Road Trip: Pittsburgh

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Only 50 miles down the road, Grove City is lucky to call Pittsburgh our “big city”. In just a few decades, steel mills have been replaced with parks and movie studios, and its rivers have transformed from dumping grounds to a play ground. Anyone who has taken in a Pirate’s or Steeler’s game on the North Shore can attest that the city has become something really special, and the world is taking notice. Everyone from National Geographic to Conde Nast Traveler have put Pittsburgh on their top places to visit in the world. And if you’re like me, I plan every trip around food. Lucky for us the ‘burgh was just named a “foodie playground” by Highbrow Magazine.

With more than 90 unique neighborhoods, knowing where to start can be a little daunting (bring a GPS!), so that’s where we can help with our blog series “Road Trip: Pittsburgh”.

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Hotel Monaco | Hotel Lobby

New hotels and restaurants have been popping up all over Pittsburgh, but January was special. Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco opened up beside the Omni William Penn, in a historic refabbed law office downtown. The boutique hotel is filled with crazy decor that you’d never do in your own house, but secretly would love to do in your own house. Lights are made of everything from bird cages to chicken feet, while the lobby chandelier (left) may actually be alive.

The Hotel Monaco is for those who want something different (FYI, you can take your dog!). One thing you notice first is that thought clearly went into every element of the hotel, from the public sitting area to the hallway wallpaper, you can’t help but respect the bold choices. If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that many of the choices are inspired by the city itself. From the name of the conference rooms (One, the Carson Room, is named after Pittsburgh native and famed marine biologist and conservationist Rachel Carson), to the Rebellion Suites (13 one bedroom suites that reference the Whiskey Rebellion), the hotel pays homage to the city and Western Pennsylvania wherever it can.

While we’re sure each and every room is amazing, we were lucky enough to stay in on of the Rebellion Suites. The living room features a huge pull out sectional with quirky details in every corner. The bedroom, which is similar to the regular hotel rooms, showcases a substantial green headboard and birdcage lamp that you have to be taught how to use (worth it!). However, at the end of the day, the massive bathroom is the showstopper. From the marble walls to the freestanding soaking tub and open air shower, you spend the rest of your stay figuring out which room in your own house can be replaced with a giant walk-in shower.

The Commoner Restaurant and Bar. Read a review from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Commoner Restaurant and Bar. Read a review from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

After taking in the room and enjoying a whiskey tasting and cheese tray, we made our way to the lobby where you enter The Commoner restaurant. No one word can describe the interior of the dining room, but it’s a perfect mix of industrial, modern, library/cigar lounge. We sat at the chef’s table where you could see the brick oven at work, and decided to order a bunch of dishes to share. We tried the Pork Cheeks ($14), Chopped Liver ($13), Simple Greens ($8), Roots and Tubers ($7), Onion Soup Burger ($15), Lamp Shank ($32), Broccoli Cheddar Flat Bread ($13), Bone Marrow ($15) and my personal favorite Crab Shells…and Cheese ($13). Everything single thing we had was amazing (although liver in general is still growing on me). And if you have any self control, you can walk out of there with a reasonable bill (obviously we had no self control). The Commoner is definitely worth the drive, even if you’re not staying at the Hotel Monaco.

While the trip was centered around our stay at the hotel, we also stopped in Lawrenceville on the way down to check out WHO KNOW? Retro Mod Decor and after dinner at the Commoner, took a short drive to the Hard Rock Cafe in Station Square to watch Grove City’s own Junction PA perform.

A great weekend. A great hotel. We’re ready to go back.

*A great site to find things to do in Pittsburgh is www.visitpittsburgh.com or to keep updated on interesting Pittsburgh happenings, go to www.popcitymedia.com

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*photography by Alex DeGroff

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