I have a long history at Silky’s. I find myself over there far less frequently these days, but it was the site of a weekly Thursday night outing that I organized all through grad school. On Wednesday night, I was looking for a fun but low-key place to buy a beer and some dinner for a good friend on his Birthday. With dinner at Silky’s freshly on my mind, I might as well take the time to write up a review.
Silky’s Sports Bar
1731 Murray Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15217
If I were just walking down Murray, I’m not sure I would actually stop in at Silky’s. First: it’s a sports bar, complete with televisions, sports fans, and big crowds on game nights. That said, the place has a lot of character–and delivers better food and drink than you might expect. I’m usually fairly impressed that the ever-changing list of dinner specials consumes a whole page of hand-written script. Maybe the list even changes every night? The beer selection could use some work, but you can tell they at least try to offer up a reasonable variety. Heck, they even serve up a half-way decent salad.
Three Locations. You may have seen or visited Silky’s elsewhere. The same owners run Silky’s Pub over in Bloomfield and Silky’s Crows Nest in Sharpsburg. I visit the Squirrel Hill location more often than not–primarily as a matter of convenience: I can walk there. I’ve never even been to the Crow’s Nest. There’s more room in the Bloomfield location, but the Squirrel Hill offering has more character by far. It’s a 2-floor establishment with tables better suited to dining upstairs and the bar downstairs along side some small tables, shuffleboard, and darts.
Not your typical bar food. I find myself saying that phrase frequently enough, that maybe I ought to expect more from bar food. Then again, maybe it’s just the bars I tend to frequent. Because it started as a mere Thursday night drink outing, years went by before I ever had a meal at Silky’s. Thursday night wasn’t my first, but it was a solid example. Their kitchen delivers just enough quality to satisfy, but really shines in the the areas of variety and creativity.
I’ve already mentioned the constantly adjusting specials menu. I’m not sure whether market availability or just curiousity drives the list, but it often includes something that sparks my interest. Sadly, I can’t think of any good examples at the moment. The standard menu includes 4 or 5 entree salads (good for me) along with sandwiches, wraps, burgers, and all the requisite appetizers for a pub of this sort. The salad list includes everything from a giant taco salad to a slightly more conscionable salmon salad. I’m usually impressed by the presentation of the wraps when ordered by a friend–though I’ve never actually ordered one.
You may have read that last paragraph and think, so? That sounds like a fairly standard selection for a casual dining experience. Well, yes. It is. I think my enthusiasm comes from the cognitive dissonance embodied in a local sports bar that simultaneously offers up lady’s night specials (Thursday) and $2 import night (Tuesday) and serves up a salad that holds up to my demanding salad preferences. The quality and thoughtfulness seem out of place, though very much welcome.
The beer: at least they tried. I often feel like Silky’s wants to be a beer destination, but doesn’t quite have the will to succeed. Sure, they offer up more than the bare minimum with Yingleung Porter and sometimes even a Rogue Dead Guy Ale. The problem is, they never seem to have more than one really exciting option. When I went on Wednesday, the selection seemed even more limited than usual. I started with a Straub Extra Dark (mostly out of curiousity) and moved on to a Bass (a common fall-back for me). Neither was bad, and both where more interesting than I would be able to find at my neighborhood Applebees (or wait, I don’t have one). It’s just worth noting that far more expansive selections can be found at The Squirrel Hill Cafe, Kazansky’s, and PD’s Pub. Hell, even the Smallman Street Deli has Great Lakes bottles. Silky’s somehow missed the craft beer explosion of the past several years.
Overall. I would never complain about a trip to Silky’s for a drink or maybe even dinner. It’s not the best place in town, but it’s a solid establishment. At least for me, it represents some good memories and even some continuing traditions. So if you happen to be in squirrel hill and looking for a drink–and maybe even dinner, you really ought to try at least once. I gave them a start rating of 3 out of 5, but that shouldn’t be construed as a poor rating. It’s really just my attempt to reserve some space at the top of my scale for the really noteworthy restaurants.
How about you? I’m interested in what some other opinions on Squirrel Hill bars. Do you live in the area and have a particular favorite? Or maybe you think I’m way off on my Silky’s opinion. If I get some good suggestions, I might make a point of visiting each one and posting my thoughts on this blog.