Best Bars at the University of Pittsburgh

Published: January 19, 2015

This list is catered to students of the University of Pittsburgh as well as 20 something year olds visiting Oakland. Be forewarned that on weekends after 9pm these bars aren't the place to take your parents. Whether you're just visiting or looking for a good hotspot to drink with students, this list will give you insight about Pitt's hotspots. 

I have rated the bars based on atmosphere, drinks, food, and most importantly for the 21+ student: cost. This is a list of bars that will give you the most bang for your buck.

  1. Hemingway's Cafe

    The number one hotspot at the University of Pittsburgh is by far Hemingway's cafe, otherwise known as "Hem's."

    Hem's is your classic college bar. During the day it's a great place to grab food. They have killer burgers and fries. With half-off food prices from 11am-2pm and 9pm-midnight, Hem's is definitely the place to go for lunch or a late-night bite to eat. 

    The rotating $1 draft specials all day, every day pull in crowds. Hem's famous shot-pitchers are delicious concoctions loaded with alcohol that are served with gummi worms and plastic cups for sharing. My personal favorite is the "Taylor Swift," and at only $7.50, a Hem's shot pitcher is by far the most cost-effective and delicious drink to get. There are also nightly specials for different shot pitchers at a steal of $5 bucks. 

  2. Garage Door Saloon

    Also known as "G-Door," Garage door offers the best beer specials in Oakland. Drafts are only $1, bottles are $2.50, and pitchers are $4.00 all day, every day. They have daily specials for $2 Bacardi or captain morgan drinks, and $3 bombs. Plus, their famous "pickle shot" is awesome for pickle lovers and non-lovers alike.

    There's plenty to do while drinking like Wednesday night karoke or darts and pool.

  3. Peter's Pub

    Every University of Pittsburgh student has gone through the tradition of getting their "horns," aka a viking helmet, on their 21st birthday at Peter's. Peter's is a change of scenery if you want to dance, as they have a dance floor with live music or a dj in the upstairs area. They have great wings and beer specials. Peter's also is a great venue to host events like birthday parties, date parties, and the like.

  4. Hofbrauhaus

    If you’re looking for a true international drinking experience, you can’t pass up Pittsburgh’s first authentic Hofbauhaus, which was inspired by the legendary Munich, Germany Hofbrauhaus. Indulge in a variety of Bavarian dishes and genuine German beer during Thursday’s college nights. Liters and pretzel appretizers are just $6 every Thursday from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. No student ID is required; just ask for the college night specials. Hofbrauhaus is located in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Southside.

  5. Cruze Bar

    Every Thursday is College Thursday at Cruze Bar in the city’s Strip District. Come shake it on one of the biggest dance floors in the city beginning at 9 p.m. when Pittsburgh’s best DJs spin the hottest hits. Arrive between 6-8 p.m. to take advantage of Thursday’s happy hour special that include $1 off all cocktails and bottles at this 6,000 square foot nightclub that includes two bars. All students must be at least 18-years-old to party and 21-years-old to drink. ID is required, so be sure to have yours with you.

  6. Mad Mex

    This chain has a good beer selection and mexican food. If you're looking for an IPA on draft, this is the place. They have magaritas and fish bowls on special every night after 9pm. So if you're looking for some feel-good mexican and drinks, this is the place to go.

  7. Bootleggers

    Boots is a great dive bar with some of the cheapest drinks on campus. Well-drinks are usually on special at just $2.50, and there's always cheap beer. There's a dance floor next to the bar that usually has a dj playing music. But if you aren't into dancing, there's a second room with darts and pool. Boots also has great food, especially wings and burgers.

  8. Church Brew Works


    Church Brew Works was originally St. John the Baptist Church, and in 1996, the sacred building was transformed into a spectacular brewery like no other in the city. The room still retains the feel of a sanctuary with its lofty ceilings, but today, the pipe organ has been replaced with a brewpub. Beers have suitably sacred names like Celestial Gold, Pipe Organ Pale Ale, and Pious Monk Dunkel. The pub serves a range of creative lunches and dinners as well. Try Untraditional Pittsburgh Pierogies to start, and follow up with buffalo and wild mushroom loaf or tamarind glazed chicken. Homemade ice creams and cakes will satisfy your sweet tooth. 

  9. Smokin' Joe's Saloon

    Not many bars on the South Side have the brew selection that Smokin' Joe's does, and those that do aren't nearly as affordable. It's no surprise, then, that the main draw is the beer selection, both drafts and bottles. Other amenities include good wings, pool tables, and darts. Daily specials, listed on a blackboard, keep crowds coming throughout the week. Weekend nights at Smokin' Joes usually attract a younger set, but during the day, there's typically an eclectic group bellying up to the bar.

  10. Smiling Moose

    Smiling Moose, located on bustling East Carson Street, caters to the hard rock crowd in Pittsburgh. Tons of free shows and well-priced beers keep the place busy during most of the week. The Moose also possesses one of the best rock and punk juke boxes in the city. A pool table and dart board on the second floor offer an escape from the crowds downstairs, which can sometimes get noisy. If hard rock and punk are your musical faves, then expect Smiling Moose to become one of your Pittsburgh haunts.