Table 54 was the best one. Sit there and from the 62nd floor of the U.S. Steel Building it was easy to look out over Downtown Pittsburgh and see Point State Park, Mount Washington, all three rivers, and the rising hills of the North Side.
There were birthdays. Anniversaries. Celebrations of an engagement, a promotion, a graduation.
For 30 years the Top of the Triangle restaurant was there for all of it. Until, toward the end of 2001, it wasn’t.
For even the darkest years of the Pittsburgh steel bust, it remained as an aspiration, a beacon, a way to feel taller than the rest of the world.
It was as imperfect as it was aspirational. Writing about its closing in 2001, former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dining critic Woodene Merriman recalled a predecessor calling an artichoke appetizer “a bit overpriced at $1.95” in 1978 but also being thrilled the restaurant served artichokes when few others did.
In 1985, Pittsburgh Press critic Robert M. Bianco gave it two stars out of four -- a ranking of “fair.”
“At the moment, the Top is charging top-level prices for ground-level food,” he wrote at the review’s conclusion. “Even with an elevated view, that’s not a very good deal.”
The menu was old-fashioned, even as restaurant fine dining changed in other cities. Table-side steak Diane. Lots of cream sauces. Hollandaise on the salmon.
Before it even opened, it oozed an imagined modernity. An artist’s rendering from 1967 showed passenger helicopters landing on the roof, implying that was one way to reach the sky-scraping restaurant.
In the days before lumbersexual chef-owners who created dining experiences in their own image, the Top of the Triangle was owned by Stouffer’s, then Nestle, then finally something called Select Restaurants, which lost the lease, allowing the 62nd floor to become office space.
But before those able to see that view went from hundreds a night to only moneyed executives and those who surround them, the restaurant was a destination. A Pittsburgh Thing To Do. An institution.
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