Bar Buddies: Apteka

This week, my gals and I decided to mingle with some yuppies in a small Lawrenceville nook called Apteka. The place has garnered quite a good reputation for its 1) unique menu (Polish vegan), and 2) amazing cocktails. I had never been there before, so I decided to book a large party there for a friend’s birthday dinner. Apteka was definitely the highlight of my week, but there were both pros and cons. Let’s start with the pros.

The Vibe: Apteka is a very young, hoppy place with a great mood. A majority of the patrons were young professionals, and the space was open and playful. The lighting is dim and warm, perfect for a dinner-then-drinks agenda. It’s definitely a more upscale, millennial drinking scene, and the prices on the menu prove just that.

The Food: Polish vegan food never tasted better. Apteka had a sprawling menu with authentic-sounding dishes, from your classic pierogi to the homely borscht. I ordered the Baba Jaga sandwich with a side of pierogies, and I’m pretty sure those were the tastiest vegan dishes I’ve had in Pittsburgh. There was plenty of flavor and texture in the sandwich, and the pierogies did not lose their familiar hearty, creamy taste despite being dairy-free. The drinks were amazing as well. There’s a certain quality to the juices and flavors added that don’t make the cocktails cloyingly sweet, or hard to sip on. Every single one I tried was refreshing, and they had a great selection of wines.

The Location: Here’s where the restaurant falls a little flat. Apteka is a little out of the way from usual Carnegie Mellon routes; It sits right near Bloomfield down the street from the UPMC Children’s Hospital. To get that far down Penn Ave. with a bus, you’d need to somehow get on the 88. Ubering there would probably be the best bet. Additionally, Apteka isn’t a convenient stop from other popular student bar scenes, as central Lawrenceville and the lit part of East Liberty are equidistant 20 minute walks away.

Lit or Nah: There were some hiccups during our experience there. Luckily, my party made it to the restaurant earlier than our reservation time, because the system is set up for you to wait in line and order before you sit down. So in addition to my wait to order, I had to get to the front of the line to flag down a waitress and check in on my reservation. Once you’re seated, they bring the food over, but to get a second batch of drinks, you’ll have to go back up to the front and order at the bar. It’s a strange system, and the way the room was set up involved getting in other people’s way because of the small space. That alone affected my lit-ness, but good company fixes everything. I enjoyed the atmosphere, and the staff was accommodating. The other groups in the restaurant seemed like they were having fun too, so it’s overall a really good time.