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Best New Bar & Best Bar to People Watch 

Local Bar + Kitchen

click to enlarge Food and drinks, close to home at Loca - PHOTO BY RENEE ROSENSTEEL

Local Bar + Kitchen
1515 E. Carson St., South Side
412-431-1125 or www.localpgh.org

You might think the last thing the South Side needs is another watering hole, but Local isn't just another Carson Street bar. 

The recently opened bar/restaurant offers a lively and attractive spot for pints and pizza, bourbon and burgers. And its interior is several steps up from the sports-and-booze paraphernalia that too often passes as barroom décor. The look here is funky, but thoughtfully designed, with tile floors and walls of exposed brick and plaster. Retro-ish bare lightbulbs hang from the ceiling, and the walls and bar shelves sport large gears and chunks of machinery. It's a nod to the neighborhood's rough-hewn industrial past, but it also conveys the more sophisticated modernity of, say, a fancy New York loft.

I stopped by recently for Happy Hour (weekdays from 5-7 p.m.), when a 15-ounce draft beer (including craft brews) is only $2.50, and cocktails are $4.50. It's a pleasant time to visit: The chatter and the music are low enough to easily converse across the table. Needless to say, bar life on the South Side cranks up as the evening lengthens, so plan accordingly: Local is open for lunch, dinner and late night, as well as weekend brunch. And in warm weather, there's a rooftop deck.

Local offers plenty of, yes, local libations. On draft are beers from area faves such as Penn Brewery, East End Brewing and Full Pint, plus bottles from Iron City and Duquesne. Local's commitment to being local extends to the menu, which offers an extensive selection of pub grub. The menu notes the inclusion of local ingredients, and also tips its Pittsburgh hat in naming dishes: The fare includes Mexican War Street Burghers, South Sides and Beat the Buffalo Bills pizza.

Lucky patrons snag one of the tables by the windows fronting East Carson Street, and its parade of humanity. Naturally, the people-watching hits its stride in the warm summer months, when the windows are wide open, and patrons sit astride the wide window sill. It's a two-way affair then, as folks on the sidewalk and the bar can gape at and interact with each other.

But Carson Street offers year-round entertainment, even if passersby only include such habitués as texting students weaving in slow motion, hipsters in skinny pants, patrolling cops or parents negotiating with cranky children. 

If you're tired of staring at people and seek additional excitement, grab the corner table. It provides an excellent view of South 16th Street, where a steady line of cars attempt to turn onto busy East Carson. It's an intersection that seems to promise a collision every other minute; the vehicular activity elicited several gasps from our table.

But during happy hour, at least, staring out from Local is relatively quiet and sober. Those who wait out the night, when activity along Carson picks up, will be rewarded (or cursed) with plenty of ... uh ... entertaining spectacles. All of which, in my opinion, are best appreciated from behind glass.

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