the Tavern's upstairs party room sees plenty of use, seating up to 50 people and available for private parties.
The kitchen staff consists of a head chef, Bill Seibert of Oakmont, and four other cooks.
The Tavern's ground floor consists of a large rectangular wooden bar surrounded on one side by a row of comfortable-looking booths, and on the other by a cathedral-ceiling room with tables. TVs are all around the dimly lit room. This downstairs is all bar, with a warm, friendly feel to it.
Those seeking a more traditional restaurant experience should head upstairs. A winding wooden staircase leads to an outdoor patio of yellow brick and black-iron fencing that overlooks Allegheny River Boulevard. Umbrella-shaded black metal tables cover the patio, while a few feet away, an enclosed area offers taller tables and a good-size bar. And plenty more TVs on the walls. As a matter of fact, there are almost 30 big-screen TVs scattered around the place — upstairs and downstairs. So, there's never a bad seat for catching the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates.
On a recent warm evening, the staff opened the two large black garage doors separating the indoor from the outdoor — a welcome treat.
A recent visit proved tough to find a seat, but not impossible. As the Friday night wore on, the more-mature clientele was replaced by a much younger contingent. By the time the DJ arrived, the Tavern's upstairs bar was buzzing with a 20-something crowd.
Vivino says in the summer months, the Tavern features a DJ on Friday and Saturday nights. In the winter, the Tavern brings in live bands — “disco bands, '80s bands — a good mix,” he says. “But we don't have country or blues.”
Vivino says the Tavern's usual crowd is a mix of old and young. When the weather is nice, he says, the younger crowd tends to gravitate upstairs onto the patio, while the older crowd claims the downstairs.
Any way you slice it, the Tavern seems to be the place to be in Oakmont.
At first glance, the Tavern's menu might seem to be traditional fare, but to label it “bar food” would be a mistake.
Almost all of the offerings, Vivino says, are homemade.
“In the colder months, we do a lot of comfort food — homemade meatloaf, pot roast sandwiches, hot roast beef.”
Twenty-one items are available as starters, ranging from grilled portobello mushrooms ($5.50) to crab dip ($6.25) to a must-try, the Tavern Fries ($6.95 for a small, $9.95 for a large).
The fresh-cut thick fries arrived quickly, bathed in cheese — 3 shredded cheeses and a cheese sauce — with tons of bacon pieces and ranch dressing. A fork is just about the only way to attack this. Sadly, it was gone before we knew it.
Another highly recommended starter: the wings ($6.95 for 10; $10.95 for 20). Nine styles are on the menu — from seasoned to Napalm (which the menu declares “too hot to eat”). On a recommendation from our server, we opted for the honey garlic. We were slightly disappointed the “jumbo” on the menu translated to only wing-ding size. However, one taste was enough to forgive all. The garlic scent was potent, but biting into the crispy wings, thankfully, yielded more of the honey side. Again, gone too soon.
The rest of the menu has a happy mix — soups, salads, wraps, quesadillas, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas.
“We're known for our burgers,” Vivino says with pride, adding that they are all cooked on a charcoal grill.
A good example, the huge Border Burger ($7.50), arrived cooked just slightly more than requested, but it didn't disappoint. The spicy kick each bite had never detracted from tasting the Tavern-made pico, jalapeño peppers and oozing pepper jack cheese. The zesty and crisp curly fries were well worth the extra 75 cents as a side.
The Philadelphia Wrap ($7.50) is a fresh take on the famed cheesesteak sandwich. Thinly sliced sirloin comes wrapped in a soft tortilla with onions, peppers, provolone, lettuce and ranch dressing.
The Tavern features a decent selection of greens, of which we sampled the Tavern Salad ($8.50). Fresh iceberg lettuce coated with fresh fries, cheese and chicken breast (portobello mushrooms can be substituted).
Sandwiches are plentiful at the Tavern. After changing our minds often, we settled on the Banker Boy ($7.75), a sirloin offering on a large hoagie roll and loaded with hot peppers, provolone, mushrooms and marinara sauce. The sandwich had a spicy kick that never compromised the meal. But the real treat of this selection was the inclusion of a side macaroni salad, which was deliciously pepper-tinged and delightfully creamy.
The waitstaff was attentive and friendly; there was never a time when we waited long for anything.
Being a bar, the Tavern offers plenty of options for the thirsty.
There are anywhere from 15 to 20 craft beers always available in the large cooler at the far end of the main room, but with the seasons, come new seasonal labels.
With fall arriving soon, a trip back to the Tavern is a given.
Chris Pastrick is a copy editor for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7898
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ex-Steelers QB Batch creates sports medicine startup at Pitt
- Former Steelers LB Haggans to do time in Westmoreland jail
- Crosby understands rule prohibiting him from playing, stresses he is hurt
- WVU frat pledge had fatal blood alcohol level more than 6 times above state legal limit
- Pitt adds Texas wide receiver as 16th commitment to Class of 2015
- Supporters optimistic about passage of medical marijuana
- Officials dissent on whether offices can prohibit, charge to photograph public record documents
- Allegheny County assistant public defender charged for allegedly lying to court staff
- Pittsburgh cracks down on overcrowded houses
- Owner of Italian Village Pizza stores gets house arrest for tax evasion
- LeBeau won’t join Cardinals coaching staff