Max's Allegheny Tavern is still alive and kicking... We thought it was about time to cover the rest of the places we haven't sampled in Pittsburgh.
Now before you go, Max's is far more attractive than the photos on their website. Don't be discouraged and delayed by them like I was.
To find Max's you need to walk about 10 blocks from PNC Park. Its a pleasant stroll on a warm evening or afternoon. I recommend giving the walk a try, as the North Side is greatly changed and is a neighborhood redveloping itself. All the *crime* and other bad elements are greatly removed compared to say ten years ago. There are many rehabbed gems of buildings along the walk. If you are visiting the Warhol Museum, The Matress Factory or Allegheny General Hospital you too can take the stroll down to Max's.
Max's is a richly dipped delight of history. Surviving through Prohibition as a well-known speakeasy Max's now sits in a 101 year old former hotel. Much of the charm of the original building is still there - from the old bar, to the tile floors and the trio of wooden fans slowly pushing the smokey bar air. There are some framed documents, photos of the original owner and old pencil drawings of Heinz products being loaded on to a riverboat in the heyday of paddle boat river transport. All of these artifacts of an earlier time are tasteful reminders of a much simpler time when Allegheny City was a bustling city of its own and the rich like Andrew Carnegie were propping up Ridge Avenue on the heaps of wealth they were collecting.
Max's is a big place - three large rooms with ample seating and clearly seperated smoking and non smoking area - for a change.
As for beer, they are lacking on the micros, but I wouldn't punish them for it. What is lacking is more than compensated with a good German beers (Spaten, Wurstburger, Rauchenfeld, etc.) and equally as good German food.
I tend not to dabble in German food - as its heavy on the meat. But I will tell you what they do have, because if you like German food, this is a gem of a find for anyone in Pittsburgh... German foods offered here include: various Schnitzels, Goulash, Suarbraten, Kielbasa, Haspenpfeffer. There are probably ten other Old World dishes worth examining.
The paper menus are great presentation of an old local newpaper (late 1800s) with a front right column insertion about the history of Max's. It's a nice authentic feeling and a darn neat way to present what can otherwise be just a menu.
I consumed a Spaten, delivered in a chilled bottle. I also tried several appetizers including the Pierogies. Everything was seasoned nicely with a reoccurring sweetness in each. For a main course we ordered the fish sandwich which was enormous and served on a crusted bread much like a hoagie/sub. I tried their vegetable sandwich which was just ok - nothing creative or to write home about... For the dessert I tried the homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream. It was served warm and fresh - it proved to be a very good dessert.
So here's the wrap up. Max's is a friendly neighborhood instituition. Generations of families have walked through the doors. The staff is attentative and friendly, as well as notably prompt - no extended stays waiting for our check or beverages. The food is really fresh and served hot. The beer selection could be increased to cover micros, but this is a German restaurant - why bother. The price are pretty friendly, desserts cost $2-4, not the $5-10 the ripoff joints are charging. Soup is $2.25 for a bowl not $4 elsewhere. You get the point, this places prices are friendly to your pocketbook.
With a restaurant that has been running since 1977, Max's has been doing most things pretty well - the tradition continues. I highly recommend Max's as a break to the chain-struck meals most folks are eating today at the strip malls or three doors down from their hotels. Be my guest, give Max's a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.