Best of Culture & Nightlife 2014 | Culture + Nightlife | Pittsburgh

Best Of PGH

Best of Culture & Nightlife

Best Pop-Rock Band Bastard Bearded Irishmen take Rick Sebak out on the town
Photo by Heather Mull
Best Pop-Rock Band Bastard Bearded Irishmen take Rick Sebak out on the town

Best Local Theatre Company

City Theatre

1300 Bingham St., South Side

412-431-2489 or

City Theatre's unique in town: It's a big, established company that stages all new work, including commissioned world premieres, by both up-and-coming playwrights and names like Daniel Beaty, Jessica Dickey and Christopher Durang. Enter City's converted church (or its adjacent studio theatre) and you're likely in for a polished and satisfying evening of theater.

2nd: Pittsburgh CLO, Downtown

3rd: Bricolage Productions, Downtown

Best Gallery for Local Artists

Most Wanted Fine Art

5015 Penn Ave., Garfield, and 143 W. Bridge St., The Waterfront, West Homestead

412-328-4737 or

This busy hub on the Penn Avenue arts corridor showcases local talent year-round, and ups the ante with its big annual open-call show. Owners Jason and Nina Sauer are known for their commitment to art as a community-building enterprise; local artists have even more exhibition space at the gallery's new satellite location at the Waterfront.

2nd: SPACE Gallery, Downtown

3rd: ModernFormations Gallery, Garfield

Best Dance Company

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre

2900 Liberty Ave., Strip District

412-454-9107 or

PBT's 45th season is a characteristic blend of classics like The Sleeping Beauty and the Pittsburgh premieres of both a new full-length Beauty and the Beast and works by contemporary masters like Mark Morris. The acclaimed company is also known for its special annual Pittsburgh-themed production of The Nutcracker every December.

2nd: Attack Theatre, Strip District

3rd: Texture Contemporary Ballet, various venues

Best Literary Event

The Moth

Rex Theater, 1602 E. Carson St., South Side, and the Byham Theater, 101 Sixth St., Downtown

The nationally known, New York-based public-radio show and podcast for true stories, told live by the people who lived them, has two local stage incarnations. Both the monthly StorySLAMs, at the Rex, and the annual touring program at the Byham routinely pack the house, which speaks volumes about the continued popularity of an ancient art form.

2nd: Free Snake Poems About Snakes, Garfield

3rd: City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, North Side

Best Stage Production


PNC Broadway Across America

Back by popular demand, the Tony Award-winning Wicked played last winter to sold-out audiences. The Broadway musical presents a new take on a classic story — The Wizard of Oz, as told from the point of view of the witches. In Pittsburgh, the exceptional vocal range of the cast and extravagant set design made this show shine.

2nd: Once, PNC Broadway Across America

3rd: Evita, Pittsburgh CLO

Best pop-rock band (that's NOT the Clarks)

Bastard Bearded Irishmen

This rock band with an Irish flair has come a long way since playing the produce aisle in Giant Eagle back in 2008. Now the group can be found playing amped-up Irish classics, as well as their own tunes, year-round across the region. And this past spring, the Irishmen released their second record, Rise of the Bastard.

2nd: Wreck Loose

3rd: Meeting of Important People

Best Metal Band


It seemed novel at first. It seemed like a joke. A metal band where the members dress up as knights and make Dungeons & Dragons references? Could they sustain it? The answer is apparently yes, as Dethlehem is celebrating its second consecutive — and third total —Best Metal Band title.

2nd: Lady Beast

3rd: Carousel

Best Alt-Folk/Alt-Country Band

The Armadillos

Repeat winners The Armadillos have what it takes to keep 'em coming back: sweet vocals, rhythms pounded out on an upright bass, and songs of love, longing and drinking. And in November, the quartet has a new album coming out, following up 2012's Better Off a Stranger.

2nd: The Hills and the Rivers

3rd: The Beagle Brothers

Best Jazz/Blues Band or Performer

Jill West & Blues Attack

A longtime staple of the local blues scene, this hard-working, hard-playing band couldn't have a more fitting name. Even on her own, West could command an audience's full attention with her soulful, tough-as-nails vocals. But paired with a swaggering, rollicking backing band like Blues Attack? She's a force to be reckoned with.   

2nd: Phat Man Dee

3rd: Sean Jones

Best Local Hip-Hop Performer to be the Next Wiz Khalifa

Mac Miller

The one-time teen sensation from Point Breeze now spends most of his time in California, but still supports Pittsburgh artists through his label and other ventures. And he's nothing if not prolific: It seems he and his alter egos, Delusional Thomas and Larry Lovestein, have something new to release every few months.

2nd: Kellee Maize

3rd: Jasiri X

Best Local Music Venue

Stage AE

400 North Shore Drive, North Side

412-229-5483 or

Stage AE is tough to beat, in part because it's actually several venues in one, with indoor and outdoor performance space and a more intimate club setting. Its calendar also reflects that versatility: Just this year, it's hosted everyone from Counting Crows to Chvrches and from Tyler the Creator to Swedish metal band Ghost.

2nd: Mr. Small's Theatre, Millvale

3rd: The Altar Bar, Strip District

Best New Bar


1222 Carson St., South Side

412-742-4024 or

If you're looking for Twelve, in Pittsburgh parlance, just go to where Rumshakers used to be. Stop in for weeknight half-off drafts specials or the free Sunday-night buffet. And stay tuned as Twelve moves toward its new identity: part whisky emporium (with at least 50 varieties) and part barbecue joint.

2nd: Butcher and the Rye, Downtown

3rd: BZ Bar and Grill, North Side

Best Sports Bar

Buffalo Blues

216 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside

412-362-5837 or

It's a toss-up whether to talk about the food or the game-day atmosphere of this Shadyside sports bar. The wings — all-you-can-eat on Wednesdays — come in a variety of tasty sauces, and the barbecue ribs are exceptional. Add in more than 30 draft beers, plus all the games you care to watch, and that's a recipe for success.

2nd: Jerome Bettis' Grille 36, North Side

3rd: Local Bar + Kitchen, South Side

Best LGBT Bar

5801 Video Lounge and Café

5801 Ellsworth Ave., Shadyside.

412-661-5600 or

With three bars on three floors, 5801 can handle a crowd. Its expansive outdoor deck with plenty of seating gives the place a roomier feel even on busy Friday and Saturday nights. And if a weekend bar atmosphere isn't your thing, drop in on a happy hour or check out the weekly darts and poker nights.

2nd: Cattivo, Lawrenceville

3rd: Blue Moon, Lawrenceville

Best Cocktail List

Tender Bar + Kitchen

4300 Butler St., Lawrenceville

412-402-9522 or

Booze is taken to another level at this historic-bank-turned-bar; an expert staff curates a seasonal cocktail list, and can make just about any drink you ask for. If you ask for a rum-and-Coke, though, they might just try to sell you on something a little more original.

2nd: Acacia, South Side

3rd: Olive or Twist, Downtown

Best Bartender

Richie Walter, Cavo

While Cavo hasn't been open as long as other Pittsburgh hot spots, bartender Richie Walter has quickly become a hometown favorite. With more than a decade of experience, Walter says that being able to connect with patrons is the "most important part of the job." His efficiency and winning smile are one reason guests flock to Cavo.

2nd: Joel Hollies, Hough's

3rd: Angela Rebeiro, Local Bar + Kitchen

Best Strip Club

Cheerleaders Gentlemen's Club

3100 Liberty Ave., Strip District

412-281-3110 or

Something of a sports-bar/strip-joint hybrid, this upscale gentlemen's club offers a comfortable, low-key atmosphere: If you've never been to a strip club, this might be a good place to start. Offering an extensive food menu and daily drink specials, it also features private booths, party packages and high-profile guest dancers.

2nd: Blush, Downtown

3rd: Club Erotica, McKees Rocks

Best Club


1916 Smallman St., Strip District

412-610-1384 or

Since opening last year, Cavo has brought a more elegant and extravagant experience to Pittsburgh's nightlife. In addition to décor the owners liken to "an underground lair," the dance club brings in international acts, and hosts some of the most novel events in the city, including drag shows, burlesque and acrobatics.

2nd: Diesel Club Lounge, South Side

3rd: Cruze Bar, Strip District

Best Monthly/Weekly DJ Night

Pandemic, Brillobox

Almost nine years in, Pandemic Pete can still pack the house, and with good reason. Where else can you get down to Middle Eastern hip hop, Balkan beats, Romanian reggaeton and other dance music from around the globe? Happening the first Friday of each month, the dance night also consistently features local, national and international guest DJs.

2nd: Third Thursday Twerk-Off, Cruze Bar

3rd: Emo Night, Lava Lounge