The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Garage Door Saloon/Big Joe’s Pizzeria

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on September 20, 2009

While I was in Pittsburgh, one night, my co-worker wasn’t feeling well.  He had a headache, and then took some Aspirin on an empty stomach, and he doesn’t usually take any meds unless he’s REALLY not feeling well.  The Aspirin was eating up his stomach and did little to help his headache.  It looked like I was on my own for dinner.  Not a problem.  Even though I had a car, I decided to take a walk and see what was near my hotel.  I asked the young woman behind the counter if it was safe to walk around (indeed, the area looked…. eclectic), and she said it wasn’t a problem, even in the dark, and that she walked to and from work all the time.  She was probably 22 years old, and worked the 1600-0230 shift, so I figured I’d be alright.  I armed myself with my iPod and a book, and set out to find some dinner.

I didn’t realize it, but I was about 4 blocks from the University of Pittsburgh.  As I began walking over, I realized it really was a very safe area, and the “eclectic” feel, I had sensed driving through was the same sense I probably would have had driving through any college neighborhood.  Houses that were clearly rented by college students, with little time for home maintenance, and remnants of weekend parties on the front yards, but nothing truly nefarious.  I enjoyed the walk, and found a wealth of mom and pop restaurants to pick from.  A couple caught my eye, but as the evening was gorgeous, I was looking for something with an outdoor patio, or at least an outdoor feel.  I found the Garage Door Saloon.


This picture shows the windows are closed, but those windows are actually small garage doors with glass panes.  When I was there for dinner (it was too dark to take outside pictures when I was there), those garage doors were open providing a nice view and breeze for the bar.  I walked in to the nearly empty bar, as it was about 1730, and it really wasn’t clear how to get a seat, if they sold food, etc.  I asked the bartender, Mark, where I could sit, and if the kitchen was open.  He said I could sit anywhere, handed me a menu, and pointed out a window to order from, once I was ready.  I sat at the window next to the pay phone.   What wasn’t immediately obvious, and what I’m still not completely sure about, is that food was being provided by Big Joe’s Pizzeria, the shop adjacent to the shop (there was just a doorway in the wall between the two stores).

I took a look at the menu; standard college/bar/comfort-type food.

IMG_1555 IMG_1553

I surveyed the menu, and to be honest, I’m a total sucker for food like this, particularly at these prices!  I ordered some wings with butter garlic sauce, fries, and two chili-cheesedogs.  The young woman working at the counter was clearly new; it may not have been her first day, but it certainly wasn’t her third day.  She didn’t charge me the correct amount for the individual orders; she overcharged me on some, and undercharged me on others… I think it all came out, though, and I just didn’t have the heart to tell her that she wasn’t getting it right.

From there, I went to the bar and ordered a glass of water and a Great Lakes Burning River Pale Ale (Cleveland, OH).  I then retired to the window with my beer and book, and waited for my meal.  The meal was delivered, I noticed from OUTSIDE; the woman walked up on the sidewalk and handed the food through the window.  It was funny.


The food was as good as it looked.  I expected, for $2.00, that the hot dogs would be little tiny hot dogs, but no!  They were big, quarter-pounder dogs.  They were good, but not great.  The Burning River Pale Ale was awesome, though.  i would certainly recommend one anyone that showed even remote interest.  The wings were cooked really well, but it seemed like they may have been sitting awhile, and were a little dry and cool.  The food was delivered without any utensils or napkins, though.  THAT was a problem.  Those chili-cheesedogs and wings  both required napkins, and I didn’t see any, so I just enjoyed my gluttonous meal without my book, and just admired the twilight view.


The meal did the trick, though, and I didn’t finish it all, as I figured the hot dogs alone might cause me to go into cardiac arrest on my walk back to the hotel.  After I finished the beer, I ordered another beer, asked for a stack of napkins from the bartender (Mark) and continued reading.  I ordered the Troegenator Double Bock (Harrisburg, PA) based on Mark’s recommendation (although I did forego his recommendation for the Dundee Octoberfest (Rochester, NY)).  I’m generally not a big fan of darker beers, but I try to give them a chance, and I have been a big fan of Sam Adams’ Double Bock.  This met my expectations, and was “ok”, but not particularly good.  I took my time to finish it, continued with my book, and headed back to the hotel.

Overall: It would have been a great place to enjoy a beer, with the open feel and friendly atmosphere.  I would leave Big Joe’s food for Big Joe.

Ambiance: College bar, with open-air, garage-door windows.

Food: American-bar food, brought to you by Joe’s Pizzeria, located next door.


2 Responses to “Garage Door Saloon/Big Joe’s Pizzeria”

  1. Stacy said

    Sounds like a fun atmosphere! There is some place right by Pitt that also is renowned for their french fries…. can’t remember what it’s called.

    • gingerbreadpirate said

      Might it be the Pimanti Brothers? I went there (blog post to come) and my sandwich had fries (which were excellent) ON my sandwich. Otherwise, if it comes to mind, let me know! I’m headed back in a couple weeks!

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