Pillbox

Bar Review: Squirrel Hill Cafe

Zeke and I originally planned to start off this column with an exciting bar in an exciting neighborhood. But when Zeke was an hour late (although he insists he was only 49 minutes late) and we had no mixers but cinnamon-apple tea and the world was an icy wasteland of frozen dreams, we decided to walk down the street to Squirrel Hill Cafe.

The location: Outside of Oakland, which is dominated by Pitt students (oh the horror), Squirrel Hill Cafe might be the most accessible bar from campus. Just hop on any 61 bus and you'll end up right across the street from its friendly red neon sign. In one of the safest (read: overrun by children) neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, this bar is where the locals kick back with their buddies after a long day at work. Be warned, though, Squirrel Hill Cafe is pretty much the only bar in the neighborhood (exception: that one sports bar, which Zeke will never drag me to). Find a good table and expect this to be your home base for the night.

The drinks: Sit down for five minutes and a waiter will actually come to you. This isn't the place to order anything fancy, but they're good on your basics. Since I never drink beer unless it's free from a keg, I ordered a whisky sour and Zeke ordered a gin and tonic. It's hard to mess up a gin and tonic, and I'm relieved to say they didn't. The main thing the cocktail menu has going for it is the price. I was shocked when the bill came out to about $3.50 a drink. Hard to ask for a better deal, especially if you're talking to a couple New Yorkers. The last time we went drinking, over break in Manhattan, we accidentally purchased Long Island ice teas for $17 a pop. Needless to say, this was a better night for us.

The vibe: You probably won't make any new friends here, and if you're prowling for booty you might want to look elsewhere. But for a casual night with friends Squirrel Hill Cafe is ideal. Noise level is minimal and music is unobtrusive. Bigger groups can grab one of a few tables, while we got our pick of cozy little booths. They're built for two people who'd actually like to talk to each other, but might also be appropriate for anyone who'd rather sip at their Jameson neat and contemplate loneliness. We had ample opportunity to talk our way ever closer and tipsier toward the topic of our impending futures, a favorite hobby of all graduating seniors.

Lit or nah: Nah, but that's sort of this bar's appeal. If you can accept smelling like an ashtray until your next shower, Squirrel Hill Cafe is the perfect bar for cheap drinks and easy conversation with some good company.

On the other hand, Zeke did want to mention that $3 drinks are exceptionally lit.

They've also got food, but only until midnight. So after last call, we headed over to the only place open in Squirrel Hill at two in the morning: Eat n' Park. Nothing beats a heaping plate of mediocre diner fries at an hour any normal person should be sleeping. Or a full serving of straight cottage cheese, if you're the same brand of weirdo as Zeke.