Located in the old bank building, Carson City Saloon is often one of the top names to consider when looking to watch any Pittsburgh sports team.
So, on the Monday before Christmas my friend and I set out to watch the Pens game in more of a public forum than we usually do and there was only one place I considered going.
My friend is a diehard Pens fan and knows every player's name (and life story it seems) but I'm more of a casual fan, and I wouldn't know one of the Pens players if I came across him in a bar (trust me, I know this from experience.)
We arrived just 30 minutes before the start of the game and there were (and I understand this is not normal) open tables and open bar stools at the bar.
We opted for the bar and picked a prime spot right in from of one of the televisions.
There was a group of younger guys sitting at one end of the bar who would eventually drew us into a quarters war and a fair number of people that filtered in to sit at the tables or at the bar.
During games the volume in the place is reasonable, allowing conversation but also awareness of what is going on on the television.
Every time the Pens score there is a drink special, the first I believe is any draught domestic (I forget for how much but it is spare change I'm sure), the next is cherry bombs (I think they are a dollar; word of caution, it is cheap cherry vodka so keep that in mind when accepting), and the next is grape bombs (I think, but by this point I was in a heated battle of quarters and not really paying attention to what my friend was agreeing we would consume.)
Overall the atmosphere is playful and friendly and I can see it being a very fun place to watch a game when the bar is packed; I mean we had a great time and there might have been 20 people total in the place given the upcoming holiday.
The space is pretty straightforward.
You walk in and directly to your right is a long bar against the wall and on the left are high top tables, a partition, and more tables.
The kitchen appears to be in the far left corner and the stairs (both up and down) are in the right corner.
There is a large screen directly across from the door, two large flat panel televisions mounted above the bar and another two flatscreens mounted on the opposite wall. I did not venture upstairs on either time I was there so I'm not really certain the layout but there appeared to be additional seating and as usual when there is a balcony, people will enjoy standing by it and watching the action down below.
The bathrooms are located downstairs at the end of a relatively roomy (if not a bit long) hallway and at least the girls' bathroom had a reasonable amount of stalls and was fairly clean.
Since it was the Monday before Christmas there were, I'm sure, less people in the place than on a normal hockey night in Pittsburgh.
Most of the patrons were men of varying ages and everyone seemed pretty courteous and friendly.
We even got sucked into a game of quarters with the guys at the end of the bar.
Though there seems to be a slightly less diverse age range on the weekends the crowd still seemed friendly and courteous.
Obviously it's a great deal busier on a Satruday night than it was the Monday before Christmas; in fact it was difficult to get in the door let alone to get to the bar.
However, once you reach an area of the bar without barstools patrons generally are willing to move aside for others to order.
There does seem to be more men than women on any given night and on the Saturday I was there it seemed the crowd was less willing to mingle and more focused on the people they came with.
There isn't anything wrong with that, but its something to keep in mind if you are striking out on your own one night.
All of the staff was extremely friendly and were constantly watching our glasses to make sure we didn't need another drink.
Whenever any drink specials were offered there was always someone who checked in with not just those sitting at the bar but also those at the tables to determine whether they were interested in taking advantage of the drink special – no need to seek out a server or bartender.
The work uniform is casual, a simple Carson City shirt or tank top, most of which seem to be offered up for sale to patrons should they want one to take home.
While McFadden's might have been given BarSmart's hottest bartenders award I think the staff at Carson City deserves the honor.
Not only are they hot they are also very good at their job; even when the bar is packed and difficult to reach, the second someone needed anything they are there.
There is a fairly nice selection of beers on tap as well as bottles and they even had a hard cider (it was Woodchuck I believe but hey, beggars can't be choosers); there was the usual liquor selection, nothing to brag about but all the standards were there.
The mixed drinks seemed decently strong and the prices were decent overall with some actually being lower than average for the South Side.
On a Saturday night it was a bit brighter than I would like for a party bar but overall it wasn't too bad.
I didn't find the additional lighting to really offer much, and in my opinion it would perhaps be better without them.
As for the music, it is a good mix of the non-top 40 including many of Pittsburgh's favorite oldies-but-goodies (including Journey and Bon Jovi) much like what you would find upstairs at The Angry Inch in Washington, DC.
This is a positive for me because the Angry Inch was a standby of my group of friends when I lived in DC and it is always nice to find a venue that plays different yet fun music.
The sound seemed well-balanced overall, enveloping the space and never overwhelming.
There was no cover and no line on the Monday I went and a $2 cover on Fridays and Saturdays when there is usually a line of people waiting to get in.
Parking is a fend-for-yourself situation, you find a spot on any of the streets remotely close to the vicinity and you take it – even on a Monday night it took a minute to find a spot – some are lucky and find spaces quickly but alas, I am not one of those people.