Monday, November 7, 2011

Primanti Bros. Sandwich

My BFF, Wendy, and I went on one of our infamous "Thelma and Louise"-style adventures recently, spending the weekend in Pittsburgh.


Yes, absolutely - Pittsburgh! It's a fabulous food town, like Chicago, serving unbelievably generous portions of great dishes. And the people are wonderfully friendly, maintaining a small-town neighborly demeanor in a large city. We were welcomed everywhere we went, and enjoyed ourselves immensely while seeing new sights and making new friends.

I was supposed to stop in Pittsburgh last year, on my way to a graduation in Philadelphia; but due to circumstances beyond my control, the trip was cancelled. But then I didn't get to see The Andy Warhol Museum, and I didn't get to eat at the famous restaurant that my friend Ellen - a Pittsburgh native - had recommended.

So, in need of diversion and an opportunity to discuss life and love in great depth during a 10-hour round trip, Wendy and I went to visit a city neither of us had been to in so long that we're not entirely sure whether we'd ever been there before at all.

We set out early in the morning, and arrived just in time for lunch - how perfect! We meandered towards The Strip - a neighborhood with fabulous restaurants and amazing food stores of all types - and staked our place in line at Primanti Bros., an institution since 1933.

The line moved well, as this is not a place to linger at. You order quickly, your food is brought quickly, you eat quickly, you relinquish your seat to the next customer. We sat at the counter, watched Michigan score a touchdown against Michigan State as we soaked up the atmosphere, and then the ham-and-cheese sandwich we were planning to split arrived in front of us.

The schtick at Primanti Bros. is that the cole slaw and the fries aren't served alongside your sandwich: they're stuffed right into it. And this behemoth cost only $6.49 - a Frugal Floozie Friday option, at $5 or less per person, even when I'm away from home!

When the sandwich is placed before you, it is impossible to simply pick it up and start eating. Not only do you first have to assess the situation to determine how to position your hands to keep from having 83% of the filling fall out onto your lap when you take a bite; but you also have to simply stare in disbelief at how huge it is, and how odd it is to see the side dishes crammed into the main portion of your lunch.

Remarkably, Wendy and I managed to get good grips on our food and to eat without having everything ooze out. It sounds like a very strange combination, but I have to say that this mixture really works! The cole slaw was neither too tart nor too sweet, and complemented the saltiness of the ham quite well. The french fries were an ideal pairing with the ham and the cheese. The variety of flavors and textures really united, rather than being disparate and disjointed; these ingredients weren't just thrown together for novelty's sake, but truly formed a whole.

So once we got home, I decided to make my own Primanti-style sandwich because there was really no way to adequately describe the experience of it to Jeremy. He was duly impressed when I presented my creation (pictured at the top of the post); he's a brave eater and will try virtually anything I ask him to. And, needless to say, he loved it!

I have fabulous memories of Pittsburgh; Wendy and I had an exceptional, wonderful trip! And any time I need a refresher, I'll simply make one of these sandwiches and think of how much fun we had on our adventure.

Primanti Bros. Sandwich

1-1/2 cups frozen french fries
4 1" thick slices of soft white Italian-style bread
generous schmears of brown mustard
4 slices American cheese
8 slices salami or other lunch meat
1 cup sweet cole slaw

Prepare french fries according to package directions.

Meanwhile, lay the bread onto the countertop. Schmear each slice with mustard, then place 2 bread slices mustard-side up onto dinner plates.

Place 2 slices of cheese onto each slice of bread, and top the cheese with 4 slices of salami. Place 1/2-cup cole slaw onto each sandwich, then divide the french fries and place half onto each sandwich. Top the sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread, mustard-side down.

Makes 2 sandwiches, feeding 2-4.

Primanti Brothers (Strip District) on Urbanspoon


Cranberry Morning said...

I can't find 'schmear' in my cookbook glossary, Mary. ;-) It's hard to believe now that everyone used to think of Pittsburgh as a dirty, sooty industrial city. They've done a great job cleaning it up and now it's beautiful. Don't you love it when you come out of that tunnel and you see the river and Pittsburgh in front of you! Glad you enjoyed your time there. Looks like you found the right place to eat. :-)

Miriam said...

I think yummy sandwiches are among my most favorite meals :), Miriam@Meatless Meals For Meat Eaters

Freddy Rosenthal said...

I always forget the name of this place, and I've always wanted to visit. Thanks for the reminder. If I skip breakfast and head to Pittsburgh, I should almost be hungry enough to eat a whole sandwich.

Unknown said...

Chris's sister and brother-in-law live in Pittsburgh and they RAVE about the food up there. Keep telling Chris we need to visit soon!
Love this sandwich.. then again, I love anything with french fries.. it's my biggest weakness!

Chris said...

I've always wanted a Primanti Bros sandwich since I first saw them years ago on Man v Food and a few other travel shows. Probably not getting to Pittsburgh anytime soon so I should try your version.

Unknown said...

Love the "Yenta" step daughter is Jewish :-)...came across this blog looking for info about this the joint. Dang the food is great. I thought the city would be a dive....WOW what a city! I have lived in some the what many would consider great cities....Pittsburgh is one of them..a city of neighborhoods! The place is so clean and what took me back were the people. Do they al take nice pills? The city is very hard to navigate, it was built for barges and trains not cars. I got lost Downtown and asked a driver at a red light how to get to the highway. He tried to explain but it was hard so he said "Well, I have some extra time, follow me and I will point to your exit!". Wow

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