Is it a sushi bar or a hibachi restaurant? A raw bar or a locals’ watering hole offering up a good steak in an unassuming atmosphere? A sports bar or a place for live music? Or the place to bring the gang for happy hour?
Just what is 39th Avenue Bar & Grille? As I found out on a few recent visits, it’s all of those places, depending on the time (it opens daily at 4 p.m.) and the crowd.
Though Greg Messcher and Lori Ignacio assumed ownership and control of the bar in April, Messcher said most of the changes made have been operational and perhaps unnoticed by customers.
The interior remains something reminiscent of the 1970s or 1980s – a big, black-tile bar, brown paneled walls, black tables and chairs and dim lighting courtesy of light escaping from red-and-gold, cylinder-shaped lampshades hanging from the ceiling. From my childhood memories, I could envision James Garner making clever small talk with Farrah Fawcett-Majors in an episode of “The Rockford Files” or “Charlie’s Angels.”
On my first visit, for a weekday dinner, I quickly discovered one of 39th Avenue’s main attractions – bartender Inna, an attractive and personable Russian from Moscow. Everybody at the busy, L-shaped bar knew and liked Inna, whose hospitable and attentive service sets the tone for regulars.
Having difficulty selecting from a menu ranging from California roll to Pittsburgh rib-eye, I settled on a grouper sandwich. It was a good choice. The generous sandwich served on sub-shaped bread, was fresh, lightly battered and delicious and accompanied by tasty, hand-cut potato fries – all for $9. I waited less than 15 minutes after placing my order.
Eight entrees range from $12 to $21, from buttermilk fried chicken and chicken marinara to tuna wasabi and the blackened Pittsburgh rib-eye, which caught my attention on the plates of nearby diners.
Want more than just raw bar appetizers? Seafood platters can be grilled or fried for $14 with a dollar or two added on for a combo or two or three seafood selections.
Sandwiches, served with hand-cut fries, include 39th’s cheeseburger as well as a few chicken and seafood choices – all for $10 or less.
Hibachi choices include chicken, steak, shrimp and vegetables from $12 to $17.
Sushi rolls begin at $5 for happy hour, including spicy tuna, California and a few others. A wide selection is available. A sushi novice, I went with a $10 shrimp tempura roll on my second visit. It was fresh and spicy. The dining area contains a separate sushi bar, though sushi can be enjoyed throughout the establishment.
Other appetizers, from Ying Yang chicken to grouper bites and tenderloin tips, start at only $5 for the 4-7 p.m. happy hour, complement $2 domestic beer and well drinks and $3 house wines.
Late-night options include a chicken hibachi bowl and a steak tip bowl served with mashed potatoes.
The inside dining and bar area can handle several dozen customers. Live music and karaoke provide the background six nights per week from a small stage near the back of the bar. But a separate covered patio was the choice for most diners.
The crowd was mostly adults over 35, but also included several young couples and local service industry workers.
The 39th Avenue Grille and Bar is a comfortable, friendly place to enjoy good food, a level above what you might expect from the exterior, at modest prices.