Fries on a sandwich? Meet the much loved Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh
In a recent article, I introduced you to the famous chipped ham barbecue sandwich that is a long standing food tradition in my city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It's a simple yet hearty sandwich that has solidified itself in the unique food culture here.
Now, it's time to meet the other most beloved sandwich from the Steel City, one that is even more savory than the ham BBQ. This is the classic Primanti Brothers sandwich, piled high with delectable grilled meat, gooey cheese, crisp tomatoes, fresh coleslaw, and french fries.
It's an entire meal between two slices of thick, Italian bread, and is guaranteed to fill your grumbling tummy. If you ever visit Pittsburgh, the first thing any local will tell you is to get a Primanti's sandwich!
Primanti Brothers' sandwich shop was founded in Pittsburgh in 1933, during a time when the city consisted of almost nothing except factories and warehouses, run by the hard working, blue collar residents. People worked tirelessly through these hands-on, back breaking jobs, and needed wholesome meals to stay fueled. The first Primanti's opened as a small shop in the Strip District section of the city - the main hub at the time for shipment yards. These robust sandwiches provided the complete nourishment needed for workers to soldier on. They quickly became a symbol of a job well done at the end of the day.
The sandwiches soon became famous within the college and late-night bar crowds. After downing a few regional beers like Rolling Rock or Iron City, there was no other food that people would rather consume than a delicious, filling Primanti's.
As Pittsburgh grew into more of a sports oriented city, with hungry fans packing the stands of their NFL stadium Heinz Field on bitter cold Sundays, or cramming into their (now demolished, but replaced) NHL arena, Civic Arena, cheering for their favorite teams became the new hard work, as the teams kept winning championship after championship.
Sports brought fresh money into the city as factories started to abandon the area. Fans' appetites were strong and bland hot dogs, hamburgers, and nachos weren't cutting it anymore.
Primanti's saw the chance to cater to and please the fans in their second homes and jumped on board. Primanti Brothers has become synonymous with sports in Pittsburgh, now designing their restaurants mainly as sports bars. They have sponsored all of the three professional teams here, and have a restaurant in each of the stadiums. Today, there are 16 total locations in Pittsburgh. They have expanded around the Northeastern part of the United States with more locations in West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, and Michigan.
Picture credit: PrimantiBros.com
As you can see from the clip of the menu above, there is a huge selection of tasty meats to pick from for your sandwich. I always get the pastrami! The meat is cooked to perfection and melts in your mouth. The roast beef is another winner in my book, especially cooked well done. Provolone cheese is my recommendation, no matter which meat you choose.
Every single sandwich comes with fresh, tangy coleslaw made with vinegar, as opposed to mayonnaise. This coleslaw is crisp, not creamy, and is the perfect complement to the abundance of meat. Topped with a few nice tomato slices, and it's basically healthy...
The hand-cut french fries are the other most important part of this meal, creating its iconic appearance. The outside skins are slightly crunchy, with a nice, soft texture in their centers. Primanti's doesn't skimp on any of their ingredients, and the fries are no exception.
Just like those happy little fries you find at the bottom of the paper fast food bag, you will have Primanti's fries falling out of this sandwich and onto the metal tray it's served on, to rightfully smother in local Heinz malt vinegar afterwards, if you have room.
Sinking your teeth in to a Primanti's sandwich may require you to unhinge your jaw a bit, but trust me, it's worth it. This unique sandwich is what all Pittsburghers rave about, and they take great pride in having this as part of their culture. Today, people of all ages gather around to enjoy the sandwiches, under any circumstances. My family occasionally has one as a treat on a Saturday night. They are a delight to indulge in on a freezing, snowy night in the Burgh. They are the perfect thing if you've gone all day without properly eating, or after you've guzzled a few cold ones. If you ever visit the Pittsburgh area, take my advice and the renowned advice of all who live here - go get a Primanti's!
If you're interested in the chipped ham barbecue sandwich, here is the original recipe: