On The Side | Restaurant Reviews | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Riggs Restaurant and Lounge, on the North Side's Brighton Road, hasn't changed much since LBJ dictated letters atop his presidential commode. It's the kind of place that beer snobs will snub, hipsters will embrace and local imbibers call home.

The only significant change over the years has been the closed kitchen; hence Riggs is solely a lounge. A true lounge in a Cold War kind of way -- softly lit with red-shaded sconces, devoid of both frat-bar accoutrement and frat boys. In its heyday, Riggs was a Harvey Wallbanger; now it's mellowed into a boilermaker.

The beer here is very, very chilly -- stored in ice rather than simply letting it languish in the cooler. The effect is significant enough to make a super-cold Iron City taste like mother's milk. And there's no taps. Knowing this means never having to ask: "What's on draft?"

Also easy: The tab is cash only, but at these prices -- $2 for an Iron City bottle -- it's no sweat.

The snack menu is extensive: nuts, crackers, chips, pretzels, beef jerky, gum ... all six food groups. You may bring your own food, but it's vital that you first ask the bartender for permission; take-out menus are available behind the bar.

Riggs has been in the same family for 70 years. A foolish consistency may be the bugbear of little minds, but it's also the hallmark of congenial family bars.

Beth Kuchinski works in the film industry and travels from her home in White Oak to go to Riggs. She picks up a few pies at Mineo's, then heads to the North Side. She's been to many neighborhood bars around the country, even scouted a few for movies, and she digs Riggs.

"It's an original martini lounge, with the lush red-velvet wallpaper and shiny vinyl booths," she marvels. "But it's not just its Sinatra good looks. When you walk into a lot of neighborhood bars, you feel cold stares from the clientele, as if they're saying, 'What are you doing in our bar?' Riggs is comfortable. The locals even talk to you. That's rare."

Locals include postal workers from union headquarters up the street and the main office, on nearby California Avenue. Often, they drop by after a full day of yapping dogs and slippy sidewalks, so get another cold bottle from Bear the bartender and ask 'em what's new in gift catalogs.


Riggs Lounge, 1208 Brighton Road, North Side. 412-322-1120

Clarification: Last week's column on nomadic cooks neglected to mention that Loren Sloan's Whipped Bakery is vegan. We regret the omission.

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