Monday, April 19, 2010

Landmark North Side Tavern Returns

The Modern Cafe, a North Side icon, has reopened after a long hiatus. Located in the Allegheny West neighborhood, the Modern was known for its distinctive art deco exterior (the interior served as a set for the 1999 Pittsburgh-shot film "Wonder Boys" starring Robert Downey, Jr., Tobey Maguire, Katie Holmes and Michael Douglas). While a fire devastated the Modern in December 2008, owners Dean and Irene Zotis were intent on reopening. After 15 long months of work, the Modern Cafe is back, with an art deco facade reminiscent of the original and a brand new sparkling interior. The Modern serves casual fare for lunch and dinner, as well as a variety of adult beverages. Set at the corner of Gavelston and Western Avenues, it is across the street from another North Side favorite, Cassis restaurant.

By the way, restaurant manager Constance Zotis (shown above), daughter of the owners, was an intern here at the Priory in the Summer of 2008, by the way.

Click here for a story in the Tribune Review regarding the reopening of the Modern Cafe.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ft. Pitt Museum Reopens

A hidden little gem in Pittsburgh is the Ft. Pitt Museum. Located in Point State Park, downtown, the museum is a treasure trove of pre-revolutionary war artifacts located on the where Pittsburgh was founded (first by the French as Ft. Duquesne, and later by the English as Ft. Pitt). Operated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania since its opening, the museum was closed five months ago due to Pennsylvania's budget crisis, but has reopened under the auspices of the Heinz History Center. It's centrally located and well worth a look, now that it's reopened.

Click here for a Pop City story on the reopening.

Point State Park itself was refurbished by the Commonwealth last year (apparently back when it had money), and offers beautiful views of the three rivers.

Also, be sure to visit the Ft. Pitt Blockhouse, the last remnant of the forts and the oldest building in the City of Pittsburgh.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tim McGlothlin is a Finalist for Pennsylvania GM of the Year

Our own Priory Hotel General Manager Tim McGlothlin is one of three finalists for the General Manager of the Year for the entire state of Pennsylvania. The awards, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Tourism and Lodging Association (PTLA), are designated the "Spirit of Hospitality Awards." Tim previously won the GM of the Year Award from our Greater Pittsburgh chapter of the Hotel Association. Tim was cited for his leadership in guiding our property through a difficult year last year. The awards are set for Monday, April 26, at the Sheraton in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
In making the finals, Tim surpassed many general managers of larger, nationally branded hotels, underscoring our continuing assertion that bigger and well known does not make for a better lodging experience.
For a list of finalists and nominees, click here.

We are very proud of Tim's accomplishments and wish him luck in the finals. We'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Penn Brewery Restaurant set to Reopen in Late April

A neighborhood mainstay, the Penn Brewery, which is now under the ownership and directorship of found Tom Pastorius and his wife Mary Beth, looks to be reopening at the end of April. The history of the Penn Brewery's sale to an investment group and subsequent closing has been chronicled here previously. I am told by Mary Beth herself though that they are aiming for a late April reopening of the restaurant, which will be a cause for joy among visitors to the city and local beer lovers alike.

In the meantime, Penn Brewery is open from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Fridays, offering growlers for sale. If you're in the neighborhood, definitely stop by. For more information on the growler night, click here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jasmine Restaurant - Greentree/ Scott Township

Located a short drive from downtown Pittsburgh at the corner of Cochran Road and Greentree Road, Jasmine Restaurant offers a good alternative for those looking for Middle Eastern and Vegetarian dishes. Set in a building which previously housed The Colony restaurant, Jasmine offers a wide array of traditional Middle Eastern and Mediterranean meals. The cold appetizer spreads - hummus, baba ganoush and tabouli - were tangy and of an appetizing consistency (that's not always the case in my experience). The warm appetizer I tried - an eggplant with a tomato sauce - skillfully blended a variety of flavors. I had a good portion of it and I'm not a fan of eggplant! My companion and I tried kabobs for entrees -- lamb for me and filet for my companion -- and found that the meat was well prepared and tender. The saffron rice which accompanied the kebabs was also cooked quite well. The chef, we are told by our server, is from Lebanon and is cooking the recipes of her youth. Our server was exceptionally professional and allowed us to take in a leisurely meal at our own pace with little interruption.
There were numerous vegetarian options on the menu, for those looking for meatless fare.
Click here for a recent review from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Jasmine's address is 1928 Cochran Road in Scott Township; telephone number is 412 344-1001.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Priory Expansion: The Project in a Nutshell

Our Priory Hotel expansion project starts this weeks. Though our ceremonial groundbreaking took place a couple of weeks ago, due to some paperwork and permitting issues actual construction was delayed a few weeks. We are now looking at completing the project in the end of December 2010. Our contractor is Bridges Construction; architects were Denny Campbell Architecture + Design and Robert Baumbach Building Design. We are very proud of the plans, and look forward to creating a unique lodging experience in the city of Pittsburgh.

Here are the FAQs about the project:

1. Nature of the Project: The expansion project will add 17 additional guest rooms, additional meeting space, space for a new business center and fitness center, and an elevator, as well as full handicapped access through the new front door.

2. How Did the Property Which Will House the Expansion Become Available? The property on which the expansion will take place, the former 608-610 Pressley Street, had previously housed an apartment building with six units. In January 2009, that structure was gutted by fire (fortunately all residents of the building were able to evacuate safely). In February 2009, the John and Suzanne Graf and his parents Ed and Mary Ann acquired the property from its existing owners and had the remaining charred structure demolished.

3. Project Cost: The construction cost is $1.7 million construction. The overall cost of the project is $2.25 million, including land acquisition costs, archtects and other fees, new furnishings, etc.

4. General Contractor: Bridges & Company, North Side. Project Manager is Bob Fitzgerald.

5. Financing: $1.5 million by First National Bank; $250,000 by North Side Community Development Fund

6. Ground Breaking: Ceremonial ground breaking, which included a visit by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, took place on March 4, 2010. Actual work began in early April 2010.

7. Expected Date of Completion: December 31, 2010

8. Project Details:

a. Construction Type: The new addition will be completely new construction. Some work in the existing Priory Hotel structure will need to occur as well, including the expansion of laundry facilities and of boilers/ hot water heaters.

b. “Look” of the Project: The exterior of the new structure, in keeping with the residential character of the neighborhood, is designed to look like a late 19th century mansion townhouse, the type of which may still be observed around the Allegheny Commons Park on the North Side. It will be three and a half stories tall, and will feature gables on the top floor and a mansard slate room The interior is designed to look identical to the existing Priory Hotel, so that guests will have a seamless experience inside the property. The new structure will be joined to the existing building on all three upper floors and its lower level. An elevator will be installed at the juncture of the two structures, permitting guests easy elevator access to all four floors of the structures.

c. Square Footage: Approximately 7,000 square feet

d. Number of Additional Guest Rooms: 17

e. Type of New Guest Rooms: 15 of the new guestrooms will offer one King bed; 2 of the new guestrooms will have one Queen bed. The addition will also present three fully accessible handicapped guest rooms. All guest rooms will offer state of the art hotel amenities.

f. Guest Room Design: The interior design of the new guest rooms will be in keeping with the look of the existing guest rooms, i.e., with antique and reproduced furnishings and decorations from the late Victorian/ early Edwardian era. All new guest rooms will be fully wired for data transfer and high speed Internet access, as well as for WiFi.

g. Meeting Space: The new addition will have 600 square feet of new meeting space, which will be able to be divided into thirds for break out space.

h. Fitness Center: The lower level of the addition will house the Priory’s new fitness facility. Though the Priory Hotel currently offers a fitness center, the new facility will be larger and easier to access.

i. Elevator: A big change for guests at the Priory will be the addition of an elevator. Guests must now ascend and descend to their guestrooms by stairs only,
9. Short History of the Priory Hotel and Grand Hall: Edward and Mary Ann Graf acquired the property on which the Priory Hotel and its sister facility, Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at the Priory, is located in 1985. The Priory property, built in 1888, served as a rectory and Benedictine monastery; the Grand Hall property, built in 1854, had served until 1981 as the St. Mary’s Catholic Church. The Grafs had purchased the property from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at auction, after plans to raze the structures to make way for the new Interstate 279 fell through. In November 1986, following a year long renovation, the Grafs opened the Priory Hotel. Subsequently, after many years of bureaucratic delay, the Grafs, this time along with son John and daughter in law Suzanne, were able to open Pittsburgh’s Grand Hall at the Priory in the former St. Mary’s Church. The Grand Hall serves as a full service banquet facility, hosting weddings, parties and other events.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Opening of Priory Fine Pastries in the Cardello Building

Some photos from our Grand Opening at the Priory Fine Pastries - Cardello Building, include Priory founder Ed Graf, John Graf with Russell Bynums of Bynums Marketing and Communications, and some sweet toothed representatives of the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

We held our Grand Opening at our Priory Fine Pastries location in the Cardello Building not long ago. We invited tenants in the building, which is located not far from the new Rivers Casino in the Chateau section of the North Side. The office building, a converted warehouse, offers beautiful space and breathtaking views. Click here for a video tour of the building.

Our Cardello Building location offers, in addition to baked goods, a variety of specialty coffees, including cappuccino, latte and Americano. We had a great time meeting our new neighbors, and look forward to serving them for years to come!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

New Restaurant - Cassis

I had the pleasure of stopping in to a new North Side neighborhood establishment, Cassis, on several occasions recently. Cassis is an intimate bistro and bar located on Western Avenue in the Allegheny West neighborhood of the North Side. The menu offers European style comfort food, including, typically, 3 or 4 varieties of fresh fish. For lunch one day I had a braised beef sandwich au jus which was out of this world. Proprietor Dianne Porter is a veteran of Morton's Steakhouse here in Pittsburgh, and has created an appealing and original menu, and the buildout of the restaurant is light and airy. It is well worth a stop.

Cassis is open for both lunch and dinner starting at 11:30 p.m.

Note that Wednesday evenings feature a 3 wines paired with 3 appetizers tasting for $15.00!

Click here for an article on Cassis's opening in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

Cassis is located at 900 Western Avenue. Telephone number is 412 586-7794.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April Wine Tasting - Stuck in Ol' Lodi Again!

Photos from our March Wine Event.

Apologies to CCR for the title above, but April 15 brings our last indoor wine tasting of the season, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Celebrate the close of Tax Day as our wine host, Lee Kuehn of Vintage Imports, brings with him a farrago of tasty wines from the Peirano Estate Vineyards from Lodi, California. Peirano Estate is one of the pioneering wineries in the Lodi region. Click here for a video invitation to the April wine event.

We'll be tasting:

Peirano Estate Viognier

Peirano Estate "The Other White" (A chardonnay, viognier, and sauvignon blanc blend)

Peirano Estate "The Other Red" ( A cabernet, merlot & syrah blend)

Peirano Estate Petite Sirah

As always, we subscribe to the three finger pour, and serve as much as you might want to taste! Executive Chefs Pete Phillipy and Mike Henney will be providing heavy hors d'oeuvres matched with the wines, and there will be live entertainment. Tickets are $45 per person. It's a fun night out, so please contact Gene Lucente at or at 412 323-9394 if you would like to make reservations. Salud!