Bars where Pete has had a Drink (5,510 bars; 1,754 bars in Seattle) - Click titles below for Lists:

Bars where Pete has had a drink

Monday, November 13, 2023

#5485 - Open Range Grille, Mount Pleasant, PA - 11/11/23

The Open Range Grille
Mt. Pleasant, PA

Well, if you have a hankering for a bison burger, or an elk burger or just some fried alligator bites anywhere in the Mount Pleasant, PA area, you better get down to the Open Range Grille soon. Owner Marie had a very friendly and open chat with us in front of the pretty, art deco, antique back bar. The restaurant is more the vision of her son and co-owner Jason, who converted their sports bar into a more family friendly establishment, with a woodfired oven and unique menu items. They bought a bunch of new equipment and hand made the wooden tables and various other decor.

It may have been a little much for a small old mining and manufacturing community, some 45 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. In any case, the timing was tragic. The restaurant opened during COVID, and has been trying to recover from the challenges of the closures, and those that linger still in food prices and hiring.

The Open Range Grille
Mt. Pleasant, PA
The location is attractive, right in the historic Kelly Hotel, where the bar area was the original lobby. It still has the original tin ceiling, and Marie says that art deco back bar probably moved to this location from another in town in the late 30s. Neon lettering over the middle door to the upper apartments shows that it once housed the Sons of Italy Club.

For almost two decades Marie and Jason had run the EndZone sports bar in the northwest half of the ground floor, before expanding to both sides and remaking the business. The Open Range Grille opened for takeout Aug 17, 2020, then Sep 21 for dining in, then back to takeout only when COVID closures commenced Dec 10. Marie also owns and operates the Gluten Free Oven bakery just up Main Street. She arrives there early in the morning to prepare baked products, before putting in long days at the restaurant.

With expenses continuing as income was buffeted by all the challenges, Marie said it's unlikely they'll recover enough to pay off the SBA loans and operate profitably in the near future. Jason and she will probably be forced to either sell the place and declare bankruptcy and auction off the equipment.

Restaurants and bars are always a risky business, but it's a shame not only for two good people who have been working hard, but for the community, and even rambling bar fans like me. Not only would it mean losing some unusually interesting food choices, but who knows what will come next, and if the historic hotel space and the beautiful back bar will remain available for visitors to see? In any case, I wish the best in fall future endeavors for Marie and Jason.

512-514 W Main St, Mt Pleasant, PA 15666 - (724) 542-9663
Est. 2020 - Building constructed: 1800s
Previous bars in this location: The EndZone Bar 
Web site: facebook 
Reviews: What's Happening in Mt. Pleasant (facebook video) - yelp - tripadvisor 

#5476 - Stanley's Bar and Grill, Ford City, PA - 11/6/23

Stanley's Bar & Grill, Ford City, PA

Ford City, PA, population 2,859, sits along the east side of the Allegheny River, some 40 miles upriver from where it joins the Monongahela in Pittsburgh. It was a company town, founded here in 1887 by the Pittsburgh Place Glass company, and named for PPG's founder. The factory here once employed 5,000 people, as "Germans, Poles, Italians, Slovaks and African Americans from the South all worked at PPG; many built churches and started social clubs. Other companies, like Eljer Plumbing, which became one of the world’s largest plumbing-equipment suppliers, also moved in during the town’s heyday." (pghcitypaper)

Stanley's Bar & Grill, Ford City, PA
But PPG shut down the the 200 acre facility in 1993. Eljer Plumbing, once the largest employer in the county, laid off 200 people in Ford City in 2004, then shut down its plant altogether in 2008. A big "business incubator" project, with funds from the federal and state government, and adding loans in the years just preceding the 2008 mortgage crisis, eventually collapsed. The population, once over 6,000 people continued to decline:

"The area is also not seeing any of the positive international migration that is helping to stem the tide of population loss in places like Allegheny County. From 2010 to 2016, Armstrong County saw a positive net international migration of only 33 people, bringing the total foreign-born population to about 400 out of the county’s 68,000 residents. Ford City wasn’t home to any of them: Census figures indicate that the town doesn’t have a single foreign-born resident." (pghcitypaper)

But unlike many declining rust belt communities, you wouldn't know all this was the case from just driving through town. The houses are small but tidy, well-dressed people depart a service at the First Church of Ford City, and neighbors greet each other brightly at the CoCo Coffeehouse in the century old Farmers Building.

Sitting amidst the small houses along 4th avenue that once sheltered factory workers, Stanley's Bar and Grill is a nice old neighborhood joint known for its hot sausage -- specially blended by Kevin's Meats using a secret recipe. Polish immigrants Frank and Katherine Szalankiewicz sold soda pop and dry goods here since the 1920s. It was converted to a bar by their son Stanley when he returned from WWII. Stanley turned it over to his sister and brother-in-law Ann and Bernard Tarnek, who in turn passed it along to their son Jim Tarnek and his wife Julie. I think (?) Jimmy and Julie still own it today.

There isn't a lot pulling visitors or would-be residents into Ford City right now, but it's still a nice small town to visit, and when you smell the grilled onions inside Stanley's, you'll want to have arrived hungry.

Photo of Stan Szalankiewicz
Stanley's Bar & Grill, Ford City, PA

Photos of Bernard Tarnek and Ann Szalankiewicz Tarnek 
Stanley's Bar & Grill, Ford City, PA

507 4th Ave, Ford City, PA 16226 - (724) 763-9774
Est. 1940s
Previous bars in this location: None known
Web site: facebook 
Articles: post-gazette - triblive - yelp - tripadvisor - triblive 

Thursday, October 19, 2023

#5453 - Pastime Inn Lounge, Uniontown, PA - 10/18/23

Pastime Inn Lounge, Uniontown, PA

The Pastime Inn Lounge in Uniontown, PA is old school, and it doesn't make much effort to reach non-locals. There's no web site, no real Facebook site, and even finding a listing that includes the full address takes a little doing. Patricia "Pastime Patty" Franko has been working the place since 1980, ten years after her dad Richard Franko bought the place. Richard passed in 2008.

I have a soft spot for "Pastime" bars, as, this has been the single most popular name for bars in American history -- or at least in the northwestern states. So far I've identified 68 "Pastimes" in Washington state, along with 112 in other states. But relatively few remain now, and I make an extra effort to visit when I find one.

Patty chatted with me a bit about the history of the place, and showed me a photograph of the grocery store that proceeded it in this location near a corner of the city established by the Quaker Henry Beeson in 1776. The city lies less than fifteen miles from the West Virginia border, and ten miles northwest of Fort Necessity, built by George Washington during the French and Indian War and the site of the Battle of Jumonville Glen, where the North American branch of the war began. 140 years later the war here was between the local miners and mine owners, with the owners bringing in "fifteen guards armed with carbines and machine guns [to hold] off an attack by 1,500 strikers, killing five and wounding eight." (wikipedia)

Patty doesn't like photos taken of her, but she seems well known to people in the area. A couple bartenders at my other stops on the road trip told me to tell her hello. It's a nice place for people who appreciate an old, unassuming joint with some nice vintage beer decor. As I left I noted my hope that no one ever changes the name.

154 W Berkeley St, Uniontown, PA
Est. 1970

Friday, September 22, 2023

#5392 - Spirits Tavern, Baltimore, MD - 9/9/23

Spirits Tavern, Baltimore, MD

The Fells Point area of Baltimore is one of my favorite walkable bar areas that I have been to. A number of locals complain about its gentrification -- and I might too had I been a long-time resident of the city. But it appears to be a process that's been happening for well over a century. It's estimated that when Fells Point was a rollicking trade harbor in the late 1800s there were over 300 bars and over 100 brothels in the area.

One of my favorites is in Upper Fells Point, and has a sort of gothy dive theme. I don't know how long there has been a bar here, but there are mentions of it as one of the oldest bar locations in the city and one site claims it has been operating continually since 1890. Before that it was a funeral home during the civil war, housing bodies of both Union and Confederal soldiers. The name "Spirits Tavern" originated after Chad and Dan Ellis purchased the place in August 2005.

Spirits Tavern, Baltimore, MD

The name appears to be an homage to the history of the place, and perhaps the spirits that are served there today. Old photos and spooky artifacts adorn the place. The pool table is free and the cocktails include fresh squeezed juices. My visit was apparently too late to experience the "Tub-Of-Fun," which apparently is no longer offered. The Tub-Of-Fun was a big bucket full of cheap beers for $1. You take whatever beer the bartender grabs from it, and if you guess which one he/she is going to pull, you also got a free shot.

I had a pleasant visit chatting with the bartender, whose name I unfortunately have forgotten (Amy?) and customer Sam. It turned out that Sam had not only spent several years in Seattle, but worked at epic Seattle bar The Fenix, with Rick Wyatt. 

I subsequently learned that the bar is located on a crossing that locals call "Crash Corner." Indeed, cars have crashed through the front of the bar itself eight times in twelve years (cbsnews). I'm not sure if any efforts to curtail this have yet been implemented, but I managed a medium-length visit with not a single crash.

1901 Bank St, Baltimore, MD 21231 - (667) 260-4114
Est. 2005 
Web site: spirits-tavern.cominstagram 
Reviews: yelp 

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

#5283 - Korner Tavern, North Huntingdon, PA - 7/17/23

Korner Tavern, Hahntown, PA

Technically in the township of North Huntingdon, the Korner Tavern is located on a corner in the unincorporated old mining community of Hahntown, and lists itself in Irwin. In fact the building is said to have originally been the company store of the Westmoreland Coal Company -- although some have disputed whether that mining operation actually included a company store at all. In any case, it served the mining community for many years -- then run by Stanley Brevic and known as "Stanley's Tavern" -- including hosting meetings of United Mine Workers Local 6080 in the basement.

Linda Pilipovich, Korner Tavern
Hahntown (Irwin), PA
In 1962 the tavern was purchased by Victor and Helen Pilipovich and renamed the Korner Tavern (reasons for the "K" are unclear). It has remained in the family ever since then. When Victor and Helen split, Helen bought him out and operated the bar herself until she was 91,  passing away in Sept 2019. The business is now run by Helen's son Victor Jr. (AKA "Butch"), and his wife Linda. Linda was not involved with the bar in the early years, but a few years ago, when they needed to replace an employee, Linda decided to give it a shot, even though she'd retired twice. She now works the earlier part of the days and says she enjoys it much more than any of her previous office jobs.

Korner Tavern, Hahntown, PA
Anthony and Derek

Another change Linda made late in life was to start distance running at the age of 62. On July 4th of this year she ran her 200th race, and Butch said they should put her medals up in the bar. I was fortunate enough to first visit the bar while Linda was working, and explaining the medals now hanging behind the bar to a couple other first time visitors. There are now 217 of them, including one from a triathalon and two from ultra marathons.

When I asked about the portrait above the bar, she informed me that that was Helen, and added that she had been a great mother-in-law and when she was behind the bar the patrons knew she meant business, and were not about to get out of hand.

Korner Tavern, Hahntown, PA
Portrait of previous owner Helen Pilipovich

In addition to a very pleasant chat with Linda, I also exchanged notes with the other two first-timers, Anthony and Derek, and exchanged bar stories.

Butch is said to be an excellent cook, and I am looking forward to returning, hoping to try the food and/or visit on a Friday or Saturday night to see what it's like when it's really hopping.

Old photo of Korner Tavern
Date and source unknown
HAHNTOWN by Raymond Anthony Washlaski

Miners from Adams Mine 
Norwin Historical Society
Via HAHNTOWN by Raymond Anthony Washlaski

339 Main St, Irwin, PA 15642
Est. June 5, 1962 - Building constructed: 1900
Previous bars in this location: Stanley's Tavern
Web site: facebook 
Reviews: triblive - yelp - norwinhistoricalsociety - Hahntown: Peen Gas No. 2 Mine

#5284 - Safari Club, Duquesne, PA - 7/17/23

The Safari Club, Duquesne, PA

The city of Duquesne, hugging the south side of the Monongahela River just southeast of Pittsburgh, is an archetypal declining old steel town. From it's heyday in the 30s and 40s, when Carnegie Steel operated "Dorothy Six," the largest blast furnace in the world, and employed more residents than they entire city population today, the population has been declining ever since, leaving crumbling buildings and pothole filled roads. The health of the community faded along with the infrastructure, with over a third of the residents below the poverty line, the worst performing schools in the state, one of the highest crime rates in America, and inclusion on the Financially Distressed Municipality list.  (wikipedia, neighborhoodscout

The Safari Club, Duquesne, PA

Thus the bars here tend to be few and far between, inconsistent in their operation, and with very spotty data on the internet and social media -- e.g. on the day I visited a bar here it was listed in Yelp as permanently Closed -- although the facebook site is updated regularly. But the bars that survive can carve out intimate and pleasant spaces, amidst the crumbling surroundings, and this is the case with the Safari Club, on the ground floor of a 3 to 4 story old building, with broken windows, faded plywood over upper doors, and the brick walls in back appearing to crumble. But inside the Safari is a cozy neighborhood dive bar space.

True to it's name, the Safari contains a good number of African artifacts and jungle-themed decor. But like many true dives, the theme varies widely. Above the bar are three taxidermy buck heads, two quite professionally done surrounding one that appears older and executed by someone just starting to learn the craft. Opposite the pool table is a selection of photos of old school jazz and rock stars. The bartender and manager Quanda tells me her uncle owns the bar and the taxidermy, and she guessed it had been here for about 23 years, with no idea what was here before it. The efforts to maintain a friendly, safe environment are more evident than usual, including a large fluorescent green 86 list and requirement that you must be at least 30 years-old to enter.

Altogether it creates a welcoming getaway from the heat and humidity, as well as the other struggles outside. The drinks are typical dive bar spirits and canned beers, and the food fairly standard pub fare (wings, burgers, fish sandwiches, etc.). Events include Bar Bingo nights, karaoke, and the occasional live band. It's the sort of unique neighborhood joint that I might put on my highest favorites list -- perhaps after checking out what it's like on a Friday or Saturday night.

708 Grant Ave, Duquesne, PA 15110 - 

Friday, July 14, 2023

#5277 - K and M Pub, Pittsburgh, PA - 7/14/23

K&M Pub, Pittsburgh, PA

The K&M Pub is a classic old neighborhood joint where the bartenders know every customer. Once inside I was very pleasantly surprised to find an original pressed tin ceiling and antique back bar. County tax records only fill in the story from 1963, when Gerald and Anita Garner bought the place, but it's plainly much older than that. The Garners appear to have sold it to the current owners in 1999, but the old "Garner's Tavern" ghost sign is still more prominent than the tiny "K&M" at the front door. 

Mike the bartender says it goes back "about a hundred years," and it appears to have been built in 1924, so he was pretty much on the money (though of course it could not have been a licensed bar until 1933 at the earliest). Still a lot of research to do on this area.

200 Mt Oliver St, Pittsburgh, PA 15210 - (412) 488-6241
Est. 1999? - Building constructed: 1924
Previous bars in this location: Garner's Tavern
Web site: facebook 
Reviews: yelp