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Pittsburgh hotels serve up local flavor |
Food & Drink

Pittsburgh hotels serve up local flavor

John Graf
The Priory
The interior of Eliza
Bonjwing Lee
Gather around the table for food and drinks at the Fairmont Pittsburgh.

If you take a look around the city of Pittsburgh, new hotels seem to be opening up just about everywhere.

According to VisitPITTSBURGH , the number of hotel properties in downtown Pittsburgh grew 42 percent from 2013 to 2017. And, by 2020, more than 1,300 new hotel rooms will be coming online in the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County combined.

Why are people coming to Pittsburgh? Why are hotels investing in our city?

President and CEO of VisitPITTSBURGH Craig Davis says that the city has been underserved for a long time and in 2014, Pittsburgh had the number one growth market for hotel rooms across the country. It also helps that the city has been on a number of best places to travel lists.

“We are really getting a lot of attention,” says Davis. “People want to travel, do business and vacation here.”

In 2015, Zagat named Pittsburgh one of the top food cities in the United States. Davis says accolades like this are what make people want to visit.

Travelers to Pittsburgh may not have the opportunity to explore this amazing city besides what they see, eat and drink in the hotels.

Here’s a look on how some hotels are showcasing Pittsburgh through their restaurants, lobby bars and beyond. And rest assured, the great bars are not only for the out-of-towners … locals should check them out, as well.

Ace Hotel

When Ace Hotel decides to open up a hotel in a new city, much consideration is given to the neighborhood and community.

“Our goal is to bring something distinct and long-lasting that our neighbors will love first and foremost, and to always open stand alone neighborhood restaurants and bars, as opposed to just hotel places,” says Khuong Phan, head of Ace Hotel’s food and beverage communications and connections.

A key part of building a new restaurant is hiring local talent and sourcing as many local and regional farmers, ranchers, fisherman and producers as possible, further supporting the community efforts that the hotel and its restaurants and bars now call home.

At Whitfield, the restaurant inside the Ace Hotel in East Liberty, Western Pennsylvanian cuisine shines on the menu and is the run by James Beard-nominated chefs Bethany Zozula and Casey Renee, both Pittsburghers. Everything served in the restaurant is cultivated, conceived and cooked by Western Pennsylvanians and reflects their experiences and our area’s unique cultural and gastronomical traditions.

“If you’re a local dining with us you might notice a dish or ingredient that is reminiscent of your hometown, and if you’re a tourist, you’re now experiencing this city in a new way because you are literally tasting it,” says Phan.


The Priory Hotel & Mansions on Fifth

John Graf, president and CEO of Priory Hospital Group, owner of The Priory Hotel on the North Shore and the Mansions on Fifth Shadyside, says guests who come to the properties are interested in what’s going on locally and finding things they can’t get anywhere else. Knowing this, Graf has made a conscious decision to highlight Pennsylvania breweries, wineries and distilleries on the bar menus.

“The idea is to get people a taste of something they can’t get somewhere else,” says Graf.

The beer menu mostly focuses on Pennsylvania breweries but also has some “near locals,” such as Southern Tier from Lakewood, N.Y. The hospitality group has partnered with local businesses, including Pittsburgh Winery, Pennsylvania Libations, a spirits boutique in the Strip District, and Wigle Whiskey to source products and provide training to staff. Bartenders not only can talk about the components of a drink but can tell the history of the distillation process and the history of whiskey in the area, providing unique experiences to guests.

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Fairmont Pittsburgh

When you walk into the lobby of the Fairmont, you are immediately connected to Pittsburgh’s history: glass and steel. The hotel’s lobby bar, Andys, pays homage to Andrew Carnegie and Andy Warhol, and the second-floor restaurant, fl.2, received a major makeover a year ago, with significant detail given to incorporating local flair.

“People can’t always get out of a hotel and they don’t necessarily have to,” says Andrea Stehle, digital marketing and communications manager.

She adds that it’s also become a place to showcase local vendors. The hosts’ uniforms are made by local designer, Kelly Lane, the leather on the bar books come from Caryn Carson of Pike Leather and custom ceramics are by Reiko Yamamoto.

Not only does the Fairmont want to appeal to travelers, but wants the local community to experience the hotel as well. This year, Andys will be hosting holiday cocktail classes in which guests learn to craft holiday cocktails that they can recreate at home and fl.2’s Executive Chef Julio Peraza has started a new guest chef dining series, inviting chefs from around the city and beyond to cook once-in-a-lifetime dinners.


Hotel Indigo Pittsburgh — Technology Center

Hotel Indigo’s second location in the city (the first is in East Liberty) has Pittsburgh roots. It’s built on the site of the former J&L Steel Mill and the hotel’s restaurant and lounge, Eliza, takes the name of the Eliza Furnace that once existed at the mill.

Eliza’s Executive Chef Tom Lonardo focuses the menus on the foodshed of Western Pennsylvania. He says no matter what time of year, the menu always showcases what is growing locally in that season. Right now you will find his take on the traditional Pittsburgh salad. The “Hearty Pittsburgh Salad” is composed of mixed field greens, tomatoes, red onion, cucumber, radish, provolone and, of course, French fries, and then dressed in a house vinaigrette and a homemade ranch dressing.

“Everything I do, I try to use as much local produce as I can,” says Lonardo. “It’s about supporting the food systems of our region.”

The restaurant has only been open since the summer, and Lonardo hasn’t put pierogies on the menu … yet.

Brian Mogan, one of the restaurant’s owners, is looking to add his grandmother’s Polish pierogies to the menu. She learned how to make the delightful dumplings in a concentration camp and you’ll be able to find this decades-old recipe on the menu during Lent and other times when there’s a fasting from meats.


TRYP by Wyndham

Next year, Lawrenceville will have its first hotel. TRYP by Wyndham, a brand of independently owned hotels that target avid travelers. Located in the former vocational school, Washington Education Center, the hotel will feature a little over 100 rooms and will pay homage to the building’s roots.

“We decided very early that we were going to feature the building, itself,” says Josh Aderholt, principal of The Century Group, developers of the hotel.

Each of the four floors will have a theme based on a former trade taught in school: wood, metal, masonry and drafting. Custom works of locally made art will greet guests as they get off the elevators on each floor. A video installation highlighting interviews from former students, faculty and others who have spent time in the school will also be played in the lobby.

The hotel’s mission is to help guests discover Lawrenceville and to be an active part of the community. There is a commitment to hiring locals from the neighborhood, including the hotel’s Executive Chef Mike Rado, formerly of Butcher on Butler. He will lead the two on-site restaurants — Brick Oven and Over Eden. Brick Oven will focus on classic contemporary American while Over Eden will offer multicultural, sharable plates on the rooftop.

“If it grows in the Allegheny Valley, we will be featuring it in the restaurants and banquets,” says Rado. “I’m basing menus and the general atmosphere on what’s in season and from farms I can physically go to and get my hands dirty on.”

The Oaklander Hotel

Opening late 2018 is Oakland’s newest hotel, The Oaklander. It will be Marriott International’s first Autograph Collection Hotel in the state.

This luxury, boutique hotel will be 10-stories with the hotel lobby, bar and restaurant all on the top floor, with a view overlooking Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum.

Michael Goldberg, director of food and beverage, says the hotel is currently trying to solidify the right chef for the hotel’s restaurant Spirits and Tales. The hotel is also looking to build as many relationships with local farmers as it can and is working with Pittsburgh-famous companies to add local flair to the amenities offered, such as the turndown service and mini bars.

Sarah Sudar is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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