Jack's on Carson
1121 E. Carson St., South Side
There are plenty of reasons why readers might honor Jack's in a "Best of Pittsburgh" poll. The drinks are cheap, the location is good, and the numerous TVs are tuned to the Steelers whenever possible. But Jack's won "Best Bar For Drinking Alone" -- apparently, because you won't be doing so for long.
"Nobody really wants to drink alone. You can meet more friends and make more friends at Jack's because Jack's is Pittsburgh," says Mike Festa, a bartender and two-decade Jack's veteran. "We get everybody, from the mayor to a homeless person. Sometimes in the same day."
"It's the flavor of the people here," explains Jay Meyer, a truck driver from the North Hills who has been a regular here for decades. "You can come in here at 7 in the morning or at midnight, and you'll meet all kinds of characters -- a real smorgasbord of people."
That includes Meyer himself, who sat sipping a tallboy alone one recent Sunday. If you stopped by at Thanksgiving, you'd have seen the 63-year-old carving a turkey. Christmas and Easter are celebrated similarly, but almost any day is a good time to drop by. Jack's is open every day of the year -- "as much as is allowed by law," says Festa.
Younger, more self-consciously suave bars may have taken over much of the Carson Street strip. But Jack's remains packed, with a clientele that includes both solo drinkers and, at least this time of year, roving bands of die-hard Steelers fans who no doubt love Jack's dirt-cheap beers. (With some bottles less than $2, the bar tab can easily cost less than the cab ride home.)
And while other South Side bars have been ramping up dress codes, Jack's welcomes almost any state of dress, including the "I'd-rather-be-comfortable" sweatpants set as well as the more fashion-savvy "I-just-came-from-Elixir" crowd. That too creates a whole cross-section of Pittsburgh that any lone drinker can find a niche in.
Jack's strictest rule is its hours -- open at 7 a.m. every day except Sunday, so even night-shifters can grab a beer. And it's been there for the people who need a drink most. Meyer, for one, has an acquaintance or two who've spent a bit of time behind bars. But upon release, he says, "The first place they come is right here to get a drink."
Tastes like freedom.