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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