Bar Buddies: Jack's Bar

For our very last Bar Buddies adventure, Zeke and I forced ourselves away from familiar haunts and journeyed all the way to Southside, a Pittsburgh neighborhood actually known for its nightlife. By eleven on a Saturday, the streets were crowded with largish groups of friends dressed and hyped for a crazy night. Zeke and I, stone-cold sober in our jeans and t-shirts, felt too out-of-place for many of the bars and all of the night-clubs. We wandered for a little while before settling on Jack’s Bar, an eclectic little dive bar and Southside fixture.

The Location: The side of East Carson closer to campus has a few bars, but then the action concentrates into a string of nightclubs and restaurants. Jack’s is on the other side of that stretch. This puts it firmly within range of everything that one could need after a bar trip: food available late into the night and even more bars. Considering the experience at Jack’s, that barhopping option is a plus. It also means the 54 will take you where you need to be from Morewood and Craig. The trip is a bit long by bus, but if you have several stops, it can definitely be worth it.

The drinks: We both ordered whiskey sours for $4.50. Since the bartender made the drinks right in front of us, I can say with confidence that they were 80 percent ice, 19 percent sugar, and 1 percent alcohol. We downed our carbonated sugar beverages in about three minutes flat. The last inch of my drink had me crunching sugar crystals between my teeth, and I would’ve had to buy at least five more to be less than sober. It really wasn’t worth it to order a second, especially since Jack’s only accepts cash. They have an ATM, but the withdrawal fee was half the price of my drink. All in all, the drinks were cheap but neither effective or tasty. Jack’s also advertised a mix of typical and more eccentric bar food, from burgers to mac n’ cheese bites, but no one seemed to be eating.

The vibe: Jack’s is a dive bar, complete with smoking and some bar games. We went on a night that happened to be both a Saturday and the night of a dominant Penguins win. This meant the bar was pretty lively and occasionally got very loud. The space behind the bar matched the ambience, with hand-drawn signs advertising drinks with fun ingredients like Pop Rocks. People came through the bar ordering beers, gin and tonics, and even a Swedish Fish. The varied drink orders matched the varied crowd, which blended some college aged kids with groups of older people and everywhere in between.

Jack’s was more conducive to having a real night out to drink with a few buddies than a couple people sitting down to talk. The mood doesn’t lend itself to quiet conversation. Large tables that lined the outside of the bar were designed for large groups, which made sense given the rest of the atmosphere.

Lit or Nah: Jack’s falls just short of lit-itude, mostly because it can’t quite decide what kind of bar it wants to be. It’s too loud, the crowd too pushy, and the seating options too limited for it to be a pub where you can chew the fat with a bro. Meanwhile, the drinks are too weak and the music is too variable to make it a real party destination. Jack’s is best as one quick stop in a Southside barhopping trip. Next time you’re in the neighborhood, duck inside to appreciate the quirky local vibe and then duck back out to find somewhere with decent drinks.