In the 1930’s Joe Primanti started serving food in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. The Strip District was home to factories, mills and wholesalers, which for Joe meant he needed to provide truckers delivering goods with a quick, easy meal.
Obviously a stroke of genius hit my dear friend Joe (I’m sure he would approve of me calling him that) when he decided to serve his sandwiches with all of the sides on top, allowing truck drivers to take their meal to go and eat with one hand while driving.
A Primanti Brothers sandwich starts with two thick slices of soft, chewy Italian bread. From there it’s all up to you. Corned Beef, Kolbassi, Pitts-Burgher Cheesesteak, Capicola, Ham, Turkey, Fish, Imported Sardines … you name it, they have it. You can even add a fried egg if you’d like. Most of the sandwiches come with cheese, but all of them come topped with tomato slices, a handful of fresh-cut french fries and a heaping pile of vinegar-based cole slaw.
And that, I must say, is perfection.
Primanti Brothers is probably the ultimate Pittsburgh institution. It is well-known even outside of the city … thanks to word of mouth and Man vs. Food. So when we walked in just before noon on a Wednesday I expected to find the place packed, but there was plenty of seating available.
We sat down and discussed our options, eventually deciding to split the Pastrami & Cheese and a Yeungling (local beer). The lady that took our order was a little surly, which made me giggle inside. I imagined that she’d worked there for over forty years, the earliest of which were spent fending off horny truck drivers, the latest in pain from the toll of standing on her feet at a thankless (or the greatest) job for years on end.
Our sandwich? Let’s just say I was a little pissed off at myself for agreeing to share one. The bread was so soft and wonderful, but my favorite part was the pairing of the pastrami with the crispy, salty fries. What a perfect combination! The cole slaw added freshness and crunch without overpowering the other flavors.
So yes, it would appear that I love Primanti Brothers. It’s noon here and I’m starving, agonizing over which sandwich to try next. Hey, Lucas …