Hard to believe it has been five years since the last NPS visit to Pittsburgh!  Dang.  The great news is that the Hotel Monaco in Pittsburgh is like stepping into a Kimpton time warp—in all the good ways.

The first good thing was discovering that our ancient Kimpton points of yore (which were transformed into some kind of mystery pointy prickly spire IHG points) were still valid and useful!  Who knew?!  So a quick cycle with GM Rob Mallinger hooked us up with our very favorite room at the favorable price of zero.

You may recall that 835 is the bomb.  And the staff at this hotel is just awesome.  In particular we want to give shouts out to Matt for an outstandingly personal welcome and to Annalisa for going above and beyond the call of duty to retrieve some data for us while we were out and about.  Outstanding.

Welome to 835. Wine, cheese, a personal note. Yes, welcome indeed.


835 Living room




835 bed room



This shower is not at all plastic. Yays.





It snowed. Classic Pennsylvania. Arriving after 7, we found a sea of fundraising private school hipsters dressed to the nines. It was well nigh dinner time.  Fortunately, Rob set us up at Union Standard where there were oysters, Negroni’s and other good eats. Sadly, by the time a leisurely dinner was consumed, the plan to hit up Butcher and the Rye had the kibosh put right on it. Who closes a good bourbon bar at 11 on a Saturday night? Well, apparently the James Beard winners do.  Alas.

Union Standard


A dirty martini? On this blog?! WTF?!

So it was back to the commoner (found in the basement of the Monaco) for a nightcap.  Though the clientele leaves a little something to be desired (Trump country assholes abound in the PA private school world), there was good Rye.  Not to mention Gina, a delightful barkeep.  (The bar itself was established by Kenny many years ago and then properly curated by Mike Ryan before he headed to Sable to build another gem.)  The commoner bar is still world class.

At the commoner, Gina and some rye

So how do you recover from all that Rye?  With some “Pittsburgh hash” at Pamela’s (a great greasy spoon diner for breakfast).  Right next door, you’ll find some very interesting tiny ass doughnuts at Peace, Love, and Little Donuts (sic).

Pamela’s, a Pittsburgh tradition


Just like it says

The Warhol museum is a great place to visit in Pittsburgh.  Excellent art properly curated.  See pictures here.

Excellent Taiwanese comfort food can be found at Cafe 33.

And there is live music in Pittsburgh.  Saw an intimate show of aging punks featuring John Doe. See lots of pictures and videos here.

john doe krisin hersh grant-lee phillips pittsburgh

Day two breakfast was just super good. Great espresso, tasty crepes and art.  Make sure to go to Geppetto Cafe in Pittsburgh for breakfast.

Geppetto Cafe Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is hoppin.

This old school Kimpton thing going on at the Hotel Monaco is well worth five showerheads with a couple of plus signs tacked on for good measure.  Wish there were more like this in the rest of the country!

Four cities in two days will do that to you.

Upgraded on one hop to Pittsburgh on United!!

Then a tiny ancient United puddle hopper to NYC (Mesa needs more new planes).

New York was gorgeous

Train to Connecticut from Penn Station bright and early


Now leaving NY

Now leaving NY

Then it was on to the worst Hertz rental car of all time. Dirty, over milage, driven hard, shimmy. Just crap. You can really suck Hertz!

This Hertz car sucks

This Hertz car sucks

The lobby flowers are upside down.  Monaco Pittsburgh.

The lobby flowers are upside down. Monaco Pittsburgh.

Last time we visited, things were just getting started—but boy were they great. If anything, everything is even better at the Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh! Rob Malinger (happy bday, rob) is doing a great job.

818 looks pretty similar to 835. The only major difference is the view (835 has one, 818 does not). The rooms are both beautifully styled in any case.

818 Living Room

818 Living Room

As always the welcome was Kimpton warm. Great door guys; friendly front desk staff; great amenity delivery people (that would be Marissa).

818 Bedroom

818 Bedroom

What a spread.  Cheese, fruit, sparkling water and a note.  Rock it Kimpton!

What a spread. Cheese, fruit, sparkling water and a note. Rock it Kimpton!


The bathroom is gigantic and fits the NPS criteria to a T. Any glass shower with a bench in it catches our attention.

Shower Cubicle

Shower Cubicle

Can't wait to see how much hot water there is!

Can’t wait to see how much hot water there is!

The style in the rest of the property is equally impressive. From the living room landing on the first floor…

Living Room Landing Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh

Living Room Landing Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh

to the upside down flowers in the lobby.

For good espresso, slip across the street to Simpatico (thanks Rachel).

Simpatico coffee

Simpatico coffee

Just to round out PGH, a dinner trip to Altius was very nice indeed. Plenty of interesting dishes. Need some work on their duck, but duck is really hard to get exactly right. The view at night is not to be beat.

Uber cut both ways this trip, and that’s worth a mention. My colleague ordered an uberX to take us up the hill. Not only did the driver take an extra 12 minutes to “spiral in” and pick us up, she was also clearly a smoker who smoked in her vehicle. She got lost and had no clue how PGH is laid out (or, it seems, how to use google maps). The trip to Altius was non-professional and not really worth paying for. By contrast, on the way back the uber driver (uberXL whatever that is) not only knew the city, he was also playing Robert Glasper Trio covering Radiohead’s Reckoner in his spotless car. Uber needs to get its act together.

Then it was back to the Monaco for some nightcaps. The Commoner is uncommonly great as far as a bar program goes. Started by Kenny (now at Forgery in SF) and finished up by Mike Ryan (of sable fame), they have a great thing going here! We were served by the spunky and delightful Patricia Antram who was psyched to play. She mixed up a classic De La Louisiane as follows:
.75 Rye (cask strength)
.75 sweet vermouth (dolin’s would be best)
.75 benedictine
dash peychauds
dash absinthe
stir down. strain into a coup. garnish with spiked cherries.

Patricia also served up one of her own cocktails, Lía Loves Juan (a.k.a., Yellow Swan):
1.75 resposado tequila
.25+ demarara (1:1)
.5 lime juice
BBQ bitters
3 dashes whiskey barrel aged hot sauce
shake. strain into coup. garnish with lime peel.

A quick trip to Pittsburgh is always made difficult by the lack of flights in and out of town, but it’s offset by the very existence of the Monaco. Five showerheads!

Kimpton has a property in Pittsburgh! Hot damn. And what a property it is. This first visit is going to be way too short. Rob Mallinger and his team are spoiling NPS big time. We approve.

We are in 835, a gorgeous space with high ceilings and lots of room.


Here is a short and silent video tour.

About the only thing we can’t get to work in here is the bluetooth speaker. I guess we could put some music on the android device, but our old school ipod does not speak bluetooth. Oh well.

Birdcage light 835

Birdcage light 835

Door, door, door

Door, door, door


The tub is IN the shower in 835. That's a new one.

The tub is IN the shower in 835. That’s a new one.

While we were busy doing work on the interwebs, Marissa stopped in with a fantastic amentity from downstairs. Marissa was great. Based on her recommendation, we switched around the business dinner plan.

Fruit and cheese, artfully displayed

Fruit and cheese, artfully displayed

Of course, best of all was a make it yourself Stranahan’s whiskey-based beverage. The only question I have for barman Josh Holiday is what the bottle says??



Rob stuck his nose in for a chat early evening. It’s always fun to talk to people who run hotels for a living. Rob seems to specialize in starting up new properties. This one is great.

What a fantastic welcome to a new Kimpton property. Thanks to the Kimpton team, especially Marissa and Rob.

We were hoping to make it to Butcher and the Rye, but it’s Monday and they are closed. So off to Meat and Potatoes it is. Meanwhile, it’s about time for that Stranahan’s Whiskey.

The report from Meat and Potatoes is that it is a buzzing nice little gastro-pub with good solid food. They are trying hard to make cocktails, but did not register on the “go there” scale. A much better bar is to be found at The Commoner right downstairs at the Monaco. We were served by Bryan Gastaldi who knows his way around the back bar. our experimental beverage was right down the center of the Bell curve (so no need to scribble it down).

Also, where do all the people in Pittsburgh go on Monday night?!