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James and Samson at the Hotel Monaco

The Commoner at the Hotel Monaco with James Mitchell

Any fan of my blog will know that I love hotels.  I love the atmosphere of boutique hotels, the world class service of luxury hotels, and even the economics and business models behind some of the world’s biggest hotel chains.  One of my first experiences with boutique hotels came with the opening of the Hotel Monaco in downtown Pittsburgh, since I would walk past it every day during the summer of my freshmen year on the way to and from my internship.  The outside is striking, almost intimidating with huge columns of concrete and steel bars on the lower windows.  However, the inside is, as the website describes it, “vibrant and whimsical, with bold pops of color.”  It’s no wonder U.S. News and World Report ranked it among the best hotels in Pennsylvania for 2016!  However, this isn’t a hotel review, it’s a restaurant review, which was no less suburb than the hotel itself.  What’s even better, I had a very special guest in the form of my best friend from high school, Mr. James Mitchell, who accompanied me to lunch at the Monaco’s amazing tavern-style restaurant, The Commoner:

Atmosphere: Harkening back to Pittsburgh’s industrial past, The Commoner delights in taking advantage of the city’s history and turning it into a theme.  Old maps were highlighted on the walls behind us and we were surrounded by steel girders and copper light fixtures.  It was a modern take on an older style but it worked so well for a hotel as imaginative as the Monaco.The CommonerThe Commoner's bar

Service: The service was exactly what I was expecting from a 4-star hotel: friendly, courteous, and attentive without being overbearing.  We were even greeted by the manager, a mark of exceptional customer service which you don’t see too often any more.  Our only critique here would be that the courses came out far too quickly between each other; only a few minutes into our appetizers did the entrees come out!The Commoner's kitchen

caramelized cheeseQuality: I’ll also have to steal a line or two from the Monaco’s website, because the food was exceptional, coming from a kitchen “that excels at adding modern flourishes to classic comforts.”  We shared a caramelized cheese plate with warm “squid ink” bread that was indescribably gooey and delicious.  My main meal was a smoked brisket sandwich, one of the very few I’ve had where the meat had the perfect amount of moisture without dripping with sauce.  For the finale, we each ordered a sticky toffee pudding, which took me back to London after only one bite.  I only wish James and I would have split one; we were so full by the end that we couldn’t finish them!  brisket sandwichsticky toffee pudding

Price: This is not an everyday place (and I forgot to mention my cocktail, mostly because the price would shock you!)  But The Commoner does have a lunch counter which is slightly cheaper if you’re not having three courses like we did!

Rating: 8.5/10smoked chicken salad sandwich

Translation: “Rusticity in the most delightful way.” I have to agree, The Commoner had an old-fashioned charm with the modern essentials of a classy restaurant in the heart of the Steel City.

James’ Take: My favorite aspect has to be the food.  My smoked chicken salad sandwich was very good and the sticky toffee pudding was some of the best I’ve ever had.  The spacing between courses needs definite improvement; it was just too rushed for what should have been a relaxing lunch.  This is definitely an elegant place, great for family or close friends visiting Pittsburgh!Islay Have What He’s Having cocktail



James is graduating in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in American S tudies from Washington College.

The Commoner is a modern American tavern serving upscale dining fare in a rustic environment.  I would suggest checking out both the restaurant (http://www.thecommonerpgh.com/) and the hotel (http://www.monaco-pittsburgh.com/) for anyone looking for an excellent stay in downtown Pittsburgh.

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