The Pittsburgher Sandwich at Primanti Bros.
I have a confession to make.
First, some background.
My parents are native Pittsburghers. Born there, met there, married there. They moved to Columbus after the marriage because my dad worked for Bell Labs here on the East Side of the city. But we made many pilgrimages back to the home city, so much so that as a child I considered Pittsburgh to be my “hometown” as opposed to Columbus and its environs. As I got older, we made fewer visits, but the city is still a big part of the fabric of our family life. And usually I make it up there at least once a year.
But until yesterday I had never had a Primanti sandwich.
This is very sad. I am ashamed to admit that my true Pittsburgher credential card was missing this punch. I had been “dawhtawn”. I thought subs were hoagies for about the first 10 years of my life. I say “slippy” instead of slippery. My first hockey game was at the Igloo, and I was at a Pirates game at Three Rivers. I’ve been to Kauffman’s Clock, seen a PLO show in the summer (The Music Man, with Jeff Goldblum!), been to the conservatory, the Carnegie museums, and taken the Incline. I love me some Eat ‘n Park Smiley cookies. My first roller coaster ride was at Kennywood and I LOVE Sarris chocolate.
But I had never been to this cornerstone of Burgh cuisine.
Finally, that has changed. (Can I be a true Pittsburgher now? )
My parents and I just got back from spending a few days in the Burgh. We went to Idlewild Amusement Park with one of my aunts and her three children, which was something I’d also never done before, shopped (no sales tax on clothes in Pittsburgh!), stocked up on Pittsburgh sports team gear, and did other Pittsburgh-y things. Originally we were going to stay until today, but some severe weather in Ohio led us to come back home yesterday and assess the damage to our homes and refrigerators (fortunately we’re OK on both counts. My roses even look really good!). But before we left, we met one of my dad’s sisters (my Aunt Judy), her husband and her youngest son (my Uncle Frank and cousin Justin, respectively–yes, I have two cousins named Justin) at the Primanti’s in Cranberry.
I was excited to be trying something new, but also sort of skeptical. I mean, this is a sandwich that not only has meat and cheese, but also coleslaw and fries on the sandwich. How the heck was this going to fit into my mouth? And was it going to taste good? I was skeptical.
When we got there my family and I perused the menu. There were other things besides the fable sandwiches–pizza, salads, gyros, etc. But I figured Go Big or Go Home. So I settled on the Pittsburgher–it’s steak, provolone cheese, coleslaw, and fries on Italian bread–and a Diet Coke (I know–huge sandwich, Diet Coke…but I drink the Diet because the real stuff is so sugary to my post-transplant tastebuds that it makes me gag. How I ever drank it for 23 years, I have no idea.). As we waited, we talked and generally caught up, which is nice, because we almost never see Dad’s side of the family (my Aunt Judy, who reads my blog, often calls my dad and remarks about my Pittsburgh entries, and how she didn’t know we were in town. WHY DIDN’T WE GO SEE THEM?).
The food arrived. And yea verily, it was good.
The coleslaw, which I’d been sort of “eek” about, was necessary to balance the searing heat of the meat. The Italian bread is soft, which allows you to get it in your mouth easily. And the fries are on the sandwich, but also sort of around it–so you can put them on a separate plate to eat as a side. There weren’t that many fries actually on my sandwich (but that could’ve just been the way it was made here?). It was delicious. It wasn’t heavy–as in, the sort of heavy that makes you think you need a nap or a Uhaul to get you up from the table. It was filling, for sure. I was definitely satisfied. But it’s a smaller sandwich than you’ll get at a place like Red Robin or the Cheesecake Factory. It’s an actual human sized sandwich. And it. was. good.
The coleslaw, on its own, was also yummy (some of it spilled out so I ate it separately. Not gonna waste good food.). There were desserts, but we didn’t try any, because really, who needs them after this sort of sandwich? My Uncle Frank had the chicken salad, which, amusingly, came with fries on top. (Have your cake and eat it, too!) The place was pretty crowded with Sunday luncher, Little League post-gamers (some kids were playing pool near us) and some post-Church attendance folks. Everyone was chowing down and generally enjoying themselves. It would be a great place to watch a sports event.
So now I am a true Pittsburgher, yes? Because I ate the Pittsburgher Sandwich. And it was good.