Munch goes to The Jaggerbush

Residents of the South Side Flats continue to try to cope with a very uneasy existence with the dozens of bars and nightclubs -- and the often unruly patrons that frequent them -- that have turned the area into the French Quarter on weekend nights.

There is a move to create a Neighborhood Improvement District to supplement enforcement and cleanups of the area, and District 3 City Councilman Bruce Kraus has tirelessly advocated for the South Side's denizens in the face of minimal support from the mayor's office.

So it's refreshing that a classic corner bar, with a perfect Pittsburgh name in one of Pittsburgh's great and historic neighborhoods, demands good conduct from its patrons.

Emblazoned on the frosted glass door entrance to The Jaggerbush at the corner of 23rd and Jane streets -- literally the first thing customers see -- are the following admonishments:

"Respect our neighbors.

"Lower your voice when you leave.

"Use our bathrooms.

"Use our trash cans.

"Don't drink and drive."

Translation: "Yinz ain't gotta go actin' like a bunch a jags jus' cuz yer havin' some Ahrns. Keep it dahn or yer askin' for a kick in yer dupa."

Seriously, it's like Pittsburgh Dad himself made these rules, and Munch couldn't approve more. It should be written into the city code that every bar in Pittsburgh -- especially the South Side ones that profit at the expense of residents' quality of life -- be required to display these same rules in massive fonts on premises.

None of this is to say that The Jaggerbush isn't a fun place. It is, and it attracts a diverse crowd of dedicated locals from college kids to actual Pittsburgh dads to just-off-work hospital staff in scrubs.

Although The Jaggerbush just celebrated its fifth anniversary, the building has housed bars -- and "lunchrooms" during Prohibition -- since 1904, when it was the Jordan Hotel. The handsome hand-carved bar back dates from then although it's doubtful it was adorned with Barbie dolls straddling beer bottles then as it is now. The tin ceiling is also a century-old original.

On the wall there are decades-old photos of the neighborhood and each establishment that has called the building home along the way -- Funk's, Lippert's and Jerome's to name a few. There's a nice sense of history -- and respect for it -- about the place.

The modern incarnation is probably identical to its forebears in this sense: It's simply a good honest place to have a drink and a bite, and chat with friends or a friendly bartender -- in this case a fella named Jake with a gift for gab.

Though the old joints probably poured Duke, Iron, Dutch Club and Old Shay, The Jaggerbush well represents Pittsburgh's modern craft beers -- East End Big Hop, Church Brew Works Christmas ale and Full Pint's Festivus brown ale were all on tap recently, and plenty of Penn products are in the coolers.

The menu is typical bar fare with lots of wings, salads, sandwiches and "Burghers" (hamburgers named for Pittsburgh neighborhoods), and nothing is more than $10. Nothing, that is to say, except for the $20 Pierogi challenge -- a massive 5-pound homemade pierogi, that if you can finish it, is free. Jake says seven have been sold, and no one has made it through. They're working to get the "Man v. Food" show to visit.

Much as Munch likes to gorge to the edge of a coma, Munch passed on the pierogi, instead opting for the Bloomfield burger, which was marinated with a little balsamic and topped with fresh mozzarella and salami, proving to be quite the tasty morsel. Recurring character The BBBOM (Blond Barkeep Bud of Munch) housed a half-dozen BBQ wings.

Fair warning: The Jaggerbush truly is a bit of a throwback as it's one of the few places left in the South Side that permits smoking, although at least when Munch was there the ventilation system and smoke eaters seemed to work well.

It's nice that as Pittsburgh -- and the South Side for that matter -- continue to evolve, there are still establishments that respect the history and character of the place, as well as the present-day characters who are creating the history to come.


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