Bar Buddies: Mario's East Side Saloon

Walnut Street is a popular place to go shop and eat, and it also has its share of bars. One in particular, Mario's East Side Saloon, is a popular place for people to go hang out, drink, and throw a few darts until the patrons pack the place so tightly they start spilling out the front door. Thursday night was a weeknight, so the bar was a bit quieter and we decided that would be a good place to check out.

The location: Walnut Street has multiple other bars and restaurants, so it’s a decent place for bar hopping. Will Penn, The Yard, Stack’d, and Steel Cactus are all within a block and the latter three serve food until late if you get the munchies. It’s easy to get to by bus since Walnut is nestled nicely between the 71B and D on Fifth and the 75 on Ellsworth. That said, it’s also within walking distance from campus and just about anywhere in Shadyside.

The drinks: One of Mario's most famous features is the shot wheel. If you don't feel like deciding on a drink yourself, you can leave the process to fate. Some of the shots on there are wonderful. Of course, because luck is a stupid way to order a drink, we scored some gin, which was decidedly not wonderful. The bartender was nice about it and said some lime makes it “not too bad,” which is true if you’re me and enjoy gin, but not true if you’re one of the approximately seven billion people who don’t like gin. If you have better luck, you might end up with a really good drink. My personal favorite is the black and gold, but they have birthday cake shots and a shot that actually tastes like a pretzel. If you have worse luck, though, you might get iced.

The vibe: Winter is the hockey season, so Mario’s is truly a sports bar on weekends. It’s a great place to catch a Penguins game. During the rest of the year, they have an outdoor deck which is a nice place to grab a few drinks and look over Walnut Street. If you catch them on a Monday, it’s karaoke night, which is always a fun time.

Mario’s works best for bringing out large groups of friends. The design with the tables in addition to the bar means people section off into their groups, but if it’s not a weeknight, it’s usually too loud to sit and have a conversation.

Lit or nah: Mario's is a great bar and falls pretty firmly into the lit category even though we just had a couple shots of straight gin and hung out for a bit. You can go with a bunch of friends, get a dope drink you never knew about from the shot wheel, have a few drinks, and have a great time and it will be lit. This is why Mario’s is so popular and full on the weekends. Monday is also a big night because of the karaoke, which tends to be a blast whether you participate or are just present in the bar to watch those brave enough to try.

We’re just two people, though, so some space to sit and talk is nice. The bar can be crowded on nights with events like karaoke and trivia on Thursdays, but afterwards and on other weeknights Mario’s is a good place for going out with a friend. It’s quiet enough that you can sit down and talk in the ample seating or go have a more bar type experience next to the bar itself.

With all the different things happening on different nights and different times of year, Mario's is a fun bar and a good one to head to if you're looking to spend a night out.