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Bars where Pete has had a drink

Friday, June 14, 2024

#5809 - Evergreen Cafe, Pittsburgh, PA - 6/14/2024

Phil Bacharach, owner Evergreen Cafe,
Pittsburgh, PA

Today I met Pittsburgh's reigning "Best Jagoff" -- a man who even beat out the Pirates owner, which takes some doing around here.

The Evergreen Cafe is said to have been located in its current location on Penn Avenue (AKA Highway 8) since 1933. The business was previously located in Wilkinsburg -- now some 3 1/2 blocks down Penn Ave -- but moved here to the Point Breeze neighborhood of eastern Pittsburgh after federal prohibition ended, but was maintained in the municipality of Wilkinsburg. The current owner's father, Fritz Bacharach, purchased the joint in 1956, soon buying out a partner and eventually turning it over to his son Phil.

Evergreen Cafe, Pittsburgh, PA

Phil maintains the divey establishment to this day. He and his brothers worked the joint as teenagers, and Phil has recalled when the customers were steel workers, dropping in for a ham sandwich (white bread, ham, and cheese), a shot and a beer at lunch time (Local Pittsburgh). In addition to working the horseshoe shaped bar, Phil also ran the kitchen, until 2019 when he brought in the family running Taquitos Mexican Food Truck.  

Phil is a likable guy and the bar brings in a nice, diverse group of locals. It's the kind of place that I might move to my top favorites list if/when I spend some extra time there (and haven't already eaten lunch). It has the hallmarks of a finely aged dive -- plenty of old photos, including one of Fritz in military uniform, one with rapper Mac Miller who grew up in the Point Breeze neighborhood, another signed by Bill Mazeroski. There are gewgaws, paintings, and signs collected over the years, several featuring John Wayne, a favorite of Phil's mother.

But the elephant in the room is parked out front. It is Phil's car, parked in the right line of the 4-lane Penn Ave, and it is infamous in these parts. As The Great Pittsburgh Bar put it, "Have you ever been driving down Penn Avenue towards Wilkinsburg, approaching South Braddock? Have you almost died as a result of the random cars that are always parked in the right lane of a major two lane road? Then you have the Evergreen CafĂ© to thank for your near death experience. We have been cursing this bar for many many years."

This part of Penn Ave is a fairly busy street, where few drivers remain close to the 35mph speed limit. It is rare than anyone else parks here. But Phil has been parking here for half a century now. In April of 2023 he told Hannah Kinney-Kobre, of Pittsburgh City Paper that he'd been parking there "ever since I had a car when I was 16. I'm 65, so it’s been a while." Phil maintains that it is not dangerous -- even while he admits that his vehicle out there has been hit "upwards of ten times." This includes a time, he has added, when his vehicle was knocked all the way to the corner and the driver's vehicle caught fire. Phil added “Sometimes there’s somebody behind my car on her phone, looking at shit on there, for minutes. They’ve even started honking and without realizing that the car's parked.” (ibid) 

And until just this year (2024) it's actually been legal to park there -- at least until 2:30pm. That was made explicit by a city parking sign in front of the building. But then Jennifer Makovics started a petition to change that, and after 700 signatures, the city decided to change it to 30 minutes, loading only. Has this changed Phil's behavior much? You probably know enough already to guess. Phil also proudly displays "Pittsburgh's Best Jagoff" banners on the front of the bar, and his car sports "Best Jag" personalized plates. And Phil now has his own petition to get his parking rights back (759 signatures at the time of this writing).

In summary, I confess to having difficulty taking a strong position here. Logic tells me it would be better to make the roads safer and more convenient (on my visit I easily parked just around the corner). At the same time, I confess to liking the small wry smile on Phil's face when I ask about it, and to having a story to tell (one that has netted the joint a pretty fair amount of publicity). I wouldn't park there, and you probably wouldn't park there, but what I'd hate to get lost is that here is a pretty cool neighborhood bar with some good beers, pretty decent looking Mexican food, and a history of almost a century.

7330 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15208 - (412) 241-5577
Est. 1933 
Previous bars in this location: None known 
Reviews: Pittsburgh City Paper - Pittsburgh City Paper - Pittsburgh City Paper - Pittsburgh City Paper - The Great Pittsburgh Bar Crawl - WTAE - citycast - yelp 

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