Drinking in Pittsburgh is almost as much of a sport as rooting for the Steelers, but it’s only in the past few years that the bar scene in the ‘Burgh has catapulted to new levels. And Lorelei, open since 2018, is a worthy contender.
The airy European-stye beer hall has a prime spot on the corner of Baum and Highland in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, in the confluence that’s now home to favorites both old and new (including Dinette and Kelly’s).
Technically the space is divided into two halves: the beer hall side, with its requisite long communal tables, and the cocktail bar side, with stools for perching along the wraparound window ledges and at the bar itself.
The two rooms are separated by a white subway-tiled pastry station, where the sweet offerings are on display to tempt those who walk through. (Devil’s food cake, linzer tart, chocolate chip cookies, and grillage torte with hazelnut brittle tried their best with me.)
About that pastry station: chefs Jamilka Borges (executive) and Dianne DeStefano (pastry) call their collective efforts at Lorelei a “baking-forward menu” and they’re not kidding.
Yes, there are salads and grain bowls, but there are also hearty hand pies and two kinds of pretzels in a strong commitment to beer hall traditions.
The first pretzel option: everything-spiced sausage pretzel knots with homemade beer cheese.
The other: an extra-long specimen that looks like a cheerful mustachioed gentleman, served with… be still my heart… kielbasa-sauerkraut cheese spread. This spread, this amalgamation, is a bowl of salty and creamy heaven.
It’s like a potato salad on steroids, but if you replaced the potatoes with bites of garlicky kielbasa and the scallions with thick shreds of vinegary kraut.
It is quite possibly the only thing I might need to eat for the rest of my life, except maybe for Lorelei’s savory Gruyère cheesecake.
One of the specials the night we visited, this wedge of insanely lush and smooth Gruyere cream sat on an almond crust, topped by black pepper shortbread coins and a sprinkle of cheesy bits for good measure.
Overdosing on the savory dishes meant that I had to forego the mint chip semifreddo, which is a damn shame. But I couldn’t let the pastry-centric menu become so enticing that I neglected the beer and cocktails.
Just as the food menus have their own catchphrase at Lorelei, so does the beer section. And it’s “living the lager life.” (As posted on their so-chic steins!)
16 drafts from Pittsburgh-area breweries like Brew Gentlemen, Dancing Gnome, and Roundabout make the list, along with German, Czech, and other European selections.
The well-rounded lineup runs the gamut from classic kolsch, Berliner weisse, and smoked marzen to a sessionable IPA and a cider for good measure.
There’s also funky aged European bottles, lambics, and trappist ales, should you need even more options to choose from.
Oh yes, and cocktails, both boozy and zero-proof, digestif and wine flights, and even a Pittsburgh-appropriate boilermaker that marries Chartreuse and I.C. Light. Just in case you forgot that you were in western PA and not the Alps.
There’s something for everyone and room for everyone at Lorelei. Pull up a stool, or a bench, or a chair, and make yourself at home.