Every decade or so, the golf world turns toward a small suburb 13 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. I write, of course, of the U.S. Open, to be hosted for a record ninth time this week by the Oakmont Country Club. A shame, though, the attention isn’t more frequent. Allegheny River Boulevard, the community’s main street, looks like a gallery of living, breathing Norman Rockwell paintings: couples catching a special showing of Caddyshack at the Oaks Theater; children and their parents enjoying scoops of homemade ice cream, courtesy of Brr-Kee’s. However, peel back the Norman Rockwells, as the Entertainment Central Recon Patrol did last Monday night, and one will find a vibrant, albeit sophisticated, nightlife, right here in picturesque Oakmont. What follows is a guide to a few Oakmont hot spots, to be used during not only the U.S. Open but also afterwards.
First stop for my marketing friend and I was Carnivores, established in 1996. Owner John Keefe describes it as “an upscale sports bar.” Aiding in the upscale ambiance is the beer selection—30 beers on tap and well over 500 varieties in bottles, from Lagunitas to Yuengling. To the right of the open garage doors are the refrigerators, above which a sign reads, “MIX & MATCH 6 PACKS TO GO … $15 … OR … STAY & ENJOY A BOTTLE.” A third option is delivery, a six-pack brought right to your door. A menu including—but not limited to—burgers, pizza, salads, wedgies, wings, and an array of potato options means carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores can chow down together.
As for the “sports” descriptor, I counted 24 televisions, including small ones for every booth, all tuned to one game or another. A screen also hangs in each bathroom, so patrons never miss a moment. Carnivores’ customers are often more than just spectators, though, with the restaurant hosting both golfing and bowling leagues. Every Thursday, the golf leagues tee-off at Rolling Fields Golf Club in Murrysville and then return to Carnivores for the $3-beer night. The bowling leagues will start around November and will run until about March.
Finally, 7 p.m. Mondays at Carnivores see customers competing in what may be America’s fastest growing sport—bar trivia! Jessica McKelvey, who works for Pittsburgh Bar Trivia, hosts. My marketing friend and I decided to participate, reviving the Gene Genies, our team name from when we last played trivia at Gene’s Place in Oakland. We knew the answer to the first question—“African elephants have ears shaped like what?” (Answer: “Africa.”)—but questions like, “What bakery item was found in Egyptian tombs from 4,000 years ago?” left us scratching our heads. We decided not to finish, eager were we, too, to check out our next stop.
The Pub at 333
Also owned by Keefe, The Pub at 333 was celebrating its opening night after a soft opening the previous evening. Reviews were already trickling in. “Everything looks amazing,” a customer said to Keefe as she was leaving. Another customer gave a thumbs up from across the crowded restaurant. Busy, yes, but operating smoothly.
“My vision was to try to bring the city to the suburbs,” Keefe said of his new business. “I wanted to make a swanky place for the common man.”
Indeed. While Carnivores sports a utilitarian interior, The Pub at 333 boasts more aesthetic furnishings. Wooden tables stand atop hardwood floors, and Edison bulbs turned low dangle from the ceiling. In the far right corner is a pizza oven, which, while gas-powered, uses wood chips to keep the fire burning well and to impart a rich, deep flavor. The pizzas looked delicious. Menu ingredients come from Jimmy & Nino Sunseri Co. in the Strip District, and the bar features some prime spirits, including an on-tap Moscow mule and an on-tap Manhattan.
As tempting as that on-tap Manhattan sounded, the Recon Patrol had one more stop on our pub crawl—Oakmont Tavern. Although Carnivores was where pro-golfer Jason Day was spotted Sunday night watching the Penguins game, Oakmont Tavern is the closest of the places we visited to Oakmont Country Club. Regulars include golfers, caddies, and greenskeepers all golf-season-long. And although co-owner Jonathan McAndrew would welcome Day or any of the other top pros, he also appreciates being “your local neighborhood place.”
The spot where the tavern stands has been one bar or another since the 1950s, but Oakmont Tavern was established in 1995. Five years ago, McAndrew and co-owner Dave Vivino added an upstairs bar and patio, which is especially popular on weekend nights with the younger nightlife crowd. The patio provides a pleasant setting for dining under umbrella tables. A DJ often spins during these summer weekend nights as will be the case this week with the U.S. Open. Oakmont Tavern is also raffling off hundreds of dollars in golf-themed prizes this week. Additionally, Wednesday will see Grey Goose promotions; Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, Ketel One promotions; and Saturday, Yuengling promotions, with female representatives from these distilleries and brewery on hand to give out samples.
Any night, though, is solid for visiting Oakmont Tavern, and my marketing friend and I decided to linger at our last stop. Mondays, their popular wings are 35 cents each, so we ordered some wings slathered in a mild Buffalo sauce. My friend ordered the soup of the day: French onion. We then split a Pub Chicken Salad and a Black & Bleu Burger, plus a side of onion rings. The bacon and bleu cheese gave the burger a savory interplay, and the housemade ranch dressing was the perfect complement to the salad. While we munched, we soaked in the tavern’s old-time vibe—a smooth green marble bar, low stucco ceiling, the hint of cigarette smoke—modernized with many flat screen TVs and a golf arcade game in the corner.
“Once people got their bearings, they found us,” McAndrew said of out-of-towners visiting during the previous U.S. Open. That wasn’t until Saturday, though. Those visiting this time would be advised to try the tavern, as well as all of Oakmont’s establishments, earlier. That way, they can sneak in second or even third visits, something the Recon Patrol encourages not only for this week but also, for those in-towners, through the summer and onward.
To see more photos from the Recon Patrol’s Oakmont Nightlife Adventure watch the slider below:
Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. – 2 a.m.
215 Allegheny Ave., Oakmont.
The Pub at 333
Monday through Sunday, 10 a.m. – 2 a.m.
333 Allegheny Ave., Oakmont.
Sunday through Thursday, 3 p.m. – 2 a.m. Friday through Saturday, noon – 2 a.m*†
*The week of the U.S. Open, Oakmont Tavern will be open Thursday through Sunday, noon – 2 a.m.
†September through January the hours are Monday through Thursday, 3 p.m. – 2 a.m. Friday through Sunday, noon – 2 a.m.
814 Allegheny River Blvd., Oakmont.
photos: Rick Handler
Christopher Maggio is a Pittsburgh-based writer and editor and loves Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods.