Published by Jeremy. Last Updated on May 13, 2022.
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When it comes to bars in East Liberty, finding an approachable, low-key spot can be somewhat tricky. This trendy neighborhood has a lot of bars with unique themes and higher-end offerings, but when you want something a bit more straightforward, that may be a bit harder to come by.
Enter St. Clair Social- the kind of bar that East Liberty truly needs.
St. Clair Social is East Liberty's Neighborhood Bar
When you visit St. Clair Social, the first thing you're going to notice is that it is not in the main business district of East Liberty as you would otherwise expect. St. Clair is a quiet street near the edge of the neighborhood that has been home to many bars and restaurants over the years that never quite stood the test of time.
St. Clair Social might be the one to do that.
When you walk into this bar, you feel like you're in a neighborhood bar that can be in any of Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods and will be greeted by friendly staff and bartenders ready to make you a classic drink, a historic cocktail with a twist, and some amazing pub food as well.
The cocktail menu at St. Clair Social is broken up into several sections, including Social Cocktails (which were influenced by styles from the earliest 20th century but reimagined), Classic Cocktails (ones that might go back to the mid-1800s), rotating special cocktails, and of course non-alcoholic mocktails as well.
We started out with a round from each of the social and classic cocktail menus with the Pornstar Martini (est. 2002) and the Brown Derby (est. 1930). The Pornstar Martini was gin-based with passionfruit, vanilla, lime, and a sidecar of Prosecco to add in and had a refreshing balance of floral aromas with tropical notes. The Brown Derby was perhaps our favorite cocktail of the night as it was using Bulleit bourbon as the base with a mix of honey, grapefruit, and lemon. It reminded us of an improved Penicillin as it was a bit more fortified and came with a nice kick from the grapefruit.
Our second round included the Bahama Mama (est. 1961) and El Diablo (est. 1946). The Bahama Mama featured Maggie's Farm white and dark rums with an array of tropical juices that melded well for a refreshing tiki beverage that, admittedly, may not be as buzzy as you would expect. El Diablo was tequila-based with ginger, hot ginger beer, lime juice, and cassis and was perhaps our only miss of the night- while we had strong ginger flavors it was hard to pick up on much else, and any associated heat that you may expect from the “hot, hot, hot ginger beer” wasn't terribly prominent.
In any case, the cocktails here can go down fast and are inviting enough to get you to want to sample another (and perhaps another after that).
Don't Skip Out on a Meal at St. Clair Social
When you visit St. Clair social you'll do well to check out their food menu because this one has a full lineup of gastropub staples as well as items with house twists as well.
As we're visiting with friends for dinner we decided to get a nice spread of appetizers and entrees during our visit. We started out with the PB&J (Pork Belly & Jam) dish which is truly one of the most delicious appetizers we've had at a gastropub in recent memory. Grilled sourdough bread is topped with generous portions of chili and beer-braised pork belly, a peanut salsa macha, raspberry jam, radish, mint, and cilantro.
While the peanut and jam are not the core components (it really is the pork belly), the acidity in the jam helped offset the rich and savory notes of the pork belly and macha. It all came together for a rather unreal flavor combination that everyone at our table enjoyed and we immediately put an order in for another round. Yes, it was that good.
Our second appetizer was an order of roasted Brussel sprouts which were cooked perfectly and topped with crispy pork belly lardons, lemon, and aioli and the portion was large enough to share a few bites with the entire table.
For our entrees, I went with the crispy chicken sandwich which was served with house pickles and garlic aioli on a brioche bun. Our server asked if I wanted the sandwich to be spicy and I said as hot as possible, but have to admit that it ultimately came out with zero heat (making me think the memo got lost in the shuffle somewhere). Despite that, the flavors of the sandwich were straightforward and the large portion did not leave me wanting more- just the heat!
Angie ordered St. Clair Social's Pittsburgh salad and it ended up being a monster salad that was served topped with steak, fries, cheese curds, ranch dressing, and a generous portion of vegetables. Normally we shy away from ordering Pittsburgh salads out at restaurants as they often are disappointing, but this one held up thanks to the amount of steak, fries, and additional toppings.
For good measure, our table also ordered a round of parmesan truffle fries which were topped with a heaping amount of parmesan, truffle oil, and served with another side of garlic aioli for good measure. While we had fries with our salad and sandwich, I did find myself snacking on these as well and gladly would order them as an appetizer if I was not getting an entree that also came with fries (admittedly, together they are a bit of overkill). This pushed us over the top and we left quite stuffed for our night out.
Overall St. Clair Social is an approachable guest gastropub in East Liberty with twists on the conventional bar menu as well as unique takes on cocktails from many eras from the 1800s to the present. But the bartenders are also skilled at putting together many classic cocktails as well if you want to stick to something tried and true, so odds are good you'll find a cocktail here that suits your tastes no matter what.
We look forward to returning back to this one for wing night and other happy hour specials plus getting that dreamy PB&J again and again and again!
St. Clair Social is located at 302 S St Clair Street in East Liberty.
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