Review: Birmingham Bridge Tavern

I go to to the South Side frequently—more now than ever, that I’m scheduling meetup outings along side my restaurant review blog. Think about it: Pittsburgh’s South Side lines up far too well with two familiar FoodBurgh themes: good food and good beer—all rolled into one. At first glance, the whole area appears to leave healthy eating in the dust, but I’ve actually found that you can do pretty well if you pay attention.

Last week, various meetups gave me two chances to strike south of the Monongahela, starting with a Beer Meetup at the Birmingham Bridge Tavern. The took me to OTB (a FoodBurgh Meetup), but that will have to wait for another post.

Birmingham Bridge Tavern
www.barsmart.com/bbt

2901 Sarah St
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
(412) 381-2739

Birmingham Bridge Tavern on Urbanspoon

Unless you’ve gone looking for it, you may not have ever noticed the BBT. It’s tucked away on Sarah St, East of even the Hot Metal Bridge. Questions of why they called it the Birmingham Bridge Tavern come to mind, but I’ll let that one go. If you ever do drive down that section of Sarah St, you’ll probably notice the lights—they stand out in a part of the South Side that’s otherwise residential and, well, dark. One benefit of being tucked in a far corner: I actually found a parking space within a block of the door.

First a bar and second a dining establishment. BBT does have a full menu with all the standard bar fare, but, at least in the main room, most the tables on the first floor are within an arm’s reach of the bar. That doesn’t necessarily say anything about the food; it just says you really ought to order a beer while you’re there.

On this visit, I really only entered aforementioned “main room”—a rather narrow room on the corner of the building. I’m also told there’s a second floor for larger groups, but didn’t get a chance to see it. Focusing on the first floor, the bar sits on the longer interior side, with stairs and restrooms on the short interior side. The lighting is somewhat less dim than the usual bar—but still not bright (because it is a bar).

…and, of course, flat screen television pop out at every angle.

An attentive waitstaff of one. When I showed up, members of the Beer Meetup were situated at a long table downstairs, and a single employee served as bar tender, server, and restaurant spokesperson—though I can only imagine there was at least one other person in the kitchen. That “uni-server” turned out to be quite personable, and very much in touch with the beer: both traits I appreciate when I go out.

Got beer? 20 Drafts, 100 Bottles. If I were to drive past BBT and maybe even peek my head in, I would be quite sure of what kind of beer to expect. Sure, there’s the requisite neon out front—from the likes of Sierra Nevada, I seem to recall. But it’s still sometimes hard to tell. Fear not, BBT offers up a respectable number of “good beer” options. They even had something from 21st Amendment—just weeks after it first arrived in the ‘Burgh.

Beer travels faster than ink. Good selection aside, both the draft and bottle lists were slightly outdated. The first two drafts and first bottle I asked about had recently been replace by something else. That actually ended up working out pretty well for me: the uni-server suggested a bottle that wasn’t on the list: Pandora’s Bock from Breckenridge Brewing. That was both new to me and a far better bock than expected—a welcome outcome out of possible disappointment.

Complete menu, but it’s not online. Working from memory and sparse notes, I’ll say the menu is fairly complete (even relatively large): appetizers, salads, sandwiches, wraps, burgers—just about everything you would expect in a good pub. Sadly, I can’t verify that memory with anything on the web: the closest I’ve found to a menu online is a catering menu over on BarSmart. One thing I did take note of: vegetarian options in every category, which were much appreciated.

So I ordered a shrimp wrap. Despite ample vegetarian options, I took the seafood route: a shrimp wrap with a side salad. All sandwiches came with a choice of sides that included even a side salad, and that’s exactly what I ordered. The shrimp came served along side a pretty good mound of quality greens along with greens and croutons. The wrap itself included a reasonable quantity of internal veggie matter: lettuce and tomatoes along with large chunks of shrimp and some cheese—though not so much that I felt guilty for eating it. I found the big chunks of shrimp to have a somewhat pleasing texture that shined through everything else—that familiar not-quite-chewiness, which I rather enjoy.

I ended up eating all of the salad and half the wrap. Both were good. That’s not to say that either qualified for gourmet cuisine, but they were definitely worth eating. I enjoyed a nice shrimp texture with every bite with enough flavor to keep it interesting, but not so much flavor that the shrimp itself was hidden.

Not all that unhealthy. The best part: neither the salad nor the wrap was all that unhealthy. Both included a more than adequate supply of veggies, and the thick balsamic that came along side the salad went along way in tiny drizzles, and the veggie to shrimp/cheese ratio of the wrap was well within reason. I didn’t even feel compelled to add extra veggies when I ate the second half at home the next day—a practice I seem to follow almost anytime I’m eating leftovers.

In general, I’m a fan of BBT. The uni-server was friendly enough to make me (and the entire meetup group) feel welcome, and the food was good enough (and healthy enough) to make it a good place for a beer. I wouldn’t call BBT a “must visit” ‘Burgh establishment, but it definitely holds it’s own. BBT actually makes for an excellent alternative if you’re driving in circles around the rest of the South Side and can’t find a place to park. Chances are, there’s a spot somewhere not too far from the BBT. Plus, if you’re really desperate, they’re even within a few blocks of the parking structures on Sydney.

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9 Responses to “Review: Birmingham Bridge Tavern”

  1. sarah Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 11:02 am

    I really like this place for the beer list and the great wings, but it’s one of the few places that still allows smoking. I’m so spoiled by every other bar/restaurant in town now that the smoke gets to me and I need to get out of there after just an hour or so. Otherwise though, a great place!

  2. Nathaniel Beall Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Great review of BBT… and thanks for the link of course! If you get a chance to stop back try out their wings. They have a great selection of some of the best flavors in Pittsburgh. When people people talk about fatheads wings, I just shake my head because if you want a great beer selection and excellent wings – the Birmingham Bridge Tavern is a better option.Of course there is very little healthy about wings.

    Also – I must applaud you for not one delving into why they are named after the Birmingham Bridge when they are much close to the Hot Metal Bridge. :)

  3. Nathaniel Beall Says:
    March 2nd, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Oh hey Sarah – they were one of the first places to go non-smoking, well before the ban! Sadly it almost cost them the business because non-smokers didn’t show up in enough numbers to support them. So I’m pretty sure they will keep the smoking for a long time since it’s the smokers who kept their doors open.

    HOWEVER – I heard from the owners the other day and they are going to make two very distinct and closed off areas for smokers to smoke and non-smokers to enjoy their air as well. So check them out in a few months!

  4. Lynn Says:
    April 11th, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    GREAT bar! Why the reviewer says its not a “must-visit” is confusing to me! Wait staff is knowledgeable, and friendly, and i’ve never had a thing off the menu I didnt love. They say all their soups are made in-house and im a big fan of the cream of asparagus I had just the other day. Burger night is a fav of ours. A “MUST-VISIT” in my book!

  5. Jim Says:
    April 14th, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Hi this is Jim from the BBT. Thanks so much for the review. I wanted to say that we have made some additions to our menu since your visit, all of which can now be viewed on our BarSmart Pro Page. Also we plan to launch our own website in the mid to late summer to help keep our customers better informed. Thanks again and we hope to see you soon!

  6. mike Says:
    April 14th, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Jim: Glad you appreciate the review.

    I’m always excited to hear about new menus, and BBT is definitely in my list of places to hit up again at some point in the future. I’ll bet the Beer Meetup is interested in another trip as well.

  7. Vic Says:
    December 28th, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    really poor service the night I went, not so much with slowness but with rudeness as the staff were arguing with each other over some occurrence or another. There was one guy running around with eyes as red as the devil’s @#$!. I inquired and was told it was the owner. yikes. I’m all for a little ganja myself, just keep the children at home.

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  9. macbook Says:
    November 21st, 2011 at 9:36 am

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