Con Alma Review – Dinner and Live Jazz Downtown

Last updated on August 16, 2022 by Angie

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Con Alma in downtown Pittsburgh is a restaurant and bar that features live jazz music. With an impressive cocktail menu, delicious international cuisine and stellar music, Con Alma is a shining star on the Pittsburgh food and music scene.

Before you jump into this one, it’s worth noting that Con Alma has two locations, one downtown and one in Shadyside, the latter being a more intimate spot serving an all-vegan menu. We recently visited downtown and after our great experience we can’t wait to visit the Shadyside site as well.

Visit downtown Con Alma for dinner and a show

In downtown Con Alma, on weeknights live jazz tends to run from around 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., while on Friday and Saturday nights there will usually be two bands playing with the first of 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and the second from around 10:00 p.m. pm-1 am. Sunday brings brunch with more music from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Note that there is a $10 per person fee added to all tabs when there is live music. But, as with everything, these times and fees are subject to change and are worth checking before visiting.

There is a small bar area a little far from the stage. If you really want to be in the thick of the action, you’ll need to book a table and dine there, as the tables are for those who are dining (not just drinking).

The tables are mostly cafe-style round tables and they’re packed, so you might get to know your neighbors a bit. A row of booths lines the same wall as the stage, which means these spots don’t have a great view of the band (which can be a plus or a minus for you, depending on your interests). We had one of these tables right next to the stage, so we were close to the pianist, which as a pianist myself was pretty cool, but we couldn’t see the rest of the band either.

An impressive bar menu at Con Alma

Con Alma cocktails

There are several beers on the can, but the bar menu is mostly focused on wine and cocktails. There are several options of wine by the glass, and many more are available by the bottle. Several bottle options intrigued us in various wine regions like Swartland, South Africa; Texas; Mexico; and the Finger Lakes.

The cocktail menu is quite extensive and has a bit of a speakeasy and tiki vibe. We tried four different cocktails during our visit and all were excellent, and surprisingly priced for the quality and being downtown.

We started with the carrot sangrita, with a shot of mezcal served with a mix of fresh carrot juice, lime, salt, agave, bitter orange and jalapeno. The juice mix was a nice hunter for mezcal as it was earthy, sweet, bitter, salty and very spicy! The Money Jungle was also a hit with mezcal, coconut rum, gentian liqueur, pineapple, lemon and bitters. It was just a touch of the tropics without being sweet, with the bitterness of gentian and the tartness of lemon to balance it out. Another winner was the Banana Sazerac with cognac, banana liqueur, rye whiskey, absinthe and bitters. The banana flavor was subtle and integrated – most of the time it just tasted like a really good sazerac!

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Monster Food Servings Won’t Leave You Craving For More

Potato appetizer in Con Alma

The food menu is a little confusing as it’s not clear what the portion sizes are for everything, but with the help of our server we were able to navigate it.

We started with the Japanese sweet potatoes which were a perfect savory-sweet mix with the potatoes providing a creamy sweetness, and the miso, pepitas and cotija providing a punchy salty flavor. Sliced ​​pickled fresno peppers added another layer of spicy goodness. We absolutely loved these potatoes!

milanesa Napolitana topped with burrata

Looking to take a brewery tour? Check out tour options from our friends at City Brew Tours!

The starters we ordered, the milanesa Napolitana and the fish curry, were both massive portions (and other dishes at nearby tables seemed equally gigantic).

The milanesa was a huge fillet of beef pounded very thin, breaded and fried. It was topped with a tangy fenugreek and tomato sauce, crispy fried prosciutto and burrata. We wouldn’t normally order a milanesa in the restaurant, but we’re so glad we changed our tune to try this one. It was an overdone dish with so many different flavors and textures, but somehow they all worked out wonderfully. The massive portion sizes meant we also had plenty of leftovers, although Jeremy ate way more than he should have.

Fish curry from Con Alma

The fish curry included black grouper cheeks and prawns nestled in a yellow Thai curry sauce with snow peas and shiitake mushrooms, served with rice. The prawns were huge, plump and juicy, while the fish cheeks were rich and meaty. The curry sauce was good but very mild – we would have liked even more assertive flavors and spices.

But of course the amazing drinks and food were only part of our visit. We also got to hear the Max Leake trio and really enjoyed their performance. The only thing to keep in mind if you get a reservation is to time it around the group schedule. Shortly after we settled in and had a drink, the band took a bit of an extended break – so we had to wait a bit for more music. Therefore, you might want to avoid reservation times which are about an hour after the first group starts, or time slots between groups if our meal was any indication.

With a trifecta of fantastic music, inspired cocktails and great food, downtown Con Alma shines like a beacon. It’s almost like we don’t deserve something that special in Pittsburgh.

Downtown Alma is located at 613 Penn Avenue in the Cultural District. We look forward to checking out their Shadyside location for the vegan menu very soon!

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