Drinking sake with a state representative: My Waterworks bar crawl | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Drinking sake with a state representative: My Waterworks bar crawl

click to enlarge Sara Innamorato pours sake at the Waterworks Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi Bar - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ
CP photo: Amanda Waltz
Sara Innamorato pours sake at the Waterworks Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi Bar
It all started with my friend Chris saying he wanted to do a Pittsburgh Mills bar crawl, an endeavor that would involve a fair number of national chain restaurants with kitschy decor and fish bowl-sized drinks.

During one of our many trips to Waterworks Shopping Plaza in Fox Chapel, a short distance from my house, my husband came up with a similar but more manageable idea – a Waterworks crawl hitting every bar and restaurant on the site. It would go from one end to the other, from the Giant Eagle Market District up to the Mad Mex and around to the Walnut Grill and Chili’s on the other side of the parking lot. Its utter banality bordered on brilliant.

And so a Facebook event was created for the evening of Sat., Aug. 17. A team was gathered and plans were made. This is our story.


7:11 p.m.

Waterworks Market District Bar
click to enlarge Tröegs Fresh Fest with Market District sushi - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ
CP photo: Amanda Waltz
Tröegs Fresh Fest with Market District sushi
We arrived right before a storm hit. As our group settled in at one of the bar’s faux reclaimed wood and wrought iron tables, we watched as sheets of rain pummeled the Waterworks parking lot.

I had not eaten dinner yet, so I ran to the adjoining grocery store and bought some pre-packaged supermarket sushi – quinoa and brown rice with cucumbers, carrots, and avocado.

When I finally went to order my drink, I was immediately met with an employee (I hesitate to call the people serving alcohol here bartenders, as the task appears to go to whoever is available at any given time) telling me that 14 and 18 had kicked. Here the beers on tap are referred to with numbers, not names, so don’t even think about asking for the [Craft brewery] [Pseudo-edgy name like "Big Stupid Bastard"] IPA. I went with 11, the Tröegs Fresh Fest.


Then state representative Sara Innamorato (D-Lawrenceville) showed up (her communications and policy manager, Rachel, was in our group and had cordially invited her). Apparently, the concept of a Waterworks bar crawl was too weird to pass up. I can’t remember what she ordered.

The Tröegs was light and fruity and paired well with my sushi, which I scarfed down as Rachel, Sara, and I discussed skincare and other subjects.

8:29 p.m.

Burgatory

click to enlarge Odd Side Prickly Pear Cactus Pineapple Fruitsicle at Burgatory - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ
CP photo: Amanda Waltz
Odd Side Prickly Pear Cactus Pineapple Fruitsicle at Burgatory
We took a short walk to Burgatory where, as if by fate, we found a long row of empty barstools waiting for us. At this point, we were joined by a new member, a law student, who sat beside me. We discussed media law and bonded over our mutual appreciation for Tracey Ullman.

Not wanting to deviate from lighter beers, I tried the Odd Side Prickly Pear Cactus Pineapple Fruitsicle. It was pleasantly pink and a tad sweet. It went well with the salty onion rings and French fries offered by group members taking advantage of Burgatory’s menu (not realizing she wanted them back, we inadvertently ate all of my friend Cassia’s onion rings, so she is owed).


9:30 p.m.

Italian Village Pizza
click to enlarge Arsenal Grierson's Ginger Cider at Italina VIllage Pizza - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ
CP photo: Amanda Waltz
Arsenal Grierson's Ginger Cider at Italina VIllage Pizza

This was the first place where we didn’t feel particularly welcome, which is justified, considering that our crew of around nine people took up the entirety of the meager bar area and were blocking employees trying to serve pizza and another Italian fare to the few patrons trying to eat and watch the Steelers game.

Things took a fruity turn here, as I ordered the Arsenal Grierson's Ginger Cider, Rachel ordered a mango-flavored White Claw, and Sara ordered an I.C. Light Mango. At one point, Rachel and Sara tried each other’s drinks to see which mango beverage was more refreshing (I.C. Light Mango won).

9:54 p.m.

Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi Bar
click to enlarge Sake order at Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi Bar - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ
CP photo: Amanda Waltz
Sake order at Ichiban Hibachi & Sushi Bar
With the rain-slicked parking lot outside and everything cast in evocative red lighting, drinking at the Ichiban bar felt a bit like Blade Runner: Pittsburgh. Not sure what to order, we considered buying sake for the group. The bartender was happy to chime in, giving out free shots of house sake to help with our decision.

The vibes were especially good here, as we were pretty much the only customers at the bar, which is separate from the restaurant. (There was one lone man, who was probably not happy that his otherwise quiet evening was disturbed by a bunch of half-drunk millennials out on a goofy bar crawl.)

The cold house sake we chose was pleasant and smooth, and everything smelled like soy sauce and grilled meat. I would definitely come here again.

10:19 p.m.

Mad Mex
click to enlarge Corona Light and Sauza tequila at Mad Mex - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ
CP photo: Amanda Waltz
Corona Light and Sauza tequila at Mad Mex
This presented the longest walk, but the prospect of trying Mad Mex’s new peach margarita made it worth traversing the dark journey past closed storefronts and empty parking spaces. The restaurant was fairly empty, with only a few tables of late-night diners. We all took a seat at the bar and, for the most part, everyone ordered the chain’s signature margs. I was the exception, as the combination of triple sec and tequila makes me ill. Instead, I ordered a shot of Sauz Tres Generaciones Blanco tequila and a Corona Light.

The bartender was especially attentive, making sure to pour us water and serve us complimentary basket of chips and salsa. The music was rad, as I drank to a selection of post-punk and New Wave (Talking Heads was especially present). At this point, my friend Tobin and I pretty much talked only to each other, mainly about our mutual crush on Jack Black (I like a short king – sue me) and her dating life.

At the other end of the bar, my husband, Rachel, and Sara discovered that, in college, they had all lived in the same apartment building on Ward Street at the same time.
click to enlarge It me (JK, it's the mural in the Mad Mex bathroom) - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ
CP photo: Amanda Waltz
It me (JK, it's the mural in the Mad Mex bathroom)
12:23 a..m.

We had planned on continuing to the Walnut Grill and Chili’s, but, with our stomachs full of chips and alcohol, had to admit that it wasn’t going to happen. Despite our own invented shortcomings, we did it. We crawled so hard and got so far. And in the end, that’s all that really matters.

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