When you think of Pittsburgh's music scene, your first thought is likely not about the North Side. If you do consider this side of the city, it is likely about the concert venue Stage AE or even one of the stadiums when big named musicians come to town.
But the North Side has far more than just these if you're looking to take in a live performance. In Deutschtown, for example, the music scene thrives on Wednesday nights of all nights thanks to the combination of two strikingly different outlets- banjo night at the Elk's club and bluegrass by the Shelf Life String Band at the Park House Tavern.
Located just steps away from each other, we decided to visit both and ended up having an incredible time on a night we would otherwise have stayed in.
Pittsburgh Banjo Club at the Elk's
The Pittsburgh Banjo Club is one of the most fascinating clubs in the city as its members come together to celebrate the love of the iconic four-stringed instrument. As the group is available to hire for events and parties, you can imagine that they have to practice together fairly regularly to stay on top of their craft.
So what do they do? They gather every Wednesday at Elk's Lodge #339 on Cedar Avenue, play from 8pm to 11pm, and invite anyone who wants to come in and listen free of charge. Cheap alcohol continually flows at the bar ($3 Dos Equis pints were our selection of choice for the evening) and all proceeds from the food menu go to charity- a win for everyone!
Over the years this group has gathered somewhat of a cult-like following, and shortly after the beginning of their practice at 8pm the lodge was completely full of attendees of all ages listening to the music, dancing, singing along (lyrics are available by the entrance), drinking, and having a grand old time.
It would be very easy to spend the entire three hours at the Elks Lodge listening to the banjos (we were tempted), but for those who want a change of scenery, the Park House Tavern begins its night of music at 9pm just a few steps around the corner at their location on East Ohio Street.
Naturally, we had to check it out.
Bluegrass at the Park House Tavern
The Park House Tavern is another unique establishment in Deutschtown, and splits its claim to fame between two very important facts.
First, it is often considered the first tavern in Pittsburgh to receive a license after the end of prohibition- something we can all be happy about. Second, the owner, Zamir Zahavi, is the self-proclaimed falafel master and offers a menu full of Israeli inspired pita sandwiches to go with its more traditional draft list of a neighborhood bar.
Much like the Elk's club, the tavern thrives on Wednesday nights with the Shelf Life String Band being staple residents performing live bluegrass for hungry patrons.
During the performance the bar regularly offers $2 Yeunglings on draft, meaning that $20 can go a long way between the two establishments over the course of an evening (roughly five beers and a pita, by our personal experience). And much like the Elk's club, you'll also want to arrive to this one early if you want any hope of getting a seat- the bar gets absolutely packed within an hour.
Wednesday may not be your traditional night to go out in Pittsburgh, but if live music and cheap drinking (and dining) are what you seek, a visit to these two unique events should be on your list.
Elk's Lodge #339 is located at 400 Cedar Avenue and hosts the Pittsburgh Banjo Club every Wednesday from 8pm to 11pm. Park House Tavern is located at 403 East Ohio Street and frequently hosts the Shelf Life String Band for Wednesday night Bluegrass from 9pm to midnight.
For more live music in the North Side, check out MCG Jazz!