At LocalEats, it's part of our mission to highlight great
locally owned restaurants that are off the beaten (eaten?) path:
places that are beloved by locals in-the-know but often overlooked
by tourists and major dining publications. But, we're not entirely
about obscurity here. We don't aim to be the know-it-all hipsters
who suggest every restaurant with a heavy dose of "you've probably
never heard of it before" attitude. Sometimes the best way to
orient yourself with a new city is to visit the most iconic
restaurant or try the most obvious indigenous foodstuff. Of course,
there can be potential issues with such establishments. The line
might be prohibitively long. Said line may suspiciously consist of
ONLY tourists. Or the quality of the restaurant can decline after
decades of popularity (or perhaps a bunch of new franchises) give
them no incentive to maintain standards. In this series, I'll share
a few tasty experiences I've had when going with the most obvious
restaurant or food in various cities. First stop:
If there's one restaurant that encapsulates the spirit of the
Steel City, it's Primanti Bros. Dating back to the 30's, Primanti
Bros. got its start when Joe Primanti opened a small restaurant
after previously having had successs selling sandwiches to truckers
from a cart in the Strip District (food carts and street eats: not
just a modern foodie phenomenon). Not long after opening, Primanti
Bros stumbled upon the delicious gimmick which makes a Primanti
sandwich a Primanti sandwich: fries and coleslaw on the sandwich.
For truck drivers and steel workers often on-the-go, having
everything on the sandwich made eating much more convenient -
increased portability and one-handed eating being preferable.
Though it boasts some 14 locations in the Pittsburgh area now, the
original Strip District shop still stands, and quality has not
suffered a bit.
On one snowy March day, I popped in to the original Primanti
Bros. for a not-so-light lunch. The straightforward sandwich
menu likely hasn't changed much since the depression with popular
offerings such as ham and cheese, double egg and cheese, Jumbo
(bologna) and cheese, and the Pitts-Burgher cheese steak. I opted
for the ham and cheese and added an egg on top for good measure
(for 50 cents). Ham, cheese, egg, coleslaw, French fries and tomato
were piled high between two thick slices of white Italian bread.
Measuring in at a height of about six inches, this monstrous meal
did not disappoint. With an Iron City Beer in hand, I felt ready to
take in more of the Steel City, having experienced a truly timeless
meal at its most famous establishment. Oh, and just in case a Primanti
Bros. sandwich isn't enough food, it's worth noting that you
can also order a side of fries, cheese fries or chili cheese fries.
As a former Pittsburgh resident once told me, "If there's an empty
nook or cranny anywhere in the city, Pittsburgh will find a way to
stuff some fries into it."
Not sure how those truck drivers ate these with one