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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

James Street Gastro Pub and Speakeasy

For 17 years, the James Street Tavern operated on the North Side. Serving Louisiana fare and hosting the best jazz musicians in the area, it quickly became my favorite go-to spot near the city. Since the James Street closed several years ago, several different reincarnations have been tried, but none were nearly as good as the original. The James Street Gastro Pub and Speakeasy finally brings back the great menu offerings, beer selection, live music, and personal service that were the signature of this once great establishment.

On my first stop here, I learned that they had found numerous old framed photos of entertainers that have preformed there in the past. The owners intend to incorporate these into the decor. At one time, the stairway walls leading to the downstairs bar were covered with signatures and notes from many of the famous jazz artists that had played there. Past owners painted over this feature, but the new owners have started to revive the tradition.

While we did not eat full meals, the couple of appetizers that we tried were tremendous. My favorite, the "Tiny Tunas" are described on the menu as: Ahi tuna sliders, avocado, citrus scented sprouts, red onion, wasabi mayonnaise,
pickled ginger. The tuna medallions were perfectly seared on the outside, and beautifully rare on the inside. They were really a great combination of flavors Other offerings include a nice selection of sandwiches, salads and wings with not only several different sauces, but a choice of five different dry rubs.

Their web site (click on the title above) lists 15 different nights in February with live entertainment, and the Pittsburgh Jazz Society has started to hold their weekly Sunday night concerts here. For years the Jazz Society was in a great room at the Rhythm House in Bridgeville. When that closed, they moved to the Rivers Casino but the casino just wasn't a very good venue. Also, while the Jazz Society never charges a cover, the casino would strong-arm you into buying their buffet just to see the band. Now they are back to the kind of place they belong!

The James Street is at 422 Foreland Street on the North Side.

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