this place is a gem. for native pittsburghers, think the brillobox without the hipster pretensiousness. the crowd is varied and colorful, representing a vital cross-section of pittsburgh life, with what looks like a healthy crowd of regulars.
the beer selection is awesome for such a small place. really obscure micros, the essential regional stuff and lots of the best standard options. liquor selection is lacking in variety, but they have rye, which is both awesome and something you won't find in 90% of the bars in pittsburgh.
at first i thought the food existed as a mere formality. the dumplings were salty and sort of one-dimensional. the tex mex rolls were underwhelming. usually when you get shitty dumplings that's a pretty bad sign. the menu is generally sparse and limited to what makes for good apps and bar food. however - i learned that the burgers are great and - and trust me, i can't explain this either - the calimari is probably the best in the city. it's plump, juicy and fried just right. i was dumbfounded but way too happy to try to make heads or tails of it.
the food is cheap but the beer is pricey, but this works well as a neighborhood bar if you go for happy hour because the $2 off draft special makes it all very affordable. the decor is great, too. just shy of trendy and just a cut above the "corner dive" feel, the art deco atmosphere is both retro and no-nonsense. this place is a plasma and a soundtrack away from excellence.
the petite blond bartender is definitely a bitch, by the way, but as far as i'm concerned that only adds to the experience. it doesn't hurt that she's adorable. seems like they are very partial to their regulars and i've noticed the more i've gone the more attention i've gotten, which is also not so bad.
again, this place is a gem, all around. it's got "this will soon be ruined by dickweed hipsters looking for the next great spot" written all over it - so go down there and grab a shot and a beer and take in some true pittsburgh before kelly's is discovered. it's definitely worth it.