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.