For this review I leave the keg-lined streets of Oakland and head to the corner of Penn Avenue and Main Street in Lawrenceville to the swank confines of the Brillo Box. I had heard a lot about this place so I was pretty excited when I actually go enough free time away from work, baseball, and all the other crap that fills up my days to head over there to make a review. Some of my friends and coworkers swear by this place claiming its the best bar in Pittsburgh while others told me it's nothing more than the clubhouse for all of Pittsburgh's pretentious jag-offs. I wanted to find out for myself.
When I went for my review on a Thursday night I tried my best to keep other's comments about the place from skewing my own opinions. The first thing I noticed entering the Brillo Box was its unique decor. Dim lighting, old school Merry Melodies cartoons playing on the TVs, and strange unrelated relics and trinkets displayed behind the bar kept me mesmerized. It's sensory overload, but by all means I don't mean that in a negative way. I felt like I was in some strange world far away from Pittsburgh. I usually find this sort of funky decor to be a distraction and a gimmick, but in the case of the Brillo Box it works.
One complaint I'd heard before my review was that Brillo Box was a hipster-only scene. Though there was a good number of people that one may classify as hipsters, everyone I met while drinking at the downstairs bar was friendly and extremely welcoming. To be honest, Brillo Box might be the friendliest bar I've been to in Pittsburgh. Within five minutes of sitting down with a pint of Dale's Pale Ale in my hand a group at the corner of the bar had already struck up a conversation with me. Furthermore, the bartenders are cordial too. They have in-depth knowledge of the beers they sell (a good number of micro-brews) and never hesitated from striking up conversations with the patrons. One bartender even gave me two of their latest micro brew drafts and put it on the bars tab.
The prices here are pretty expensive. I chose from the plethora of draft beers and each was around $5. The man sitting next to me was drinking Patron Margaritas (4 Shots) for $16.50 a pop. The cheapest beers on special that night was Straub and Miller Lite bottles for around $3.
As I was sitting at the downstairs bar I kept hearing talk about a DJ and dance party going on upstairs. Now I don't really like to dance (probably because I really suck at it) so I usually stay away from the DJ dance party scene, but since I was here for a review I thought I might as well head up and check it out. I'm glad I did because it really was a pleasant surprise. After paying the $4 cover, which was pretty bush-league, I entered to see that the place was really bumping for a Thursday night. The dance floor was pretty good size along with a small bar near the back for dancers to re-fuel. The DJ was set up on the stage in front beneath a large projection screen showing intriguing videos somehow related to the music playing. Mind you, by that time I was pretty ripped so I have a hard time remembering if the videos were actual music videos or something else. The DJ was mixing rap with indie rock and a whole bunch of other genres I wasn't really familiar with but everyone else seemed to know.
Even upstairs on the dance floor, Brillo Box's friendly atmosphere shined on. I was merely satisfied to stand at the side and watch everyone else dance around making fools of themselves, but a group of young ladies pulled me out to the dance floor and after much pleading finally got me to dance. And the best part of it was they only laughed a little at how bad I was.
I ended up really enjoying the time I spent reviewing the Brillo Box, so much in fact that I will definitely be back. The friendliness of the patrons and staff mixed with a good beer selection gets great marks in my book. The decor might be a little over the top, but it really was a nice change of pace and something you don't see every day in the Pittsburgh bar scene.
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