Snacks N'At: Hal's Bar & Grill, Ross
The parking lot at Hal's Bar & Grill is full almost every night. Owner Hal Koenemund, who opened the restaurant and bottle shop eight years ago, admits it wasn't always this way.
“The first two years were kind of hard,” Koenemund says.
Hal's — tucked away on Babcock Boulevard, apart from the madness of McKnight Road — is now a destination point for North Hills residents. Koenemund, a starter on Blackhawk High School's 1992 PIAA Class AAA championship basketball team, has an eye for detail and teamwork.
The restaurant is sleek and roomy, the beer (over 550 varieties) plentiful, and the service prompt and attentive.
“We have good customers, good clientele, a good staff, good beer,” Koenemund says when asked why the establishment is always packed.
Patrons just don't show up out of loyalty. Hal's provides a warm atmosphere and ample space, with more than 20 flat-screen TVs that always feature Penguins, Steelers, Pirates and Pitt Panthers games, along with other sporting events. Members of the Steelers' offensive line, including David DeCastro and Marcus Gilbert, have frequented Hal's.
On a recent Wednesday night, the restaurant was packed for wing night. Koenemund says he'll often serve more than 3,000 wings (17 varieties including fiery raspberry and Creole mustard) during the evening at 40 cents apiece. There's also a taco special Tuesdays ($1 apiece) and $2 sliders on Thursdays. Happy hour — 5 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays — features $2 domestic beers, $5 martinis, $5 house wines and $1 off draft beers.
But the main courses are the lifeblood of Hal's, and they are generous in size and taste. The mushroom risotto ($15) is a rich and creamy blend of garlic, brie and mushrooms, and is served with a vegetable side. The lobster mac-n-cheese ($19), with smoked gouda and Monterey jack cheeses melted over cavatopi pasta and lobster, is too good to pass up. It can easily feed two or three diners.
Other main courses of note include a filet mignon 8-ounce center cut with red-wine sauce ($23), served with asparagus; a 12-ounce New York strip steak ($20), served with broccoli and mashed potatoes; and crispy tofu in sweet chili sauce ($14), served with broccoli.
There are a variety of sandwiches to sample, but by name alone the Cuban Reuben ($10) intrigues. It's essentially a classic Reuben, double-sized, with the addition of pulled pork. Paired with crisp, generously cut onion rings, it's the perfect mid-afternoon — or late-night — pick-me-up.
Hal's also offers build-your-own pizzas at $11, featuring a choice of sauce, cheese and one topping. Three toppings are $1.50 extra and five toppings, $2.50.
Hal's Bar & Grill, 3225 Babcock Blvd., Ross, is open from 4 p.m. to midnight Mondays, 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, 1 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and 1 to 10 p.m. Sundays. Details: 412-364-3230 or halsbar.com
Rege Behe is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.