Not An Easy Glass To Fill: Bar Marco

May 2012

On a summery night, I had a hankerin’ for an adult root beer.  “What’s an adult root beer?” you ask? I’m ever so glad you asked because it’s one of my favorites! The adult cocktail is [roughly] a combination of Art in the Age Root and maybe a splash of bourbon and/or bitters, an ice cube specifically fashioned for fancy sippin’ and a curl of orange peel for additional flavor and aroma.  Now that you have those flavors in your mind, imagine biking on a hot, summery night and wanting just one more cocktail, just one specific cocktail- the adult root beer- to cap off the evening.

You’ve cycled joyfully to the corner that introduced you to this delightful adult version of a childhood delight, only to discover a closed sign. It’s not just a closed-for-the evening sign but the type of closed sign with an air of permanence. [I get a little choked up just typing about it.] This, my friends, was the tragic tale of the closing of The Embury, Pittsburgh’s first Prohibition style bar. However, the tragic tale has a happy ending! The Embury shall live again (and I shall surely have more to report on the bar that gave me Root).  In the meantime, I can say with sincerity (and despite my initial skepticism spurred by sadness), if The Embury had to go, I’m pleased with its replacement- Bar Marco.

From “Marco” directly…

Bar Marco serves simple but hearty foods sourced from local purveyors, with a focus on small production and natural wines along with craft cocktails. Located in the Strip District, one of Pittsburgh’s most unique neighborhoods!

Being the tree hugging brand of foodie I am, I was impressed with Bar Marco’s mission to focus on local ingredients. Being the design critic that I am, I would be remiss not to critique the window display. The hand painted window graphics made the place look unfinished. Conversely, the interior exemplified a great deal of consideration. The bar’s creators excavated the building to reveal its bright white bones and a light, open space. Even on a gray and rainy Sunday, the bar filled with light.

The bar features a contrast of industrial elements-stained wood, a sealed concrete floor, metal- with antique whites- the shiny brick tiles, the tin ceiling and the marble bar tops. They completely opened the interior from its past life, and the large, front window and wine bottle reflections illuminate what used to be subdivided and purposefully dark and brooding. They sold me on the refined interior.  As for the brunch…

If an aspect of alcoholism is a constant “craving” for alcohol, Bar Marco may soon be responsible for many alcoholics or at least my own imminent battle with the disease.  The root of this is the Bar Marco Manhattan (seen here in a long, tall, lovely shade of red-orange)- a combination of rye, carpano, aperol, angostura and “bubbles!” That’s right- bubbles! Champagne in a Manhattan?!?! Are you salivating and signing up for AA with me, or am I the only one? I doubt I’m the only one!

The other long tall lovely catching your eye was a Spicy Mango Bloody Mary made from vodka, mango and cilantro, and that was one spicy Mary!!! It was not a cocktail for the faint brunchers (myself included). Luckily, my dining companion is as feisty as they come at the early brunching hours, and she power sipped through the spiciness.

Lastly, that squat fella was an Aperol Spritz bursting with the citrus from fresh oranges.

Just to repeat though, try the BAR MARCO MANHATTAN! While you’re at it, buy one for me too!

Plantain Pancakes w/ Local Honey & Cinnamon Butter

I love a light and thin pancake, and the plantain element lent extra moisture to each bite.

Bone-in Pork Chop w/ Rhubarb Compote & Potato Pancake

Adding a fruit contrast to a pork chop is no secret, but rhubarb! What a splendid idea!

Those who know me, know how much I like to share at meals (even though Phil can recall a time when “family style” baffled me), which explains the multiple plates I am sharing in this post.  However, it is worth noting, Bar Marco’s servings are on the lighter side, a stance I support, but when sharing, it’s worth having a few more options than you might at your average Pittsburgh-portioned brunching nook.

Cranberry French Toast w/ Bourbon Maple Syrup

Bourbon maple syrup. French Toast. Why would I continue to type?

You did it, Bar Marco.  The Embury did not leave an easy glass to fill, but you impressed me with a refined design in both the menu and ambiance.  You convinced me! See you again very soon!

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