The best bars in Pittsburgh for drinking alone | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The best bars in Pittsburgh for drinking alone

click to enlarge The best bars in Pittsburgh for drinking alone
Drinking alone at Riggs Lounge, 2018

Maybe you’re single and looking to mingle. Perhaps you're just an avid people watcher and can’t get enough candid yinzer interaction. Or maybe you’re just really craving a margarita and are all out of sours or tequila at home.

For me, it’s about solitude. In a world that never seems to stop buzzing, where seemingly every second of the day is interrupted by digital notifications, meetings, and endless chatter, there's something incredibly therapeutic about taking a moment to myself to make a plate of delicious food disappear in record time, slam a few Rolling Rocks, and be on my way. It’s not isolation, but rather being alone with others; an unattended member of a community, if only briefly.

In the ebb and flow of Pittsburgh's vibrant streets, these bars stand as quiet sanctuaries for those who find solace in their own company, interspersed with the occasional fleeting connection. Whatever your reason for wanting to go to a bar alone, Pittsburgh has plenty to offer in terms of options. Here are my top 6 (plus one extra) best bars in Pittsburgh to drink alone:

6. Riggs Lounge
1206 Brighton Road, North Side

Nestled on Brighton Road in the North Side, Riggs Lounge subtly beckons the modern-day solitary drinker. Beyond its understated exterior, you find a blend of vintage and contemporary. The plush bar cushioning invites reflection, while the updated booths offer a momentary escape. Fluorescent lights meet handwritten drink specials, adding to the ambiance without overshadowing the solo drinker's experience.

Every inch of Riggs speaks to the care and dedication poured into it. There's a sense of home here, where the shimmer of neon meets handwritten drink specials, and where the occasional whir of a vintage ceiling fan melds seamlessly with soft murmurs and the clink of glasses. Here, solitude finds its comfort, allowing each individual sip to be a unique journey amidst a backdrop of timeless character.
click to enlarge The best bars in Pittsburgh for drinking alone
CP Photo: Amanda Waltz
Squirrel Hill Café
5. The Squirrel Hill Café (aka The Squirrel Cage)
5802 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill

Step into the Squirrel Hill Café, affectionately known as “The Squirrel Cage,” near the corner of Murray and Forbes, and you will immediately understand its enduring appeal.

From the exterior, the glowing beer signs are the sole hint that this "cafe" isn't the place for cappuccinos. Nonetheless, the interior exudes an intimate warmth, making it an inviting refuge during those biting winter months.

And what better way to warm one's bones than with a classic hot toddy, the steam rising from the glass mirroring the warmth enveloping your soul? Of course, for those seeking a more conventional reprieve, an IC Light stands ever ready.

From college students with bookbags idly waiting for the next bus, to groups of lifelong friends celebrating special moments, to curious wanderers stepping into the bar for the first time, The Cage provides a draw for all — particularly the lone libation lover with a keen eye for people-watching.

4. Kelly’s Bar & Lounge
6012 Centre Ave., East Liberty

Normally, you’d think a restaurant with a sign in the window that says “Good Food” isn’t worth a hill of beans. What else can you expect from such an establishment if not a little self promotion? Of course they are going to say their food is good!

Here’s the thing about Kelly’s in East Liberty though: that sign is an understatement. The food is great. There’s nothing more Pittsburgh than a cheap plate of palatable pierogies drenched in onions and sour cream. Plus, there’s a surprising collection of great vegan and vegetarian options.

Admittedly, Kelly’s is sort of a quintessential Pittsburgh date spot. The reddish-pink shimmer in an otherwise dark room and flameless LED candle lit booths create an edgy, romantic environment that’s as ideal for a first date as it is for an evening bite with a long-term partner. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed alone.

3. Nadine’s Restaurant
19 S 27th St., South Side

Situated snugly in the South Side is Nadine’s, its vibrant red sign acting as a beacon for those seeking solace at almost any hour. The restaurant’s staggering hours of operation (6:30am to 1:45am), perhaps more than anything else, makes it a haven for the city's night owls and early risers alike. For third-shift hospital workers, it's the promise of a comforting meal and a well-deserved drink after a grueling night. The allure of their famed fried bologna sandwich or the daily special is hard to resist.

For the solo patron, Nadine’s provides an unmatched blend of warmth and character. Whether you’re winding down from work or just starting your day, this spot’s unique hours mean it’s always ready to welcome you. Need to crack a cold one on a long night or just some hair of the dog to get through the day? Nadine’s is there for you when nowhere else is.

2. Dee’s Cafe
1314 E Carson St., South Side

Dubbed one of America's top dive bars, this "adult playground" of the city lives up to its name. Fancy a game of pool? Dee's offers you not one but seven well-maintained billiard tables. Or perhaps you're in the mood to test your precision? Sharpen your skills on the darts board or engage in a lively round of ping pong. If karaoke is your vice, then belt out tunes as if no one's listening, because in this safe haven, everyone's too engrossed in their own world to judge.

Dee's is more than just a spot for recreation; it captures the city’s relaxed vibe. Explore a diverse range of beers, spirits, and seltzers, all priced to please. Whether you're in the mood for a musical journey or simply craving a well-mixed drink, Dee's Cafe has you covered. Solo visitors, in particular, will appreciate this South Side gem for its ambience combined with the serene pleasure of solitary sipping.

click to enlarge The best bars in Pittsburgh for drinking alone
CP Photo: Mars Johnson
Drink, and smoke, alone at Le Mardi Gras
1. Le Mardi Gras
731 Copeland St., Shadyside

Tucked away from bustling Walnut Street, a brief stroll down Copeland reveals a structure that whispers tales of yesteryears through its red brick façade. Greeting you, an imposing green oval sign emblazoned with "Le Mardi Gras" in elegant luminent cursive serves as a lone wanderer’s guidepost. The antique wall-mounted cast iron gas lantern, with its frosted glass, casts a welcoming radiance, inviting you in.

Ascending the carpeted stairs adorned with black railings, you're instantly transported. Crystal chandeliers, casting soft lights, dance above the Baroque print carpeting. To your side, a classic arcade game buzzes and hums, while the gaudy jukebox stands ready with tunes spanning decades.

Centerstage is the bar. The old-fashioned cash register is a nod to the past, sitting there like a piece of art. And the drinks? They're the real deal. Their Greyhound is something to write home about, if you can still manage to spell correctly after drinking it. Freshly squeezed grapefruit juice mixed in, making the vodka almost disappear — it's both refreshing and deceptively strong.

The vintage green upholstered booths beckon the solitary drinker, offering a haven to momentarily forget their troubles and savor a moment of peace. Whether you're gearing up for a night out with friends or just want a corner to sip a cocktail and reflect, this spot has got you covered. For that reason, Le Mardi Gras unquestionably tops this list.
click to enlarge The best bars in Pittsburgh for drinking alone
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Mad Mex
Honorable Mention: Mad Mex Shadyside
220 S. Highland Ave., Shadyside

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. This one’s a bit surprising. Mad Mex is primarily a restaurant, and a family one at that. Not to mention, there are dozens of them throughout the region. What’s so special about the one in Shadyside?

Hear me out. First off, the atmosphere of this place is unmatched. Fluorescent bulbs contained in green-tinted mason jars dangle from the ceiling on long, thick ropes. As ‘90s big beat tracks from artists like Fatboy Slim, Avalanches, and Lemon Jelly play, you're captivated by a 22-ounce frozen margarita, aptly named “Big Azz Sangria Blur.” Meanwhile, on three TVs, college-aged white bros in flat brim hats compete in the American Cornhole League (ACL) championship.

Is it a bad place to take a date or to catch up with a buddy? Of course not. But going alone can really enhance the experience and allow you to fully take in the dynamic environment.

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