New Friendship bar brings old-school, social house feel to former Sharp Edge space | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

New Friendship bar brings old-school, social house feel to former Sharp Edge space

Photo: Courtesy of St. Clair Social
Cat Cannon and Cecil Usher, the two longtime bartenders behind local event, education, and consulting group Mindful Hospitality, felt the city needed a reason to be social again. So, they opened a bar.

St. Clair Social, housed in the former Sharp Edge Beer Emporium space in Friendship, is dedicated to its neighborhood. Cannon and Usher designed the space to feel like an approachable, old social house, a spot that bridges the gap between high-end cocktail lounges and dive bars.

“We know we can do cocktails well, we know we can do beer. We wanted to take some of those aspects and take away the pretension around them, and design a space where no matter what you came for, we’re going to give you the best of that,” says Usher.

Before taking over their St. Clair St. building (the bar’s namesake street), Cannon spent time researching the history of Friendship. Similar to many of the East End neighborhoods, she explained, Friendship was divided among friends and family members.

“Knowing that history of the neighborhood itself [and] knowing the community is super residential, a very high walking and biking community, we knew that we wanted to provide a neighborhood spot,” Cannon says. “That’s what solidified the direction of the bar.”

The menu is designed to have something for everyone; Usher says the social house is a “relaxed atmosphere where you can get a good craft beer or you can drink a Highlife, and there’s no shame in either one.”
click to enlarge An assortment of cocktails from St. Clair Social - PHOTO: COURTESY OF ST. CLAIR SOCIAL
Photo: Courtesy of St. Clair Social
An assortment of cocktails from St. Clair Social
Usher has taken the lead on cocktails, billing a mix of nitro, frozen, and classic drinks. There’s a frozen negroni, old fashioned for two, and many Usher-originals, the newest addition featuring housemade cucumber cordial, Ketel One Botanicals vodka, and CBD soda. Cannon has curated the brew list, a combination of local brews and out-of-state drafts along with domestic and Pittsburgh beers by the can and bottle. The classic shot-and-bottle combo, a boilermaker, is also available.

Food, by chef Will Randall, is designed in likeness to the cocktails: approachable pub food that’s creative and unpretentious. The menu delivers the expected — wings, burgers, soft pretzels, and fries — but with a few twists. One of their burgers is sandwiched between Detroit-style pizza, and wings can be tossed in a hot pineapple sauce.

Because St. Clair Social is launching during a pandemic, Cannon and Usher are rolling out their concept slowly. Cannon says it’s like the “wild West.” The narrative of a restaurant opening — finalizing menus, hiring staff, launching softly, and celebrating the official opening with a grand party — is no longer feasible.

Instead, the duo was able to softly open for takeout cocktails and chips before the final cosmetic touches were made to the dining room. They launched their full menu a week later.
click to enlarge St. Clair Social's pizza burger - PHOTO: COURTESY OF ST. CLAIR SOCIAL
Photo: Courtesy of St. Clair Social
St. Clair Social's pizza burger
And, as they are open for longer, Cannon and Usher will continue to refine and add to the space. They’re hoping to open outdoor seating in the back parking lot, bring in a pool table and game room, start a mug club, and — once the pandemic restrictions subside — host dinners and other events. Their goal, Usher says, is to be as “interactive as possible.”

Once the bar is running a smooth service and they can hire a full-time staff, Usher and Cannon plan to go hands-off and continue with the mission of their consulting group: helping to grow the hospitality community while creating dynamic experiences.

St. Clair Social is open 4-10 p.m. on Mon.-Thu, and 4-11 p.m. on Fri.-Sat. Happy hour, which is available for takeout, is from 4-5 p.m. on weekdays. Ordering is available from a walk-up counter, through DoorDash and Uber Eats, and will soon be available on their website and social media pages.
St. Clair Social. 302 South Saint Clair St., Friendship.

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