New Oakland sports bar and grille ‘The Panther Pit’ opening for the WVU game


Clare Sheedy | Assistant Visual Editor

The Panther Pit on Meyran Avenue.

By Bella Markovitz, Staff Writer

With music blaring, free food and the drinks pouring, The Panther Pit, a new Oakland sports bar and grille, held a private pre-opening Friday evening before it will officially open its doors just in time for the Pitt vs. WVU game.

Located at 226 Meyran Ave., the new sports bar will open to the general public for the first time on Thursday for patrons to come watch the Pitt vs. WVU game. Their normal business hours will be Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to midnight, and Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. 

Bartender Katie Shermenti said the staff was busy with preparations during the week leading up to the pre-opening. 

“We’ve had meetings all week trying everything, talking over everything … all the employees have been together with the owners and the manager kind of going over like the plan for everything going on for tonight … and for the first when we play West Virginia,” Shermenti said.

Soon after the event began, passersby also decided to join the party.

“It went from an intimate 40-50 person gathering to a 400-500 party,” Dennis Payne, the Panther Pit’s general manager said. “From walking around and asking the patrons and staff, the night was a resounding success for the very limited time the staff/owners and myself had to get [the] event planned and opened.” 

The Panther Pit will utilize all three floors of the 226 Meyran Ave. location. This includes the small front porch seating area, the first floor sports bar, the second floor bar as an “ultra gaming lounge,” the third floor bar, dance floor and outdoor deck.

A mural at The Panther Pit. (Clare Sheedy | Assistant Visual Editor)

Local artists Dejouir Brown (Jouirnoe) and Juliandra Jones (PBJ Customs) painted the bartop on the first floor. Adorning the wall opposite the bar is a large mural depicting various mascots, painted by local artists Max ‘Gems’ Gonzales and Shane Pilster.

A couple of different bars and restaurants have operated out of the remodeled row house at the 226 Meyran Ave. address within the past 20 years.

The location first opened as the Pittsburgh Cafe for about 12 years, which served alcohol along with traditional American fare for lunch and dinner. The Pittsburgh Cafe was shut down in 2012 for owing more than $12,000 in back drink tax.

Next it became a Winghart’s, which served burgers, drinks and claimed to have “the best dance floor in Oakland.” It closed in December 2014. Soon after, former Pitt defensive tackle and current Los Angeles Rams player Aaron Donald opened his own restaurant, AD’s Pittsburgh Cafe.

Ken Plumb, one of the owners of The Panther Pit, said the history of the building as AD’s Pittsburgh Cafe didn’t matter to him and that he is more focused on bringing value to Oakland.

“I don’t even want to talk about Aaron Donald … It’s irrelevant to me, it means nothing. There’s a building here in the middle of Pitt campus that we can [use to] bring value to the neighborhood,” Plumb said. “I’m trying to just have fun and do something cool for the neighborhood and create a legitimate sports bar.”

Payne said management has plans that they hope will give their bar a little something for everyone.

“I think Oakland needed a shot in the arm of something new, and with a sports bar boasting 86 inch TVs, an ultra ‘gaming’ lounge and third floor dance area with outside deck … it will have something for everyone,” Payne said.

Bar patrons at The Panther Pit’s opening Friday night.
(Clare Sheedy | Assistant Visual Editor)

Payne said he expects their menu of international street foods to make a good impression on their customers. 

“The street foods from around the world is an exciting concept. We’re hoping the public feels the same … Mexican street corn, fresh cut adobo fries, French style tacos and candied bacon were on the short list and will be on the initial menu along with some others and will expand as weeks go on,” Payne said.

Radamès Perez, the executive chef of The Panther Pit, used to own the Lawrenceville Cuban restaurant Salud. After Salud closed, a friend connected him with Plumb, and together they developed the idea for The Panther Pit about eight months ago.

“He [Plumb] came up with the idea of street foods … I was just like, okay, let’s figure it out. And we came to a head on, you know, the items that we felt were gonna be great sellers. And I think we came up with a great menu … We’re making everything from scratch,” Perez said. “There’s no frozen food. Okay, so that’s the whole theme of it, and to be able to feed people at a great price with an awesome product.” 

Plumb said The Panther Pit would bring value to the neighborhood through its menu, in part by offering $5 French tacos every day.

Plumb said the French taco, which is a street food from France invented in the mid-2000’s, will deliver a multitude of exotic flavors.

“What they are is vehicles of flavor, you can introduce any protein with any ooey gooey cheese, any vegetables pickled or any spice, any flavor,” Plumb said. “So it’s a wonderful opportunity to introduce, you know, the explosion of French taste, an explosion of Japanese, an explosion of German, the explosion of Greek and so forth.”

Plumb also described the “3D projection mapping” technology that he plans to bring to the second floor of the bar. Projection mapping is a projection technique that involves making a virtual map of a three dimensional object or space. He said this will allow various visual images and scenery to be projected onto the bar space and walls to create an immersion experience.

“Whatever your imagination [wants]: outer space, zen beach environment, fireworks, giant koi fish, anything you can imagine we have the technology to do [on] the second floor,” Plumb said.

Payne said The Panther Pit wants to hear from their customers so that they can continue to make improvements.

According to Payne, patrons can make suggestions verbally to Panther Pit staff. Additionally, staff will add “an area on [our] website for suggestions” once the website goes live, as well as a suggestion box on each bar. 

We will of course have some growing pains, so we ask our patrons to bear with us and also help us themselves in making us a success with constant suggestions and ideas,” Payne said.