Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on February 18, 2020.
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Emerson's Bar first started as a Christmas pop-up bar above Market Street Grocery in downtown Pittsburgh in late 2019, and was converted into a permanent bar space in early 2020 with a large and inviting space and a relatively straight forward bar menu.
So if you're in need of a cozy space to enjoy a drink with friends in downtown Pittsburgh, you may want to give this one a try!
Emerson's Bar Offers a Large and Cozy Space Downtown
Within moments of arriving at Emerson's Bar, you'll notice a few things that make it unique from most cocktail bars in Pittsburgh. First, the space is quite large- the seating area covers almost the entire footprint of the building. Second, it is somewhat segmented with the bar itself feeling distinctly separate from some of the seating areas (we couldn't see it within eyeshot of our seats).
The decor of this one is simple and elegant but you'll notice many building-specific elements jump out of you right away. Some of the walls are unfinished and look like they're ready for construction (in a way that oddly works). The Market Street side has wall to wall windows that allow a lot of natural light to come in while also providing a modest view of some downtown buildings and a slight view into Market Square (and looked stunning when it was snowing out). I could go on.
It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that the mood here would change completely based on where you sit and what direction you're looking and that is truly a testament to the size of the space itself.
As we were meeting a friend for a night of conversation, we settled into a cozy nook near the wall of windows. While this section felt more like we were at a coffee shop than a bar, a server cam over within moments and took our drink orders right away- properly reminding us that yes, we're still at a bar.
A Fairly Conventional Bar Menu Here
The bar menu at Emerson's offers a nice spread of options between wine, cocktails, and beer. While the options here are limited to just a few wines in any particular style (red, white, rose, etc) and beers run a split between mostly domestic and larger craft producers, the menu reads like the kind of spot where anyone, regardless of taste, can find something they would like to order.
But as with most bars, it is very easy for you to take a glance at the menu (above from our visit after they first opened) and see if the wine or beer would be enjoyable to you, so during our first visit we opted to check out the cocktails- as we always do!
Our first round of drinks included house takes on the classic Manhattan and the Sidecar. These were relatively fortified and had a lot of the nuanced flavors we love about these cocktails. While I would say they did not stray from the conventional mold too much, for classics like these we also do not need much done to make them unique- they're classic for a reason. (Admittedly, the Sidecar rang in at $15 which was a bit much compared to other options on the menu.)
The big miss here was the Graeme Street Smash. This cocktail was a take on a Mezcal Smash and featured mezcal, blackberries, lime, agave, orange bitters, mint, and soda. To say this one was horribly unbalanced is an understatement and mostly tasted like we were drinking mezcal and soda water with a slight hint of mint. The flavor of the fruits and sweetness of the agave did not come out at all, and to be quite honest I probably should've sent this one back rather than accepting it.
In addition to drinks, the bar also serves a light food menu focusing on salads and pizza. While we did not partake in these during our visit due to having dinner reservations immediately thereafter, we have to admit that the pizzas looked quite good and would return to try them alone.
Overall, we enjoyed Emerson's in downtown Pittsburgh for its large and somewhat unique space more than the drinks. This is the kind of bar we would go to with friends who we want to have a great conversation with (while having a libation in hand) over going specifically for any specific drink on its own. But, since all great conversations are better with a Manhattan, we really can't complain much, either.
Emerson's is located above Market Street Grocery at 435 Market Street Floor 2. The entrance is via a separate staircase to the left of Market Street Grocery and features a small sign for the bar on the door.
Looking for more wine options? Be sure to check out The Wine Bar at Market Street Grocery one floor below you for some great pours!
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