If you have seen or heard anything about Pittsburgh, then you have probably heard of Primanti Brothers. If they were your typical sandwich-fries-and-a-side place, you probably would never have heard of them, but by offering their unique combination of ingredients and style, Primanti Brothers makes Pittsburgh’s meal-in-a-sandwich and continues to create affordable, fun food for everyone.
First a bit of history: The sandwich was supposedly invented during the Great Depression, with the restaurant having operated since the 1930s. The original restaurant, located off of Smallman Street in the Strip District, is just a half a block from the produce market where truckers would unload fruits and vegetables in the early morning. Aiming to serve them a meal they could carry in one hand with them, Primanti’s took two slices of Italian bread with a normal “meat and cheese” filling and threw on a handful of freshly made french fries and a whopping pile of cole slaw. Put together, you have a sandwich that most people can’t take a complete bite from! It is large and in charge, and it has been continuously operating like that since then.
Now, for less than $8, you can share in some of the history of Pittsburgh with this whopping sandwich. They have locations scattered all around the area, but I recommend taking the trip to the Strip District to get it from the original location at least once. The best part is that the original location is still open 24 hours per day, so you can have a crazy night out only to find yourself there at 3 AM and they will be there. Considering the early bedtime of downtown, Just 3 blocks away, having a late night place can be a real benefit to the area.
The food is, of course, fantastic. It is greasy, and the sandwich takes some adjusting to in order to believe that it is really approachable. Most people nibble at edges until enough falls out to attack the middle. The cole slaw is also excellent, being somewhat different from most. Instead of a mayo based, creamy sauce, the slaw is in a slightly sweet Italian dressing. The peppery, oily dressing makes for a magnificent meal that I would eat daily without any hesitation, and it really complements the sandwich as well.
It you want authentic Pittsburgh, Primanti’s is must stop destination. Some hungry, because you will probably be bested by the sandwich, or share one for a quick meal on the cheap. Everyone should eat here just once before they leave the city, if only to start conversations when it comes up on television on shows about Pittsburgh, sandwiches, or just places where you should eat to experience America.