Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Bar Reviews: Mario's East Side Saloon

Every Pittsburgher is well aware of the classic South Side bar Mario's.  Mario's South Side Saloon is one of the first bars that you go to when you turn 21 and where you take out-of-towners to capture the Pittsburgh bar scene.  Yes, it is overcrowded and loud, but it is a Pittsburgh staple that one must visit.  To capitalize on the popularity and success, Mario's ownership opened a second location in the Shadyside area in August of 2011.  Mario's East Side Saloon moved into the old building that housed Doc's Place for many years on Walnut St., a prime location for bar goers. 

I finally got around to visiting the bar and was shocked at the transformation from Doc's to Mario's.  Mario's tried replicating the South Side bar with the sports themed stained glass windows, brown paneled walls, and stained wooden booths.  It is even a bit dark and dingy inside like the Carson St. bar.  TVs adorn the bar area which made for an almost perfect viewing of the Penguin game that was on the night of my visit.  A shuffle board table and team trivia are also new features of the bar along with updated menus and daily drink specials.  One complaint I had of Doc's was the bar being placed in the center of the main floor which caused much congestion during peak hours when trying to navigate to another area of the establishment.  Mario's resolved this problem by moving the bar against the side wall allowing for a wider passage without constantly excusing yourself and bumping into people.  The outdoor deck has been remodeled making for a nice night outdoors in the summer months.  Doc's place always had very high drink prices (think $13 pitchers of Yuengling), I found Mario's to be about average for Shadyside.  I unfortunately did not sample the food, for reviews click here.   

I always enjoyed going to Doc's for the outdoor deck and atmosphere and I was shocked to see Doc's boarded up when I passed by last summer so I was pleased to see a new bar take its place.  I recommend making a trip to Mario's East Side Saloon.  It is a good option for watching a sporting event which Shadyside desperately needed.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Top Complaints by Pittsburghers

Pittsburgers, as we know, love to complain whether it be calling into local talk shows, talking with your buddies at the local watering hole about some jag you encountered, or chit-chatting with strangers.  Here is a list of some of the topics we love to complain about:

Traffic:  Between sitting on the Parkway East waiting to get into the Squirrel Hill Tunnel, gridlock at the intersection of 51 and 88, constant construction on Rt. 28, coming to a grinding halt on the Parkway West atop Green Tree Hill, or navigating the confusing and congested Downtown streets, Pittsburghers get perturbed the most over traffic.  We all have secret short cuts to try to avoid these nightmares, but a lot of the time you just can't avoid it.  Why entering tunnels suddenly makes drivers hit the brakes, nobody quite knows.  Pittsburgh traffic has even caused one frustrated driver to spoof Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger" with his song and video "Move Ya Jagoff." 

The dreaded Squirrel Hill Tunnels
Weather:  Pittsburgh has weather for everyone:  rain, snow, sleet, hail, and sometimes even sunshine.  Residents complain in July and August when it is hot and humid and detest the snow and below freezing temperatures in the winter months.  Pittsburgh also has very few sunny days, so planning that picnic orthe trip to the Arts Festival is always tricky due to the abundant rainfall that the region receives.  The same neighborhoods et al continue to get flooded each year, ahem Millvale and Mon Wharf, which causes much heartache for residents and commuters. We have even seen some small tornadoes recently.  The weather also contributes to the always present potholes on Western PA roadways that drives commuters bonkers.   
Just a typical day in Pittsburgh
Politics/Politicians:  Former County Executive Dan Onorato was chief villain for a while when he instituted the drink tax. This tax was supposed to kill the bar business and popular binge drinking as we know it.  7% of a few bucks?  Seems like bars are busier than ever.  Mayor Luke Ravenstahl for his adolescent and moronic behavior.  Former Gov. Ed Rendell for "favoring" Philadelphia.  The Pittsburgh Post Gazette (PPG) endorsed Tom Corbett for Governor due mainly to his support of privatizing liquor stores.  Now everyone, including the PPG, strongly opposes his policies on gutting education, not regulating the natural gas industry, voter ID laws etc.  And of course, we have the Marcellus Shale.  The pro-business population wanted fracking bad, but now that it is here these people don't want drilling anywhere near their community.  We want to have our cake and eat it too.  Property assessments.....enough said.

Mayor Ravenstahl Tebowing
Parking:  Finding a parking spot for an automobile stresses many out.  Going to a sporting event?  Where in the world is one to park?  PNC/Heinz Field spaces are shrinking by the year.  Uptown..... fogetaboutit!  This problem causes many people to leave whatever game they are attending early, no matter the score, importance of the game, or time or day...."gotta to beat the traffic." Oakland, South Side, Downtown...you better get your folding chair ready to save your spot while you're out.
Don't you dare even think about moving that chair courtesy of boringpittsburgh.com
Steelers - Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians is the one to blame if, 1) the defense lets up a 98 yd game winning drive in the 4th quarter 2) the offensive line is constantly injured and lacks talent 3) Not playing smash mouth "Steeler football" when you have unreliable running backs and offensive lineman.  (Note: Arians was finally let go after the 2011 season)
Upset with national NFL "experts" not ranking Roethlisberger as the top QB in the league. 
Roger Goodell for conspiring against the Steelers with fines and suspensions. 
Phil Simms and his biased color commentary during a Steeler game.

Penguins -  Sidney, Sidney, Sidney....his concussions, toughness, and future are popular fodder for fans as he continues to miss games due to the violent blows he has taken over the last two seasons.
Fans taking it personally if Mario Lemieux isn't regarded by "experts" as the greatest hockey player to ever grace the ice; being ranking # 2 or # 3 is just too ridiculous to comprehend.
Jaromr Jagr......boooooooooo!

Pirates - There is legitimate reason to be upset here, 19 losing seasons, cheap owners, and poor management.
Pitt Football -   Getting to the elusive "next level," attendance, building an on-campus stadium, and bringing back the classic script uniforms
Classic Pitt Stadium and one of the best college uniforms of all time: the blue and mustard gold "Pitt Script"

Pitt Basketball - Final Four anyone?

So.....let us conclude that there are a lot of things to complain about.  But, talk to someone who left Pittsburgh and moved to another city.  Ask them about St. Patrick's Day celebrations, parades to celebrate sports' championships (if the city has a major sports team), fireworks, amusement parks, ethnic foods, fish sandwiches.....They miss their city.  Yes we love to hate our city.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Riverhounds Climb on Sinking Barge

Pittsburgh has seen its fair share of redevelopment in recent years and it looks as if at least one more construction project will hope to give Pittsburgh a new image. The Post Gazette reports that plans for a new soccer stadium have been revealed at Station Square for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds soccer team which is a member of the United Soccer League.

The idea to build a roughly 7,000 seat soccer only stadium in Pittsburgh is not just surprising, but more importantly ridiculous. As you know Blast Furnace members keep a keen eye on local sports and I had no idea that this team even existed anymore. I have quite the history with this team as well and can explain why this stadium makes no sense. The year was 1999 and the Riverhounds were looking for a place to play their games and they settled upon my Alma Mater, Bethel Park High School. I had the distinct pleasure of working for the "Hounds" as an usher and set-up/tear down employee. The Hounds were lucky to get 300 fans in their inaugural season here in Pittsburgh. The pay was great as an employee, but the quality of soccer was below poor and the owners seemed as if they were running a YMCA team rather than a professional team. To add to that point, at one game we had Brandi Chastain attend a game and sign autographs...who was her personal bodyguard and security...that's right, yours truly. At that game, they were lucky if they hit 500 fans.

Pittsburgh can barely get full attendance at Pitt basketball games consistently and could never support an NBA team, yet low level minor league soccer feels that it can do well? I feel that after this move Pittsburgh will "unleash the hounds" to a more soccer friendly city.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pittsburgh is "In"

Lawrenceville, one of the trendy neighborhoods in Pittsburgh

Move over Portland, Pittsburgh is now the trendiest city to live according to the Washington Post Lifestyle section.  The article cites Pittsburgh's bike routes, microbreweries, organic food markets, art, lush scenery and reasonable rents as reasons for being cool.   Revitalized city neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, and East Liberty can be credited for this distinction. 

This is just another accolade for the Steel City as Pittsburgh was recently named one of the world’s 20 must-see destinations by National Geographic Traveler, one of the most Mustache Friendly Cities, and home to the Manliest Restaurant in America.  Pittsburgh also boasts one of the best skylines in America.

Pittsburgh, a Hipster haven long before the public was conscious of the movement.