PRIMANTI BROTHERS RESTAURANTS

 

PITTSBURGH

 

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  Primanti Brothers is a uniquely-Pittsburgh dining experience. Their menu features a huge selection of giant sandwiches... served on deli paper, not on plates. Here's the kicker... all of the sandwiches are made with sliced, chewy Italian bread and come with french fries and cole slaw smashed within the sandwich, between the bread and the meat. Although the idea may be disconcerting to some, the messy six-inch thick sandwiches are really quite delicious... and VERY filling.

Paraphrasing their website... the original Primanti Brothers Restaurant was founded by either Lou, Dick or Stanley Primanti in the depression-plagued 1930's, but all three operated the restaurant.  Their target clientele was the hungry 3rd shift dock workers loading and unloading produce and other product along the Allegheny River in the middle of the night. According to legend, when all those hungry dock workers come in, the Primanti boys piled the fries and slaw on top of the meat so the workers could eat the whole thing with one hand and keep working. By the websiteís admission, this info may not be entirely accurate ("Ďcause nobody wrote nothiní down"), but it's plausible and makes for a good story.

In recent years, Primanti Brothers has received a modest amount of national attention, having been featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, a Pittsburgh Steelers Monday Night Football game, The New York Times and Sports Illustrated to name a few. They now boast 12 locations... 7 in the city (including Heinz Field and PNC Park), 4 in the Pgh suburbs and one in Florida (?). The new suburban Harmarville location maintains the steel-town theme and focuses on the rich Pittsburgh sports tradition. Although itís testosterone-rich, itís still okay for the wife, girlfriend and maybe the kids. Presumably, all of the suburban locations are similar... much more sanitized and cosmopolitan than the original restaurant. The suburban stores feature an expanded menu which includes pizza, pasta, wings, and an impressive selection of hot munchies. The prices are quite reasonable.

Looking for the unique dining and cultural experience, we chose to dine at the original restaurant in the strip district. It did not disappoint. The 30-foot long neon sign and Victorian wooden facade presents an image a bit different than what youíll find inside. The interior has the pleasant, earthy, lived-in look of the friendly neighborhood diner. Itís small with a long counter (15-20 seats) on the left and 4 or 5 four-person tables on the right. The decor certainly is not snazzy, but features an interesting, huge mural filled with notable Pittsburgh natives (yes, Andy Warhol is from Pittsburgh) and the obligatory neon beer signs. (By the way, try a locally-brewed Iron City Light or a Yuengling while visiting the city.). We sat on the street end of the counter so we could watch the friendly, informative and highly-skilled cook Brandon construct our two enormous sandwiches right in front of us. I ordered the Pitts-burger cheese steak (their #2 best seller) and Brad had the pastrami. Although they may have more cohesiveness than you think, these delicious sandwiches cannot be eaten politely. The cole slaw may drip on your hands and the fries will definitely fall out of the sides... but never fear, thereís a ketchup bottle within reach... Heinz, no doubt.

If you were one of those kids who was disturbed when one of your green beans touched your mashed potatoes on your dinner plate, then perhaps Primanti Brothers is not for you. However, if youíre looking to absorb some Pittsburgh culture as you get a belly-full... and you donít mind eating with your fingers... donít pass up Primanti Brothers Restaurants in Pittsburgh.

Oh yeah, one more thing... since the cheese steak was listed as their #2 best seller, but the #1 best seller is not listed on any of their menus, I recognized this as a clever marketing stratagem. With the likelihood of receiving a flip, canned, and essentially evasive answer... and not wanting to put Brandon in that position... I refused to ask. Maybe itís not good journalistic policy, but I feel better about it. Youíll just have to ask about the #1 seller yourself!

We visited at ~10:30 AM on Sunday, June 24, 2003. It was not busy at all at that time. The original restaurant is located on 18th Street in the strip district and is still open 24 hours.

 

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STRIP DISTRICT - STORE FRONT

 

THE LEGENDARY SANDWICH

 

CROSS SECTION

     

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DINING ROOM

 

BRANDON PREPARES OUR MEAL

 

TWO SANDWICHES / GRILL

           
 

Read my Primanti Brothers review on epinions.com:

Primanti Brothers Restaurant - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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