Film & Nightlife: July 2010

One downtown hotel bar to avoid—and another worth a stop. Plus, there’s a secretive movie walking the shadow of The Joker.

Pittsburgh likes its buildings. (Not exactly a profound statement, but I’m going somewhere with this, trust me.)

You don’t hear about “that new building,” you hear about “that building that once was turn-of-the-century apartments, then a Chinese restaurant, then an adult movie theater, then was condemned and now is a gallery.” That’s just how we like it.

So when downtown sees a brand-new high-rise luxury hotel, there’s bound to be some chatter. The Fairmont Pittsburgh is a striking addition to the skyline and the culmination of an ambitious (and thoroughly green) construction project. The hotel boasts 185 guest rooms, a gigantic health club, ample event space and a restaurant billed as offering “an international approach to domestic fare.”

The hotel also contains a bar, Andys, named in honor of Warhol and Carnegie. I had heard quite a bit about Andys, which advertised itself heavily in Fairmont press releases and on the hotel’s website, which was quick to describe the bar as “one of the most captivating spots in the city.” The hotel hadn’t been open a month when I made it to Andys; no one I knew had dropped by, and I was pumped to try out a swanky spot.

To be fair, I was plenty stunned when I sat down at Andys. Not by the advertised “classic cocktails and … extensive wine list,” or by the alleged “ambiance … reminiscent of Pittsburgh’s artistic and industrial heritage.” See, none of those things is true.

I was stunned to find that Andys is, without a doubt, the most unremarkable and uninteresting bar I’ve ever seen.

Barely separated from the hotel lobby, Andys seems like an afterthought: a tiny, cramped bar awkwardly attached to an existing space seemingly out of obligation rather than inspiration. “Ambiance” is not a word that can be uttered within a mile of this place. It’s well-lit by irritating compact-fluorescent light; and unless you count overhearing guests checking in 20 yards away as mood-setters, drinking at Andys feels more like pulling up a bar stool in the kitchen than visiting a “captivating” spot.

The beer list is fine but nothing special in Pittsburgh. Two dozen or so bottles do not constitute an “extensive” wine list anywhere. And Andys is yet another trying-too-hard wannabe hotspot that misinterprets the word “classic” when it comes to cocktails. An Old-Fashioned is a classic cocktail. A Tom Collins is a classic cocktail. My Manhattan, which contained champagne and strawberries (yes, seriously, strawberries), is not a classic cocktail.

I could stand Andys for about half an hour before I simply had to get out. Hoping to find a worthy hotel bar to compare it with, I wandered over to Braddock’s Street Side in the Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel. While there were still a few bewildering similarities to Andys—shouldn’t hotel bars be dimly lit and comfortable, if nothing else?—Braddock’s is a much more pleasant experience. It’s inviting, welcoming and has an impressive drink list focusing on more than 50 whiskeys and related cocktails—I ordered a Saratoga (rye, cognac, sweet vermouth and bitters), and it was one of the best cocktails I’ve had downtown. (Andys, Fairmont Pittsburgh, 510 Market St., downtown. Info: 412/773-8800,; Braddock’s Street Side, The Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, 107 Sixth St., downtown. Info: 412/992-2005,

Sometimes unlikely turns can turn a director into a superstar. Before Batman Begins redefined what comic-book heroes could bring to the big screen—and The Dark Knight became one of the most successful and beloved pictures of all time—Christopher Nolan was chiefly known for heady, complex thrillers.

2000’s Memento wrapped a deft and ambitious plot structure around a tense whodunit; 2002’s Insomnia was a bleak and atmospheric mystery featuring perhaps the last great performances by Al Pacino and Robin Williams.

Following up an instant classic that made more than a billion dollars is no easy task, but the buzz is running high on Nolan’s new baby, Inception. He’s remained highly secretive about his first film since Knight, but an eye-popping trailer and an impressive cast (Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Caine, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Marion Cotillard are but a few) have helped to make Inception one of the most anticipated films of 2010. (Inception, in wide release starting July 16.)

Categories: Things To Do