It’s been 30 years! 30 years of serving big portions of home-cooked food and strong drinks at a value price!
Located near the corner of South Craig Street and Forbes Avenue in Oakland, Union Grill is practically across the street from Carnegie Museum and Carnegie Library. Union Grill is within a five minute walk from both Pitt and CMU campuses, and very convenient to Pittsburgh’s UPMC hospitals.
We opened way back on June 13th, 1994 [the day O.J. Simpson DIDN'T do it] with an inexpensive, comfort-food menu of classic Pittsburgh food. Very little has changed from those early days. We still serve Oakland’s Best Burger, the Chophouse Burger, which is made from a blend of 40-day-aged Sirloin, Brisket and Steak Trimmings – available ONLY at Union Grill.
Our claim to fame is the Turkey Devonshire, which has been featured in many publications and most recently on The Travel Channel’s “Delicious Destinations” with Andrew Zimmern.” The Turkey Devonshire – oven-roasted slices of Turkey piled on toast points, topped with a Four-Cheese sauce, bacon & tomatoes and broiled to a bubbly golden brown – was originated by Pittsburgh’s legendary chef, Frank Blandi, in the 1940’s. (The Sicilian immigrant named it after nearby Devonshire Street, to make it sound “English.”) Today, we are recognized as the Pittsburgh restaurant that is most faithfully carrying on the tradition of the Turkey Devonshire.
Despite serving an average of over 500 customers a day, Union Grill retains the feel of a neighborhood bar and grill. We’ve been referred to as “Oakland’s Cheers” and we have the most diverse clientele imaginable! Stop in after work any weekday and you’ll find university students, UPMC doctors, Shadyside and Squirrel Hill residents, professors, museum-goers, kids, and visitors from around the world. Due to Union Grill’s close proximity to the major event centers in Oakland, like Carnegie Music Hall, Soldier’s and Sailor’s Memorial Hall, and the University of Pittsburgh’s Petersen Events Center, we are the perfect place to meet before or after an event in Oakland.
Carnegie Mellon and University Pitt Students and Faculty make up a huge portion of our clientele, and we’re a tradition when it comes to university family visits – orientations, homecomings, parents’ weekends and graduations.
We take our reputation for being Oakland’s most centrally-located watering hole very seriously. And we try our best to keep up with the ever-expanding Pittsburgh Craft Beer Renaissance. “Neighborhood Craft Drafts” is a totally unique draft beer program. Since we only have space for 10 taps (unlike new bars, who may feature over 100) we choose our beers very carefully. We sell mainly local microbrews. (Plus a few MACRObrew classics for your Grandpap.) We serve our drafts the WRONG WAY – in Frosty, Frozen mugs. [Any Beer Geek will tell you that a frozen mug lessens the beer’s taste. Well... room temperature mugs are available on request… we’ll keep drinking out of the Frozen ones!] Prices are too low. For example, a Triple IPA from Hitchhiker Brewing is $6.75 and a reliable old Yuengling is only $4.25. Want to know something good? Ever since the end of the pandemic, we've been running a LATE NIGHT HALF-PRICE HAPPY HOUR. All drinks are HALF-PRICE for our last two hours of business, which are 7 to 9 on Sundays and Mondays, and 8 to 10 on Wednesdays through Saturdays. Getting back to the subject of that $4.25 Yuengling... it'll only cost you $2.12 and a half cent during LATE NIGHT HALF-PRICE HAPPY HOUR. Want to know something better? We round DOWN and we'll eat that half cent!
Copper Mug Mules are definitely “a thing” here – we have a whole list of them we sell them for only $7. A daily average of four cases of Bahama Stone Ginger Beer go into our Moscow Mules, Long Island Mules, Dark and Stormy’s and other Mules that'll kick you if you drink too many. Our LATE NIGHT HALF PRICE HAPPY HOUR takes Copper Mug Mule prices down to $3.50.
For some reason, people don't usually think of drinking wines by the bottle at casual American-themed restaurants like UG. So 27 years ago, we decided we'd stop charging corkage fees for the very few people who BYOB'd. A customer told the owner he wanted to bring his own bottle but had forgotten the bottle! Did we have one we could sell him. The owner, who seems to have an extreme aversion to making money, had a small collection of his own wine bottles and agreed to sell one for exactly what he bought it for. From that incredibly stupid act sprung an incredibly stupid wine promotion. (Stupid for the business, that is.) We started "The $10 Wine List!" -- bottles of wine we bought for $9.99 at the State Store and sold to the customer for $10 -- a one-cent markup. But there was a method to our madness. The $10 wines could only be bought with meals and (since we've never done any advertising) it turned out to be a great promotion that targeted our perfect demographic of customer. "The $10 Wine List" went strong for 26 years, but recently, this thing called inflation made it difficult for us to keep buying quality wines for $10.] So we’re now buying bottles for between $12 and $14. And guess what we’re charging our customers… $12 to $14! What’s even better is that we now research the best wines for the money and only buy them when they’re on sale. So, for example, right now we’re selling bottles of Josh Cellars Chardonnay for $13. It’s $16.59 at the State Store. It’s between $40 and $60 at other restaurants. Consider it our way of saying “Thanks!” for choosing to dine with us. There’s something special about a bottle of wine with dinner, and we want our customers to enjoy that feeling of luxury without breaking the bank.
But our obsession has always been food. In 1994, very few inexpensive restaurants were cooking entirely from scratch. Everyone knows that the restaurant business is TOUGH, but what is the main reason for that? In our opinion, well, most people can figure out how to cook a really delicious dish. You buy the best, freshest ingredients and then you meticulously prepare them. The problem for restaurants is that it's very difficult to do that, to do it right, and to keep it at an affordable price. Especially, when food costs, when all costs, continue to increase exponentially. Then there is the human factor.... mistakes, errors, weak employees, etc. Fortunately, we have managed to assemble what we are convinced is the hardest-working, most talented staff of any Pittsburgh restaurant. Our kitchen has practically zero turnover. Three of the guys who were present that first day we opened 30 years ago are still on the job! And we've got lots of 20-something-year vets. Hardly anyone in the kitchen has been with us for less than five years.
That's all due to Chef Victor Tome, who’s also been on the job for since Day One! Chef Vic is a graduate of the nation’s most prestigious chef’s school, the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. His previous experience was in fine dining, and he has translated that artistry and attention to detail into the perfection of the classic “comfort foods” we all grew up with. Everything we serve is made from scratch – we take no shortcuts and refuse to compromise on the quality of ingredients.
We don’t do a Soup of the Day – because the two soups we offer are so popular we CAN’T change them. Classic French Onion Soup, served in a piping-hot crock covered with crusty melted cheese is an old-fashioned favorite that’s showing up less and less on today’s menus. (Or the offerings are an inferior version of what it used to be.) Not at Union Grill – it’s one of our signature items. So is Matzo Ball Soup, the real thing, in broth made from slow-simmered chicken stock. [Making the perfect Matzo Ball – not too doughy – is a talent perfected by our prep cook, Laira. Nobody else in our kitchen can achieve her results. Unfortunately, Matzo Ball Soup is pretty much unknown where Laira’s from, Cuba. And Laira, not adventurous when it comes to unfamiliar foods, has never even tasted her exquisite creation. We keep telling her she doesn’t know what she’s missing.]
This being Pittsburgh, “Church Pierogies” are a huge seller – we sell so many that we have to employ a full-time Pierogie maker!
Those potato and cheese-stuffed Pierogies are one of many Vegetarian and Vegan Options that we offer. Although Union Grill is known for huge portions of "Meat & Potato" type dishes, the ownership and staff are strong believers in plant-based nutrition, both from a health and sustainability standpoint. Mediterranean Lavash is an amped-up Hummus, Feta Cheese, Vegetable and Greek Salad Platter. There's lots of bad Veggie Burger recipes out there. We know... we've tried at least 20 of them! Everything was tasteless and forgettable until we came up with the current UG Veggie Burger. It’s delicious, it’s been strong on the menu for three years and if you've given up on great tasting veggie burgers, this one will restore your faith.
Fresh Salmon is huge here. We go through over 400 pounds of Salmon per week and serve it in dinners, on salads, in sandwiches and in our famous UG Fish Taco. When it comes to Salmon, we have two rules: (1) We only buy FRESH Salmon. It comes from the same premium purveyor that supplies most of Pittsburgh's fine dining restaurants, and (2) Whether you get it in a dinner, salad, sandwich, salmon burger or UG Fish Taco we always serve the same portion – a BIG half pound!
If you’re from out of town and wondering, “Where do locals eat?” The answer is, AT UNION GRILL! We have the best group of REGULARS in the world – plenty of people who’ve dined with us for 30 years. On a typical night, we know over 75% of our patrons by name.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t LOVE newcomers! No matter who you are, no matter where you’re from, and whether you’re dining with us for the first time or the four thousandth, we’re going to serve you some great food and drinks and welcome you to our big Pittsburgh family.