Pittsburgh, in a Sandwich

Primanti Bros.

I receive emails from time to time from readers who find themselves traveling through or visiting Pittsburgh, with questions about where to eat. Now, Pittsburgh has a great deal of amazing restaurants and diamonds in the rough that are off the beaten path. And while all of those are fabulous, you absolutely, positively cannot visit Pittsburgh and not get a Primanti Bros. sandwich. It’s sacrilege. Many cities are known for different types of foods… Philadelphia has the philly cheeseteak, Chicago has deep dish pizza, Boston has lobster rolls, and Pittsburgh has… the Primanti Bros. sandwich. So what makes this sandwich so special? Every sandwich has French fries and coleslaw ON the sandwich.

A bit of history (from the Primanti Bros. website):

Back in the 1930’s, Joe Primanti opened a cart in the Strip District selling sandwiches to truckers on the go. It was decided that he should expand to a small restaurant on 18th Street. The hours were 3am to 3pm to accomodate truckers and the like. His brothers, Dick and Stanley, joined him along with nephew John DePriter who was the cook.

According to John, “One winter, a fella drove in with a load of potatoes. He brought a few of ‘em over to the restaurant to see if they were frozen. I fried the potatoes on our grill and they looked pretty good. A few of our customers asked for them, so I put the potatoes on their sandwiches.” And the rest is history. The Primanti Sandwich: a true taste of Pittsburgh.

So, are you ready to see one of these bad boys?

A Primanti Bros. sandwich

It’s piled high with meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, (fresh cut) French fries and coleslaw. Not mayo coleslaw, though, an oil and vinegar slaw, which makes all the difference in the world. This is all sandwiched between two pieces of hearty Italian bread. It’s a dream. My personal favorite is the pastrami, but the menu is packed with almost an endless array of options. We have a lot of family in the Chicago area, and it’s always a blast to take one of them to Primanti’s for the first time. Most of the time they stare at the sandwich for a moment with skepticism. Probably trying to figure out how to not be rude when they really want to tell their cousins, “Thanks for lunch, but there’s no way I’m going to eat THAT!” But then they do. And they love it. LOVE, love, love it. We haven’t had a hater yet!

They now have 17 locations in the Pittsburgh area (including the football and baseball stadiums and the hockey arena), and three in Florida. If you want the authentic Primanti Bros. experience, definitely hit up the Strip District or the Oakland shops. Primanti Bros. is as Pittsburgh as a Heinz pickle. So if you ever find yourself in the Steel City, make sure you get yourself to one of these spots and give the sandwich a try. You simply can’t visit Pittsburgh and not taste one of them!

Some media mentions:
Serious Eats: Sandwiches at Primanti Brothers: Pittsburgh Between Two Slices
Esquire: The Best Sandwiches in America
Man v. Food: Primanti’s in Pittsburgh

Does your city have a specific food or restaurant that it’s famous for? Share in the comments below so I can make a list for when I’m on the road!

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated in any way with Primanti Bros. and I was not compensated in any way for writing this post. I simply love their sandwiches and wanted to share a Pittsburgh eating destination with my readers.

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58 Responses to “Pittsburgh, in a Sandwich”

  1. Rachel on October 7, 2010 at 1:02 am

    mmm primati Bros. nom nom nom

    Reply

  2. the blissful baker on October 7, 2010 at 2:04 am

    i love primanti bros! i was in pittsburgh almost exactly one year ago, and i had one of their delicious sandwiches mmm :) they’re HUGE and messy, but amazing nonetheless. thanks for the reminder that i need to get myself to pittsburgh SOON to devour another awesome sandwich!

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 7th, 2010 at 9:22 am

      Woo! So happy to hear you loved the sandwich! Yes, you must come back!

      Reply

  3. notyet100 on October 7, 2010 at 4:49 am

    looks so yum..

    Reply

  4. Tabitha (From Single to Married) on October 7, 2010 at 6:20 am

    wow – great look sandwich! Will write it down for the next time we make it up to Pittsburgh!

    Reply

  5. Jason Sandeman on October 7, 2010 at 6:51 am

    If I am ever in Pittsburg, I am so making a stop for that sandwich!y wife will think I am nuts, but there it is. If you re ever in Montreal, might I suggest the world’s famous Swartz for their legendary smoked meat on rye. Be warned, there is always a line-up, and forget about going at lunch! I never really understood the Montreal smoked meat sandwich until I ate there!

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 7th, 2010 at 9:19 am

      Thank you for the Montreal rec, Jason, I am writing that down! Montreal is actually on our to-do list, so I’d love any other recommendations you have too!

      Reply

  6. Katrina on October 7, 2010 at 6:53 am

    This sandwich looks soooo good. If I’m ever in Pittsburgh I’ll have to stop by!

    Reply

  7. Karla on October 7, 2010 at 7:56 am

    Thanks for the advice on Primanti’s. I tried it out when I was there and reviewed it too—-

    http://fortycakes.wordpress.com/2010/10/02/pittsburgh-and-primantis/

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 7th, 2010 at 9:19 am

      Loved the review, Karla! I’m glad you loved the sandwiches, but so sorry we didn’t get an opportunity to meet up :( Next time!

      Reply

  8. Liz @ LBBakes on October 7, 2010 at 8:45 am

    I was in Pittsburgh for a swim meet in college and wanted to go there! But we didn’t make it. :( Will have to put it on the bucket list of travel eats. ;)

    I’m from Central NY, so let’s see. We’re known for half-moon cookies (NOT to be confused with black&whites), Dinosaur BBQ, and salt potatoes! You all need to eat a salt potato before you die. :) So creamy and delicious.

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 7th, 2010 at 9:20 am

      Salt potato… NY… officially on my food bucket list! Thank you!

      Reply

  9. Mark on October 7, 2010 at 8:49 am

    They’re in south Florida too…

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 7th, 2010 at 9:22 am

      Yep! Have you been to any of those locations? How are they?

      Reply

  10. Tanya on October 7, 2010 at 8:57 am

    Ya know, I lived in ‘da ‘burgh’ for a few years and LOVED it (miss it so much!) but the one thing I regret is never trying one of these bad boys >_<

    Reply

  11. Amanda on October 7, 2010 at 8:58 am

    Capicolla and cheese every time :) And almost always in the strip! Do they have Primanti’s at Consol?

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 7th, 2010 at 9:24 am

      Yep, there’s one at Consol!

      Reply

  12. Marg on October 7, 2010 at 9:38 am

    I’ve eaten there twice, first time I didn’t care for what I ordered second time it was very good. My all time favorite is a roast beef po-boy with gravy or “debris”. If you’re ever in New Orleans check out Mother’s.

    Reply

  13. Maggie on October 7, 2010 at 11:10 am

    Yum! My office is having a conference in Pittsburgh next July – I’m going to have to remember to try this place while I’m there! I suppose DC is now known for Georgetown Cupcakes thanks to the TLC show. If you’re ever in DC try Good Stuff Eatery for a cheap meal (amazing burgers and Smores milkshakes), and CoCo Sala for a fancier meal (small plates and AMAZING desserts)

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 7th, 2010 at 11:21 am

      Maggie, you definitely have to check it out when you’re in town! My boyfriend actually lives right outside of DC, so I’m there quite often. We went to Georgetown Cupcake and thought it was okay (their vanilla/vanilla was the best), but then we went to Baked and Wired and thought it was phenomenal. Definitely much better!! I am writing down the other two places to keep in mine when we’re looking for somewhere new, thank you!

      Reply

      • Amanda on October 7th, 2010 at 12:54 pm

        I agree!! Baked and Wired was fantastic!

        Reply

  14. Kristin on October 7, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Man vs. Food featured Primanti Bros. when he was in Pittsburgh. I was up there last year for a wedding weekend, but we didn’t have the time to swing by…next time! I’m from Philly suburbs originally and can give you good recommendations if you ever find yourself in Bucks County! I live in Athens, GA currently – home of R.E.M. and we have lots of hole in the wall awesome restaurants. Happy to share if you ever end up in either area.

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 7th, 2010 at 11:32 am

      Thanks Kristin! Feel free to share your recommendations, I will definitely write them down!

      Reply

  15. Judy on October 7, 2010 at 11:18 am

    One of my favorite all time sandwiches. The Pittsburgh people sure are efficient when it comes to eating!!! I’m with you on the pastrami…the best!

    Reply

  16. Allison on October 7, 2010 at 11:23 am

    Yummmmmmm! I’m originally from outside Pittsburgh but now I live in the Charlotte area. I also lived in South Florida for a few years and they are just as yummy there! Now I’m craving one though :( I wish they would open one here there are a lot of Pittsburghers in Charlotte.

    Reply

  17. Linda on October 7, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    I’m from St. Louis and it’s all about Imo’s Pizza and Ted Drewes Frozen custard! Imo’s has the cracker type pizza crust that St. Louis is famous for and Ted Drewes has, handsdown, the BEST frozen custard. Bobby Flay talked about it in one of the Best Thing I Ever Ate episodes on Food Network. Love it! A St. Louis institution. Oh, and toasted ravioli, but you won’t get a concensus on who has the best. Me, I like Zia’s on the Hill. Pretty darn awesome!

    Reply

    • madge @ vegetariancasserolequeen on October 7th, 2010 at 1:32 pm

      Linda – yes! Imo’s is HANDS DOWN the best pizza EVER. I now live in PA and I always have to go to Imo’s when I’m back home. TD reminds me of college – oh the pumpkin pie custard…

      While in St. Louis, I recommend anyone find a local bakery and try a gooey butter cake. Another St. Louis institution!

      Reply

    • Michelle on October 8th, 2010 at 10:14 am

      Thank you Linda & Madge for the St. Louis recs!

      Reply

  18. Lindsay on October 7, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I saw a thing about them on travel channel I think. Looks yum!

    Reply

  19. Margot on October 7, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    So funny, I was in Pittsburgh two months ago and visiting long-time Pitt residents… they brought us ALL over town, except Primanti Bros. They said “it’s been done!” Hahaha.. I don’t think I would have been able to eat that sandwich! I had such a tough time with Fat Head’s.. ugh… wrote about Church Brew Works, The Round Corner Cantina and Fat Heads on the blog.. LOVED the brewery. Awesome idea.

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 8th, 2010 at 10:17 am

      Haha I was going to say that Fatheads isn’t much better in terms of size and what they put on sandwiches. Did anyone you were with get the South Side Slopes? It’s a sandwich with kielbasa and pierogies ON the sandwich. I’ve never had it, don’t think I could stomach it, but it’s my boyfriend’s favorite! The Colossal Club is my favorite at Fatheads.

      Church Brew Works is awesome, I’m glad you made it there. The food is outstanding and it’s such a unique atmosphere. Off to your blog to read your reviews!

      Reply

  20. Julie on October 7, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    My brother and I found Primanti Brothers at a Material Science conference a few years ago. Amazing!

    If you’re ever in Ames, Iowa go to the Grove Cafe and get pancakes. Preferably one with seasonal fruit. Enjoy the REAL maple syrup that is on every table as well!

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 8th, 2010 at 10:18 am

      Julie, glad you liked Primanti’s and thanks for the Iowa recommendation!

      Reply

  21. Belinda @zomppa on October 7, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    That bread is so thick! Thanks for sharing more about Pittsburgh!

    Reply

  22. RavieNomNoms on October 7, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    wow now THAT is quite a sandwich!

    Reply

  23. Keeley on October 7, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Wow! At first it looked liked something I wouldn’t like, but now that you point out that it’s a no-mayo cole slaw, I may have to try one if I ever get to Pittsburgh. We live about 5 hours away and my husband keeps saying I need to go there sometime.

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 8th, 2010 at 10:18 am

      You definitely do, it’s a great city!

      Reply

  24. Lisa on October 7, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    If you ever make it to Maui, you need to go up to Makawao and visit Komoda’s Bakery. They’re famous on the island for their cream puffs. Their butter rolls are also incredibly delicious, better than any you can buy anywhere else.

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 8th, 2010 at 10:19 am

      Mmmm cream puffs + Hawaii? I’m there!

      Reply

  25. Heather@hezzi-dsbooksandcooks on October 7, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    As a Pittsburgh native I have to say YUM! I love a Primanti’s Sandwich, though you can’t eat them all the time. And don’t try to order yours minus something-that’s a no go, the sandwiches are AS IS, which they should be because they are fabulous!

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 8th, 2010 at 10:20 am

      Ditto Heather, on all points! The last time I ate one was the day after the Pens won the Cup in ’09 ;-)

      Reply

  26. vanillasugar on October 7, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    god i love that place :::sigh::::

    Reply

  27. Margot on October 7, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    LOVE Primanti’s! I usually get the turkey version. Yum. We used to go to the Triangle Bar in Rankin for a roast beef battleship, too – I wonder if they are still there? They were awesome.

    Reply

    • Terri on October 7th, 2010 at 6:30 pm

      Yep – the Triangle is still in business selling a wide variety of battleships!

      Reply

  28. Chef Dennis on October 7, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Now that is a sandwich!! I have tried making these for my girls but its just a bit too much for them….but I could certainly go for one right about now!
    Thanks for the great post and for making me hungry!

    Reply

  29. Susan on October 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    My SIL who is originally from Pittsburgh took me there to eat. Loved the sandwich and loved the atmosphere! Thanks for sharing and bringing back the memory. I wonder how to recreate that sandwich down here in Bama?

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 8th, 2010 at 1:20 pm

      Hi Susan, I’ve done it a couple of times (I really need to post it!). Here’s what I do: thick-cut Italian bread, pastrami (my favorite), provolone, sliced tomato, and use the oil & vinegar coleslaw in this recipe:

      http://simplyrecipes.com/recipes/coleslaw/

      For the fries, you can bake non-crispy frozen fries in the oven then throw them on. Or, grab an order from Five Guys (their fries are very similar!).

      Reply

  30. Krista on October 8, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    As a Pittsburgh native and a graduate of CMU, I have eaten….well let’s just say MANY Primanti’s sandwiches. I highly recommend the Strip District Store at around 1am after a night of dancing at Metropol (oh!! showing my age!). The Oakland store is a close second.

    The photo of my oldest son on the welcome post is him enjoying his favorite Primanti’s Sandwich….the colossal fish. I’m an old fashioned girl who loves the Pastrami.

    Reply

  31. foodlvr on October 11, 2010 at 9:52 am

    I have been to Primantis. It was an experience of a lifetime. I had roast beef and turkey and I forget the cheese. I ate the whole thing. So did my husband and my son. It was amazing. I have pictures to prove I got my mouth around that sandwich. When it came to the table I didn’t think I would do it. It was so good. A great sandwich. The best one I have ever eaten and I have eaten a lot of sandwiches.

    Reply

  32. Amy on October 14, 2010 at 6:34 pm

    I went to Pittsburgh last year and had to go to Primanti’s. Hands down the best sandwich ever. In fact, when I went to Nashville this year I had to make Primanti’s a stop on the way back home to Massachusetts.

    Reply

  33. Lauren on October 25, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Love your blog and love Pittsburgh. I was in the Strip 2 weeks ago but was there abut 9 am and we wanted breakfast so we went to DeLuca’s Restaurant. But someday I will get to Primanti’s. Anyway I live in Somerset PA and if your ever out this way we do have a nice diner called the Summit Diner.

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 25th, 2010 at 10:28 pm

      Thank you Lauren! Even if you missed Primanti’s, DeLuca’s is a wonderful breakfast stop! Hope you enjoyed your visit! I will definitely keep Summit Diner in mind if I ever find myself in Somerset! Thank you for the rec!

      Reply

  34. Ewokmama on November 24, 2010 at 10:41 pm

    I just stumbled onto your site and was looking back through your posts when I found this one. My husband is from Pennsylvania originally but we live in San Francisco. He goes to watch Steelers games at a bar in North Beach called Giordano Bros – they have a version of the Primanti Bros sandwich and it is SO GOOD! If you’re ever in the area, you should stop by there.

    Reply

    • Michelle on November 29th, 2010 at 7:23 pm

      Thanks so much for the tip on the Steelers bar! If I’m ever in San Francisco I will definitely check it out!

      Reply

  35. Susan on December 4, 2010 at 8:31 am

    OMG! I love Primanti Bros.! I moved away from Pburgh many many moons ago but I have been hearing about them more and more. It use to be only the locals knew about them and now any one who watches any food TV has heard of them! I wish they could send me one ultra express so I can get one hot and wonderful!

    I have to say sorry but I really do not miss Pburgh but I do miss Primanti Bros.

    Reply

  36. Tracy on April 6, 2011 at 11:43 am

    We love primanti bros. We always make time to stop in for a “huge” delicious bite!!
    My husbands grandmother, cousins and aunts/uncles live in Pburg…. love to visit!
    T

    Reply

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