If Pittsburgh were the zombie capital of the world, where might you go in a zombie outbreak?
The bar, obviously — at least in the fantasy world of Zombie Den: Bar of the Living Dead, a new pop-up bar opening Downtown in October.
“We thought, ‘What if zombie outbreaks are a fairly common occurrence?'” ScareHouse Creative Director Scott Simmons said, given Pittsburgh’s history with zombie movies. “The idea that highways are always under construction, there’s always warnings about snow, and there’s another zombie outbreak.”
The bar is envisioned as a “safe house” because even during a vicious zombie outbreak, there would always be time for a drink, of course.
The bunker opens Oct. 3 and will operate on Wednesdays through Sundays, 4 p.m. to at least midnight, through Nov. 3.
Here’s what to expect.
The Original Oyster House since 1870.Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline
A historic location
The bar will be inside The Original Oyster House in Market Square, Pittsburgh’s oldest restaurant. The Oyster House bar and restaurant will remain open as usual, and Zombie Den will operate next door in the Oyster House’s dining room, just like the winter pop-up Miracle on Market, per Mike McCoy, who will oversee the food and beverage efforts with Brian Laing.
It’s a temporary pop-up and the Oyster House is alive and well, McCoy emphasized.
“(It’s) a place to create this immersive and complex environment but do it in a way that has people feeling transported,” Simmons said. “But when it’s all said and done, it’ll go back to being the Original Oyster House.”
A veteran team with more than a decade of experience at the renowned Etna haunted house will transform the bar in exploration of the question: “If zombie outbreaks happen all the time, what would that culture look like?” Simmons said.
The place is set up as “the safe house,” Simmons said, “the place to drink your cares away.”
“From the ScareHouse perspective, it’s a fun challenge because it’s a pop-up bar, so it’s going to be temporary,” Simmons said.
You might say it takes a lot of “dead-ication.”
Expect to see warning signs, notes about how to handle a zombie apocalypse, and beacon lights.
A Pittsburgh connection
The bar pays homage to the 50th anniversary of George A. Romero’s classic “Night of the Living Dead” and the zombie pop culture creations it has inspired. Some scenes from the groundbreaking 1968 movie were even filmed in the basement of The Original Oyster House.
“I’m sure we’re going to find ways to work in a couple ‘easter eggs’ and puns to ‘Night of the Living Dead,'” Simmons said. “Fifty years later you’ve got a bunch of people getting together and making a zombie bar.”
Some special — and scary — surprises
When ScareHouse is involved, there’s always some intrigue in store.
“I think there’s always going to be some surprises,” Simmons said. “October is a big month for fans of Pittsburgh zombies and ScareHouse is going to have zombies popping up all over town throughout the next six weeks. It’s safe to say that you might see some surprise guests from ScareHouse when you visit.”
A zombie-fied menu
While you’re waiting out the zombie apocalypse, sip on cocktails like the “apocalypse punch,” as well as wine, beer, and serums (a.k.a. shots) served in test tubes. The famous “zombie” cocktail, a rum drink, will make the menu, of course, McCoy said.
Also on the cocktail menu: The bar’s take on a pumpkin spice latte, with bourbon, amaretto, and an egg.
Food can be ordered from the Oyster House, which is known for its fish sandwich and chowder.
An ace crew of bartenders
A crew of local bartenders, representing everywhere from Tako to Bakersfield to Grist House, will whip up cocktails.
“It’s a collection of really great Pittsburgh bartenders coming together and having fun and enjoying themselves,” McCoy said, and they’re putting in extra hours in addition to their regular jobs to make Zombie Den happen.
Don’t stiff on the tip.
Though an official soundtrack hasn’t been worked out, definitely expect zombie-themed Halloween music. The Cranberries’ “Zombie” will certainly be a staple, Simmons said. Sound effects will play an important role, too, he added.
A compelling reason to go
If all of that isn’t enough to lure you into the den, consider Simmons’ point:
“There have been Christmas themed pop-up bars before, other concepts,” he said, “but this is the only bar like it in the world.”