Hookah is all about embracing a slower pace of life. When seated in front of a shisha, one is committed to doing nothing, at least for a little while. The street cafes of Cairo hum with groups of friends exercising this ethos, taking turns inhaling sweet, fragrant smoke and sipping tea. Despite Pittsburgh’s distance from the Sahara, KOAL Hookah Lounge brings a bit of that mentality to Slippery Rock.
After boiling tobacco leaves with one of 21 fruit varietals, the staff at KOAL pack ornate water pipes for parties of three or five. Though most menu flavors reflect long-established tradition, the lounge experiments with unconventional blends such as the Vanilla Sky, a mixture of vanilla and blackberry tobacco. The modern décor further illustrates this embrace of old and new, with track lighting illuminating a bottle-lined wall, and bold reds encapsulating a row of sleek black stools. Guests can dramatically exhale on the outdoor patio, as well, as they savor hot chocolate and fervently detail the interesting dream they had last night.
Renters of the Vault Lounge saunter past Imbibe Martini Bar's open-to-the-public service area, through a fortified door, and into the converted 100-year-old First Federal Bank saferoom, where they can kick off the most exclusive of festivities. Pop a bottle of bubbly surrounded by classic woodwork and wine racks, toasting to both the classy confines and the newfound knowledge of how it feels to be a million bucks.
Bill's Place serves customers with brew-house favorites, wings, sandwiches, and a bevy of other tasty bites. Bill's famous jumbo wings ($.50 each for dine-in, $.60 for carryout), a house specialty, are smothered with a symphony of sauces, including hot, mild, garlic, barbecue, Cajun, and honey mustard, and served with dips for an extra cost. Veggie-heads with human arms can finger-attack the veggie basket, filled with dippable onion rings, green pepper rings, mushrooms, and cauliflower and a choice of large dipping sauce ($5.30). Chomp on chicken fingers ($4.25 for five with a small dipping sauce, $5.25 for a basket with fries and ranch sauce) or the beefy Bill's burger ($4.85) with a large side of fresh-cut french fries ($2.75) inside, where hanging televisions showcase sporting events and neon-signs light up the faces of ghost storytellers.
Housed inside the Old B&O Train Station, Rust Belt brews nine craft beers, with a handful more scheduled for release early next year. Each Saturday from noon to 5 p.m., fans of yeast and hops can gather 'round head brewer Lee Gidley as he guides them on a tour of the brewery, showing them equipment, explaining the brewing process, and doling out samples of the luscious liquid gold. When the half-hour tour concludes, everyone receives a commemorative Rust Belt Brewery T-shirt, a souvenir pint glass, and a jolly memory to overtake the brain space currently inhabited by knowledge of the Gigli plot. If the tour inspires a powerful thirst for more, Rust Belt sells growlers of their guzzleables to take home, and the neighboring Boxcar Lounge has Rust Belt on tap.
Chef Phillip Miller adheres to two guiding principles when crafting his menu. First, every ingredient must be locally grown or raised. Second, it must be seasonal. These criteria have served Miller well at 1810 Tavern, where his specialties include caramelized scallops in red-wine cherry reduction and black-bean burgers topped with a spicy sriracha mayo. If both of the above sound incredible, don't fret over choosing just one; Miller's upscale spin on pub food includes an all-day tapas menu with smaller portions of each main course.
But the food is only one half of the equation. The other arrives in the form of top-shelf wines and spirits, as well as beers from acclaimed craft breweries such as Rogue and Flying Dog. This refined drink list finds its reflection in the building itself, a historic gem complete with exposed brick and a digital jukebox that dates back to the 19th century. Take your drinks out to the brick patio to enjoy weekly performances by local musicians.
Chef Mark Thompson knows the importance of sharing. He shares his culinary talents with guests dining on his tapas-style dishes, and his guests share those dishes with each other. This creates the warm, communal dining atmosphere at Boh?m Bistro. Throughout the menu, diners can expect to see cuisine influenced as much by the French countryside as the sultry South. His creations include classic boeuf bourguignon with short rib and red wine and fig-and-smoked-blue-cheese flatbread splashed with a balsamic glaze. Hushpuppy-crusted catfish and root beer-glazed pork chops combine elements of sweet and savory.