Last Updated on August 16, 2022 by Angie
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Con Alma in downtown Pittsburgh is a restaurant and bar that features live jazz music. With an impressive cocktail menu, delicious international food, and stellar music, Con Alma is a shining star in the Pittsburgh food and music scene.
Before jumping into this one, it's worth noting that Con Alma has two locations, one downtown and one in Shadyside, with the latter being a more intimate spot serving a completely vegan food menu. We recently visited the downtown location, and after our great experience there we can't wait to visit the Shadyside location, too.
Visiting Con Alma Downtown for Dinner and a Show
At Con Alma downtown, on weeknights live jazz tends to run from about 6 pm to about 10 pm, while on Friday and Saturday nights there will typically be two bands playing with the first going from around 6-9 pm and the second from around 10 pm-1 am. Sunday brings brunch with more music from 12 pm-3 pm. Note that there is a $10 per person charge added to all tabs when there is live music. But, as with everything, these times and fees can change and are worth checking out before visiting.
There is a small bar area that is a bit removed from the stage. If you really want to be right up in the action, you'll need to reserve a table and dine there, as the tables are reserved for those dining (not just drinking).
The tables are mostly round cafe-style tables and they're packed in, so you may find yourself getting to know your neighbors a bit. A row of booths lines the same wall as the stage, meaning these spots don't have a great view of the band (which may be a pro or con for you, depending on your interests). We had one of these tables immediately adjacent to the stage, so we were up close and personal to the pianist which, as a pianist myself, was kind of cool, but we also couldn't see the rest of the band.
An Impressive Bar Menu at Con Alma
There are several beers by the can, but the bar menu is mostly focused on wine and cocktails. There are several wine-by-the-glass options, with much more being available by the bottle. Several bottle options intrigued us from diverse wine regions like Swartland, South Africa; Texas; Mexico; and the Finger Lakes.
The cocktail menu is quite lengthy and has a little bit of a speakeasy and tiki vibe. We tried four different cocktails during our visit and all were excellent, and at a surprisingly decent price point for the quality and for being downtown.
We started with the carrot sangrita, with a shot of mezcal served alongside a blend of fresh carrot juice, lime, salt, agave, sour orange, and jalapeno. The juice blend was a beautiful chaser to the mezcal as it was earthy, sweet, bitter, salty, and very spicy! The Money Jungle was also a hit with mezcal, coconut rhum, gentian liqueur, pineapple, lemon, and bitters. It was just a touch tropical without being sweet, with bitterness from the gentian and acidity from the lemon to balance it out. Another winner was the Banana Sazerac with cognac, banana liqueur, rye whiskey, absinthe, and bitters. The banana flavor was subtle and integrated – mostly, it just tasted like a really darn good sazerac!
Monster Food Portions Won't Leave You Wanting for More
The food menu is a little confusing as it's not clear what the portion sizes are for everything, but with some help from our server, we were able to navigate it.
We started with the Japanese sweet potatoes which were a perfect salty-sweet combo with the potatoes bringing creamy sweetness, and miso, pepitas, and cotija bringing punchy saltiness. Sliced pickled Fresno peppers added another layer of spicy goodness. We absolutely adored these potatoes!
The entrees we ordered, the milanesa Napolitana and fish curry, were both massive portions (and other dishes at tables nearby looked equally as gigantic).
The milanesa was a huge beef filet pounded super thin, breaded, and fried. It was topped with a tangy fenugreek-tomato sauce, crispy fried prosciutto, and burrata. We normally would not order a milanesa when dining out, but we are so glad we changed our tune to try this one. This was an over-the-top dish with so many different flavors and textures going on, but somehow they all worked together beautifully. The massive portion size meant we had a lot of leftovers, too, despite Jeremy eating way more than he should have.
The fish curry featured black grouper cheeks and shrimp nestled in a yellow Thai curry sauce with snow peas and shiitake mushrooms, served alongside rice. The shrimp were huge, plump, and juicy, while the fish cheeks were rich and meaty. The curry sauce was good but very mild – we would have loved even more assertive flavors and spiciness.
But of course, the amazing drinks and food were only part of our visit. We also got to hear the Max Leake trio and truly enjoyed their performance. The only thing to keep in mind if you get a reservation is to time it around the band schedule. Shortly after we were settled in and had drinks, the band took a somewhat extended break- so we had to wait a bit for more music. Therefore, you might want to avoid reservation times that are about an hour after the first band starts, or time slots in between bands if our meal was any indication
With a trifecta of fantastic music, inspired cocktails, and great food, Con Alma downtown shines like a beacon. It almost feels like we don't deserve something this special in Pittsburgh.
Con Alma Downtown is located at 613 Penn Avenue in the Cultural District. We look forward to checking out their Shadyside location for the vegan menu very soon!