The Modern Cafe | Restaurant Reviews | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Modern Cafe 

Ever since that pesky Volstead Act wrong was righted, back in 1933, The Modern Cafe, on Western Avenue in Allegheny West, has been a fine place to enjoy an adult beverage. 

It once had a kitchen; now it has a fryer and a panini machine. It once had dining-room tables; now it has red vinyl booths. It's always had draft beer, and now it has bottled microbrews, including "Eliot Ness," from Cleveland's Great Lakes Brewing Company.

"This is a neighborhood bar and I want to keep it a neighborhood bar," says owner Irene Zoits. "We've made changes, but we're not trying to make it into something it's not."

Zotis bought the bar from her father, George Bouzos, in 1993. Bouzos ran the bar for 20 years before retiring to Florida.

The Modern's neon sign and old-school interior are a retro addict's dream. In 2000, the Modern's charms -- red booths, light fixtures and murals -- caught the eye of a film crew, and were immortalized in Curtis Hanson's Wonder Boys

This is also a swell spot for beer drinkers. Sixteen-ounce drafts are $2.50 and are cold, as beer should be. 

Throughout its history, The Modern has been a Steelers Sunday rest stop for fans in need of a whistle-wetter en route to or from the stadium. 

For a while, karaoke packed the place with off-key revelers, but Zotis discontinued it after some shenanigans got out of hand. Jazz nights were popular, but they fizzled.

However, plans are afoot to resume the musical nights, and it's possible that in the future, patrons will be treated to local musicians participating in rollicking jam sessions.

Zotis is determined to strike the right balance of bar, food and live entertainment without stripping the venue of its thoroughly Modern appeal. 

In addition to a sampling of fried fare, Zotis' husband, Dean, offers panini sandwiches until closing time. Zotis also owns The Little Deli, around the corner on Galveston Avenue, and delivers take-out lunch orders to the Modern.

Additionally, Zotis welcomes diners from neighboring Muriel's restaurant who need a place to wait for a table. It's a kind of neighborhood bar/fine-dining symbiosis. 

But have no fear, swillers. Zotis has no intention of modernizing the Modern into the 21st-century equivalent of an '80s fern bar.


862 Western Ave.
Allegheny West



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