As football season gets underway, some Pittsburgh Steelers fans are as worried about big-screen televisions as they are about their team's weak offensive line. For the past few seasons, the Black and Gold found a second home at the Penn Ave. Pour House, a Pittsburgh-themed bar on Capitol Hill. Walls lined with '70s Super Bowl programs and Mr. Rogers memorabilia welcomed patrons waving Terrible Towels and punctuating sentences with "yinz guys." Regional specials like Primani Brothers-style sandwiches (piled high with cole slaw), pirogies and Pittsburgh's Iron City "beer" featured prominently on the menu.
Pittsburgh-born owner Joe Englert sold the bar, though, and earlier this year, the new owners embarked on making the space more of a straight-up sports bar. Down came the Pittsburgh radio signs, beer ads and photos of native celebrities like Gene Kelly and Frank Gorshin (the Riddler on TV's "Batman"), replaced by sepia-toned pictures of Babe Ruth and Brooklyn's Ebbets Field and New York Subway signs pointing to Madison Square Garden and Yankee Stadium. A few Pittsburgh items have been relegated to one rear wall; photos of the Phillies, Red Sox and Orioles are more prominent.
"We'll still show all the [Pittsburgh] games," says owner Mike Schuster, and they're trying to smooth ruffled feathers with a game-day special that includes a kielbasa sandwich and can of Iron City for $5. Co-owner Colin Laverty says that the bar "will have screens and an area reserved for [Steelers fans], but we don't want to limit ourselves to one group."
Non-Pittsburghers, though, will find that most changes are for the better. Booths were replaced with more tables, and an awkward raised seating area was removed. Dozens of televisions are now positioned throughout the three-story space, including one "video wall" with six adjacent televisions in the main bar and a 10-foot high-definition set in the third floor martini lounge known as Top of the Hill.
Also gone is the dimly lit, basement-level Politiki lounge, which featured a large Trader Vic-style tropical drink menu, rattan furniture and large carved tiki heads. The concept was nicer than the space, which was really showing its age. The basement now sports vaguely Germanic decor, including dark wooden beams and a Bavarian flag, as well as a puerile name that isn't suitable for polite German-speaking company. "It's a joke, more of a parody," Laverty says. "It's a real laidback floor, like a beer hall." Schuster adds: "We wanted to get it cleaned up and make it a nicer bar."
-- Fritz Hahn (Updated Sept. 2004)