When The Oaklander Hotel, part of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection, opens at the end of February, guests will get breathtaking views of Oakland from the penthouse restaurant while immersing themselves in Pittsburgh’s history.
“Each Autograph is unique and has its own signature and personality,” Food & Beverage Director Michael Goldberg tells us. “The modern hotel guest wants to experience the city they’re staying in. The spirits of the past will be here telling the tales of Pittsburgh’s industrial heritage while we look out on its STEM future.”
Located on Bigelow Boulevard in the heart of the University of Pittsburgh campus, the building has 10 floors, with the lower three dedicated to parking. Floors four through nine contain 168 rooms, including The Presidential Suite, a 930-square-foot space with a sitting room, powder room, wet bar, master bedroom and a bathroom that includes a large, clawfoot tub.
Standard room rates begin at about $300.
The hotel’s decor is elegant-industrial, with lots of riveted metal, wood and floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a unique look at the ornate rooflines that dot the neighborhood. On a clear day, visitors can see Schenley Park beyond the Cathedral of Learning.
Executive Chef Jessica Lewis is busy designing menus for banquets, room service and Spirits & Tales Brasserie Social, an 80-seat restaurant and lounge with a corner terrace.
The French-inspired eatery will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Lewis says she is most excited about the dinner menu, which will feature 10 to 15 small plates that will change according to the season and what local ingredients are available. There will be a strong focus on seafood and vegetables, as well as modern takes on traditional cuisine such as steak frites.
“It’s going to be fun,” she says. “I like sharing all of these different dishes when I go out to eat. Pittsburghers always want to try something new.”
Lewis, a 32-year-old native of Allentown, Pa., left a career in finance to pursue her foodie dreams. She attended The Institute of Culinary Education in New York City and spent years as a line cook in various kitchens.
She came to Pittsburgh to work as a Heinz Field catering chef and later went on to The Commoner. She was among the freshman class of chefs at Smallman Galley, where she ran Carota Café. Before taking the job at Spirits & Tales, she helped manage or, The Whale Downtown and Lawrenceville’s Merchant Oyster Co.
Lewis is a big advocate for sustainability in the restaurant industry and is working with local and national organizations to help prevent waste. She also leads Pittsburgh’s branch of the Oyster Recovery Partnership, a group dedicated to the ecological restoration, aquaculture and commercial fishery activities of the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays.
“When I opened Carota Café, I was making all the food decisions and it made me really think about what I was doing. Every restaurant that opens here should do everything they can not to make an impact on the environment.”
Spirits & Tales will also feature a bar menu filled with signature and classic cocktails, wine, beer and build-your-own martinis.
Local artists and designers were brought in through Monmade to add small touches to the space, including check presenters and silverware holders. And several meeting rooms are named after local icons, including Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick and George Westinghouse.
Goldberg, a veteran of the local restaurant industry, was most recently in charge of the food and beverage program at Whitfield at Ace Hotel Pittsburgh in East Liberty.
“I was really enticed by this project,” Goldberg says, staring out at Pitt’s campus. “This is the first Autograph hotel in Pittsburgh and in the state.”