Cocktail Runner Up
- Crow’s Nest Eatery & Waterin Hole | Johnstown, Pa.
- Pittsburgh Division
While most of the food is beer-friendly at Crow’s Nest & Waterin Hole, sometimes people want something a little more fun, like their Blackbeard's Ghost. This drink plays off an Irish coffee. Instead of whiskey, Gress uses RumChata. He combines it with coffee and tops it with whipped cream, shaved almonds, cocoa powder and a cherry. It’s a hit.
"Our clients who like whiskey, like whiskey," Gress said. "They don't like it in their coffee. They want it on the rocks. We also wanted to make something the ladies like. We wanted a coffee drink that the locals want where they can't taste the alcohol."
It's also a showpiece. When they pour the lighter cream-colored RumChata over the coffee, it slowly permeates the dark liquid, hovering, looking like a sheeted ghost. Hence the name Blackbeard's Ghost. It's a drink that brings people together. Just like the bar, in general.
"I had no idea what went into owning a restaurant," said Kevin Kantz, who co-owns the Crow's Nest Eatery & Waterin Hole with his friend John Gress. "I'd always drive by this place and dreamed of owning it. I loved pirates at the time and I even had a picture of the Crow's Nest drawn when I was in grade school of what I wanted."
As an adult, Kantz still wanted to open that tavern so he teamed with Gress and opened a pirate-themed place they wanted to be better than your average bar. They aimed to serve food that was "two levels above bar food" and built a list of 100-plus beers ranging from the more commercial Sam Adams to craft beers from breweries like New Belgium and Stone Brewing.
"We knew we had to differentiate from the bars up and down the street," Gress said. "They're all about a shot and a beer. We didn't want to do that. We knew we needed to do something more."
Now the beer and food at their American grill and smokehouse caters to their diverse clientele that comes in for quality food at reasonable prices. Kantz and Gress pay attention to what their customers want. Case in point: They have a center-cut Angus Choice New York strip on the menu for $16.99. "The same steak at the casino about 40 miles away goes for $54.99," Kantz said. They could charge more; they just choose to provide great food to feed their customers.
Crow's Nest serves everything from smoked chicken wings tossed with upwards of 10 different sweet, mild, tangy or spicy sauces; hand-tossed 10-inch pizzas, their flagship burgers comprising Angus brisket, sirloin, short rib and chuck done in a variety of ways; seafood (even fresh alligator!), steaks and salads; or their specialty smoked barbecue meats: hand-carved beef brisket, applewood-smoked pulled pork or hickory-smoked and slow-roasted baby back ribs.
"I always wanted it to be a friendly place where everyone is welcome, until they're not," Gress said with a laugh.