Hotel Review: Fairmont Pittsburgh

For superior hospitality in downtown Pittsburgh, I recommend the Fairmont Pittsburgh. Having stayed at other area hotels over time during various visits, including one last summer for OCON Pittsburgh, when I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Pittsburgh Airport, which was great, and the Sheraton at Station Square, which was not, I listened this time to friends and family who suggested visiting the Fairmont hotel. Accommodations were exemplary for my needs and tastes. Expectations were rarely exceeded and mostly met. I took advantage of the downtown location, a block from Market Square, near Point State Park and close to everything in Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle, walking to cafes, museums and skyscrapers, all while taking in the city’s architecture, bridges and industry.

Speaking of the Fairmont Pittsburgh‘s location, I could’ve taken the T (rail transit) to meet a friend for breakfast at the Dor-Stop Restaurant in Dormont, though since it was cold, I summoned an Uber car instead, which was fine (and I found that Uber is easier than Lyft, at least in this city). I arrived a bit early.

Returning later to a perfectly appointed room overlooking PNC Park where the Pirates play baseball, called a parkview room here, I was very pleased with the 15th floor room. Robes, slippers, old-fashioned alarm clock, coffee, tea, cordless phones, ink and paper — the clean, quiet, spacious room had everything I needed and the best part was the silence. Overlooking city streets, the Allegheny River, skyscrapers — with a view of the Gulf Oil Building tucked between glass towers — during a winter storm was a wonderful sight. The room is functional, with a generously sized desk, plenty of smartly placed outlets for my gear, a swiveling flat screen television and safe, ironing board and deadbolt on the door. I use a Verismo machine for coffee at home, so the Keurig coffee machine was new to me. Though I figured it out, the Keurig’s instructional drawings left out a step, which is why I prefer written, as against pictorial, directions. I was surprised to find that the room lacks a general hotel guide, though this may have been an oversight. A daily newspaper is available in the lobby but it’s a New York paper, not the local Post-Gazette.

The bathroom is also spacious and generously appointed, though someone forgot to include shampoo and conditioner, which were promptly sent upon request. I did notice and report what I suspect is a design flaw in the glass shower door, which persistenly left a puddle when I exited the tiled shower. With a ledge, corner caddy for soap and rain-style shower, plus a bath and separate toilet area, accessories and quality towels, I was satisfied.

Fairmont Pittsburgh advertises itself as a luxury hotel and I found that it’s worth what I paid (county taxes are highest among the multiple taxes) for its location, quality and relaxed, businesslike atmosphere. In fact, it’s connected to business offices, so the relatively small hotel staff is happily welcoming and not overzealous. That said, a couple of front desk clerks weren’t the most attentive, failing to make eye contact, but generally staff were friendly and responsive. Check in and check out were both swift and professional. I really like that staff mostly left me alone to do business and come and go while nodding in recognition or extending a short greeting. They usually knew the answers to my questions, i.e., about the area, facilities, etc., when asked. Doorman Ron offered a tip that I walk to Heinz History Center, which I did in spite of the cold, rainy weather. I needed the exercise, though the fitness center’s very functional, too, so I’m glad I did.

I ate at the main restaurant twice. I first went for a solo breakfast, which was served exactly and promptly as I ordered (crisp, not limp or overcooked, bacon, eggs scrambled easy and fresh tomatoes) which was delicious, and again when I met someone for lunch. I ordered the salad and a pot of tea and both were fine. The restaurant, which my luncheon guest, who’s a longtime Pittsburgher, knew by its former name Habitat, is unfortunately called fl.2 (that’s the name). There’s a bar there, too, with a happy hour, which I would’ve enjoyed trying out if I’d had the time. The restaurant wallpaper shows wear and tear; again, not the best for what ought to be a four or five-star hotel. But fl.2 and its excellent staff really is a top property asset. The second floor place is perfect for conversation, conferences and catching up. I think this is because it’s removed from the main hotel traffic and action and, while there’s a partial view overlooking the Fairmont Pittsburgh‘s unique location near where major avenues converge at an angle toward Point State Park and where the Monongahela River and Allegheny River merge into the Ohio River, the view does not dominate the experience.

In summary, I think the secret of the Fairmont Pittsburgh success is its understated air, which emanates from a downtown business approach matched by its removal from potentially hectic surroundings due to its island-like setback and trim, elegant design. This is not a showcase hotel, so its guests and staff are probably disinclined to strut and show off. Andy’s, a casual bar off the lobby which is probably named for Pittsburgh artist Andy Warhol though I’d like to think is named for Pittsburgh capitalists Andrew Mellon and Andrew Carnegie, offers a DJ and live jazz band on certain nights. Both sounded terrific as I walked by, giving Andy’s and the Fairmont an inviting and not too solicitous sense that guests can relax, mingle and achieve solitude.

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