2017 is drawing to a close, which means it’s time for me to look back at the year in drinks. Usually, I write about the new things, the bars and breweries that arrived on the scene. And though there were plenty of exciting openings this year, I want to take a moment to remember a couple of bars we lost.
This year, two closings hit home for me: Tender Bar + Kitchen and the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern. When I moved to Pittsburgh, in 2012, I ended up in a house on the edge of Bloomfield. My new roommate and I would walk to bars in the area to play cards and celebrate finishing grad-school assignments. These were the places we got to know each other, and began to realize we wanted to be more than friends.
We’ve been together for almost five years now. Those two bars hold cherished memories of our awkward getting-to-know-you phase. We drank mint juleps at Tender on Derby Day, and Corpse Revivers on Halloween. We knocked back Straubs at the BBT and fell down in the snow on a tipsy, giggly walk home.
The bars themselves, of course, couldn’t have been more different. Bloomfield Bridge Tavern was a friendly, divey joint with cheap beer, great Polish food, and a creepy basement bathroom. Tender was a cocktail palace, a stately (if a bit stuffy) haven for complex cocktails and rare spirits. Both had their charms, and I was sad to see them go.
But in their wake come new places to forge memories. I’m most excited to find the ones that fall somewhere in between those bygone bars: watering holes that have the warm neighborhood feel of BBT alongside the ambition and quality of Tender. Most recently, my girlfriend and I found this magical combination at Tina’s, the bar that took the place of Teabag’s, in Bloomfield.
From the moment you walk in, Tina’s feels right. The retro furnishings and a huge mural of an idyllic outdoor scene give it the look of a roadside bar from the 1960s. A jukebox (a real one, with real 45s) spins an impressive selection that ranges from deep soul cuts to local rock bands. I picked a few tunes, and we grabbed menus from the friendly bartender.
And what a menu it is. It’s smart without being fussy, and the prices are incredible. The most expensive cocktails are still only $9, and well worth it: I particularly enjoyed the Scorched Earth, a negroni riff with mezcal and Cynar. Or you could just grab a $3 I.C. Light pounder, put some Barry White on the jukebox, and remember why you fell in love.
As craft becomes commonplace, I hope we see more places like Tina’s. And in a strange world that seems to get only stranger, we could all use a good place to escape.