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Best Bars With History In Pittsburgh

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Pittsburgh is a steel town rich in industrial and immigration history. Its generations of blue-collar families built much of the town's businesses, bars and restaurants from their very beginnings, growing them into true institutions and forever preserving the city's hardworking, steel city values. From Prohibition-style taverns and restored saloons to haunted watering holes, there's no shortage of unique and iconic buildings in which to toast to the city's backstory. Take an historic look at Pittsburgh through the bottom of your beer mug at these five bars and taverns that have grown into Pittsburgh institutions with their own tales and unique backgrounds.

The Park House
403 E. Ohio St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 224-2273

Trace Pittsburgh's North Side history all the way back to 1889 and you'll discover the long-standing Park House Tavern. Originally a family-owned Victorian-era soda fountain, this more than 120-year-old business was sold by its owners, the Park family, in 1932 following the end of Prohibition, thus making The Park House Pittsburgh's first licensed bar. Since then, this revered watering hole has cultivated many loyal locals thanks to its weekly events, happy hour specials and seasonal international dishes. Regulars recommend the golani and falafel, any beer off the always-rotating taps and, of course, the bar's free popcorn and peanuts. The Park House is located on East Ohio Street in the city's historic Deutschtown area.

The Original Oyster House
20 Market St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 566-7925

While some things have changed since Pittsburgh's oldest bar and restaurant first opened in 1870 such as its 10-cent beers and penny oysters, the iconic recipes, unmatched customer service and the building's original character remain unchanged. Its fifth proprietor, Louis Grippo, has done an exceptional job preserving the tavern's past architecture and décor, which helped earn The Original Oyster House its designation as an historic landmark by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. The tavern boasts 142 years of Pittsburgh history, countless photographs of Miss America pageant contestants, great drinks and gigantic fish sandwiches made from "Silver Dollar Louie" Americus' longstanding recipe. Grab a drink, pull up a barstool and test the history knowledge of the bar and restaurant's family and employees who are able to answer even the most ambiguous tavern questions.

Papa J Centro's
212 Boulevard of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
(412) 391-7272

If the idea of sharing some spirits with Pittsburgh's spirits is on your bar bucket list, Papa J Centro's is the perfect place to check that off. As downtown Pittsburgh's oldest-standing former brothel and the city's third oldest building, this historic landmark serves up some hauntingly good tales along with its beer, wine and cocktails. Since its construction in 1860, this building has been home to a brothel through 1937, a boarding house until 1979 and Tramps Restaurant through 1994, along with a few ghostly guests. During its brothel days, at least three murders took place in this location and many of these spirits are still rumored to frequent the bar, including Madame Dolly Cavanaugh, a former brothel maid and numerous child ghosts. Papa J Centro's bartenders and waiters are always happy to share their paranormal experiences with those customers who are brave enough to listen.

Related: Best Haunted Bars In Pittsburgh

Gandy Dancer Saloon
100 W. Station Square Drive
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
(412) 261-1717

Be sure your next bar crawl makes a stop at Station Square's historic Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad Station so you can drink up the history of Gandy Dancer Saloon. Originally opened in 1901, the railroad station is now part of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and home to the saloon aptly named after a slang term used for rail workers who maintained railway tracks. The somewhat dark, intriguing atmosphere with its view of the city's funicular railway is enough to draw you in but it's the fast bar service, classic saloon menu, happy hour specials and incredible seafood options like $1 oysters that have helped this unique bar maintain its excellent reputation among locals for decades. The Gandy Dancer Saloon is located next to Pittsburgh's Grand Concourse.

Omni William Penn Hotel Speakeasy
530 William Penn Place
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
(412) 281-7100

If you've ever wondered what Pittsburgh was like roughly eight decades ago, step into the Omni William Penn Hotel's Speakeasy, the only one of its kind in the city. Like the true hidden gem that it is, the speakeasy is buried beneath the hotel's lobby, returning this refurbished space to its original 1920s location. The bar's interior is a treasure chest of old distilled whiskey bottles from the hotel between 1911 and 1913 and several functioning antique seltzer bottles. In keeping with an historically accurate layout, a police raid escape route winds through hallways and back staircases before spilling out onto Oliver Street. The speakeasy is a beautiful part of the Omni William Penn Hotel, Pittsburgh's top-notch hotel, and a member of the Historic Hotels of America National Trust For Historic Preservation.

Related: Best Historic Sites To See In Pittsburgh

Jessica Wasik lives in Pittsburgh where works as a full-time figure skating coach sharing her passion with todays generation of young skaters. A graduate of Robert Morris University with a degree in English Studies, Jessica is also a contributing writer for Allegheny West Magazine. Her work can be found at

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