Over the Bar Bicycle Café: Building Community, one Spoke, Crank & Fork at a Time

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While the kitchen at Over the Bar Bicycle Café is kept busy preparing the day’s featured soup, tasty treats for Taco Tuesday, and meat-optional BLTs, the menu is doing double duty as a community builder. With craft beer flowing from a wide variety of bottles, cans and taps, and nightly specials, everyone wins!

The menu at this South Side Pittsburgh neighborhood bar does much more than let you know what the servers are bringing to the table. It doubles as a promotional piece for local bike shops, magazines and advocacy groups. Reading the menu is an education in bike culture, and most definitely helps drive the success of the local bike and outdoor communities!

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If the full bar area is any indication of this city’s interest in Bikes, I’d say interest level is strong. Or this place has great food, at reasonable prices. Or both.

Creatively designed burgers, sandwiches and appetizers are named after local bike attractions. “Heaven on Earth” is a spicy spinach, mozzarella and tomato-covered burger, named after Bicycle Heaven, the world’s largest bicycle museum. “The Wheel Mill”, dipped in buffalo sauce and topped with jalapeño cream cheese, bacon and pico de gallo, carries the name of Pittsburgh’s indoor BMX and mountain bike park.

The description of the new “Rachel Carson Panini”, a traditional, melty turkey swiss grilled sandwich, also gives a bit of a history lesson. “A 35 mile hiking trail dedicated to pioneer ecologist, Rachel Carson passes our OTB North Park location. The trail was dedicated as such because it also passes through her birthplace of Springdale, only about 15 miles west of North Park. Environmentalist History 101. You’re welcome.”

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Throughout the local establishment, bikes hang on the walls and from the ceiling, creating a divider between the bar area and additional table seating in the back. Bike scenes are painted onto colorful panels overhead, posters for bike events are framed on the wall, and bike-themed stickers and metal parts are somehow shellacked into the clear resin surface of the tables.

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“Bike Industry Night” is every Wednesday night, serving sliders, $4 Goose Island cans, and featuring bike videos on the mounted flat screen TVs above the bar. A true neighborhood bar, there is bar trivia, a modern jukebox, and pedal powered pinball. Yes, it appears that the back end of a bike is attached to a pinball machine, providing the device’s power source.

The bar was recently the site of a fundraiser for PGH Babes on Bikes: Celebrating Bicycle-riding Women in Pittsburgh. The organization’s website explains: “Pittsburgh Babes on Bikes is a tiny group of lady cyclists dedicated to celebrating and supporting the continued empowerment of bicycle-riding women in Pittsburgh by organizing inclusive events, as well as creating and distributing publications.”

The group has been around since 2010, when it created a calendar featuring the city’s women cyclists with their bikes. Per the website, sales of the calendar raised $5k for the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

This is a place that knows how to flex its menu, to stay busy during the holidays and cater to special dietary requests. Their FaceBook page advertises Fish Fridays during lent and Ash Wednesday specials. Taco Tuesdays feature rotating specialty tacos, and Sunday Brunch includes a tasty looking Bloody Mary and Chicken & Waffles.

Prepped and ready for St. Patrick’s Day, the kitchen offers a limited menu to keep things moving and diners happy during this busy holiday. The chalkboard out front warns potential patrons that they have NO Green Beers, but are happy to serve you one of their many craft brews!

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The bar is open until 2 am every day, with the kitchen open until 11 pm (except Sun., when it closes at 10 pm). I was so taken with the place that I returned there two nights in a row on my recent trip to Pittsburgh. On my second visit, I sat where I could see the two TVs above the bar, with one screen keeping professional hockey fans entertained, and the other about 2/3 of the way through the classic Patrick Swayze movie “Dirty Dancing”.

At the next table two buddies are hanging out discussing the beer list, surprised that Fat Tire is only $3 – less than the domestics. Another round is ordered! They are deep into a conversation about food, and how to prepare it. One explains: “Working out and cooking, I love. But I also love playing video games and ordering pizza.” Blue Apron, known for home delivery of premeasured ingredients to prepare a full meal, is also under discussion.

The 2nd guy offers to show the first how to prepare a tasty salmon dish, but his friend is still stuck on pizza. “One part of my brain says ‘I want pizza!’”, he says, “and the other part says ‘Yeah, that sounds good.’” For tonight, they opt for a grilled sandwich, a side of corn and black bean salsa, and one more round of Fat Tire!

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These two are in the right place to make some healthy choices, whether they choose to or not. The bar recently featured $2 off their “Healthy Menu”, to help their regulars get ready for sunshine, spring shorts and tank top season. What brought me back my 2nd night was a dish catering to the restaurant’s vegetarian friends. I haven’t eaten Buffalo wings in. . . well, I’m not entirely sure I ever have. After a taste of the Buffalo sauce at Over the Bar, I may be hooked.

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A generous portion of their sauce was smothering delicious seitan “wings”, made of wheat gluten, also known as “wheat meat”. Don’t turn up your nose until you’ve tried it! (See link to a description of this meat substitute below.) I had to make a 2nd visit to try out some of the other sauces that make these “wings” irresistible. I was not disappointed!

I’ll be visiting Pittsburgh several times over the next couple of months, and I planto go back and try their special pickle soup – “Let’s Make a Dill”. Sounds amazing! Perhaps next time I’ll have one of my bikes with me, and can ride over.

Join me on my next Adventure,

~ Kat

Related Links:

Over the Bar Bicycle Café: http://www.otbbicyclecafe.com/

OTB Bicycle Café (Facebook): https://www.facebook.com/otbbicyclecafe

The Buddhist Chef: Seitan Recipe: http://www.thebuddhistchef.com/recipe/seitan/

Get Vegucated: “Mimicking Meat: Tofu, Tempeh and Seitan”: http://www.getvegucated.com/latests-challenges/mimicking-meat-tofu-tempeh-seitan/

PGH Babes on Bikes: http://pghbabesonbikes.com/

2 comments

  1. Oh my! How entertaining and informative. Add food fancier to your resume. Hope this establishment gets to see this post. Impressive I’d say!
    Blog On!

    Like

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