A few years ago, Greensburg native Bobby Fry was in New York, hustling on Wall Street. Now, he's planning to run a different investment: Bar Marco, a newcomer to the Strip District scene, with Justin Steel, Kevin Cox and Michael Kreha — all childhood friends who grew up together in Westmoreland County.
The European-inspired bar/restaurant opened last month in the building that previously housed Firehouse Lounge and legendary cocktail bar Embury.
Unlike its predecessors, food and drink are meant to go hand-in-hand at Bar Marco. Fry designed the drink list to complement the menu, which mostly consists of seasonal, tapas-style plates. "The point is to make simple, clean cocktails that go well with food," Fry says.
The patatas bravas — tender potatoes topped with slightly spicy pepper aioli — pair perfectly with the muddled sweet pepper in the gimlet (Milagro respado tequila, Bar Marco lime cordial, Pittsburgh seltzer, red pepper).
A tightly focused drink list gives Fry the freedom to step beyond traditional bar liquors in search of more innovative spirits. You won't find plastic-bottled vodka or tequila in any of the drinks ($8-12), and all the mixers are made in-house. "Better spirits, by comparison, aren't that much money," Fry says.
Lest all of this sound snobby, Bar Marco is an inviting place. "There's no pretension at all," Fry says, as he tells a story about how the four owners celebrated the bar's opening by pairing fine champagne with fried smelts. The welcome mat is out late into the night as well; Bar Marco's 2 a.m. food service is proving popular with Pittsburgh restaurant workers.
Because of its location and innovative cocktail menu, comparisons to Embury are likely. But while the location is the same, Fry says, the vibe is different. "I don't see much of a comparison to Embury," he says. "We're more about food than trying to be a speakeasy cocktail bar."