Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Primanti Bros.

I don't know who specifcially I heard this from, but at some point, likely from multiple people, I heard that Primanti Brothers of Pittsburgh makes a good sandwich. So, I made it a point to stop there during our visit to Pittsburgh last weekend.

But first, I'm going to give you an idea of what I was expecting here. Several years ago, I was in Philadelphia with some friends, and we decided to stop by Geno's and/or Pat's (I don't remember which, they're practically right next to each other) and try one of their original famous cheesesteaks. Unfortunately, the lines at both Geno's and Pat's were extremely long, so we bailed on our cheesesteak quest and instead ate dinner at a Roy Rogers along the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

So, using the analogy "Pat's/Geno's is to Philadelphia as Primanti Bros. is to Pittsburgh", that's kind of what I expected with Primanti Bros. But unlike Pat's and Geno's, neither of which has multiple locations, Primanti Bros. has branched out and opened 15 locations throughout the Pittsbugh area, including one less than a half-mile from our hotel in the suburban neighborhood of Harmarville. Yeah! While the original Primanti Bros. location in the Strip District could very well have insufferably long lines most of the time (I don't know if they do or not), surely we'd be able to grab a meal at one of the distant suburban locations, right? Indeed we did! We didn't even have to wait for a table.

(Side note: I was also expecting Primanti Bros. to be a stand up and order at the counter sort of restaurant. While the downtown locations may be that way, the Harmarville location was a regular sit-down restaurant, and was therefore eligible for my restaurant serving times competition.)

What does a Primanti Bros. sandwich consist of? Meat (good), tomato (that's fine), french fries (directly on the sandwich...interesting), and...cole slaw (dammit!). You had me up until the words "cole slaw". I don't like cole slaw, and I hate that the standard practice in North Carolina is to put cole slaw on barbecue sandwiches and not on the side. Fortunately, Primanti Bros' cole slaw is nothing like the crap they put on barbecue sandwiches in North Carolina. It's vinegar-based, and it really just tastes like lettuce with a vinegar taste. I actually kind of liked it. I'm actually proud of myself for trying it in the first place. I normally steer clear of all things cole slaw, but since Primanti Bros. sandwiches have such a good reputation, I figured I'd give it a shot anyway. Glad I did!

(Once again, I apologize for the lack of picture quality.)

I had a genoa salami sandwich, and it was truly excellent. The reputation is well deserved. Most impressive to me, more so than the taste, was the fact that the sandwich stayed together the whole time. With this much loose crap piled on top of two thin slices of bread, I expected this thing to fall apart completely, and end up having to eat most of it with a fork, or at the very least, most of the fries by hand. Nope! How the sandwich manages to stay intact from start to finish is beyond me. It's probably one of their best kept secrets. Whatever it is, it's brilliant sandwich engineering.

While I had the trademark sandwich, Amber had chicken fingers and fries, and for once came across as the more boring eater between us. (Believe me, that is a huge departure from the norm. Pittsburgh must be some kind of bizarro world, where I'm the one being adventurous and trying new things.) But it did give me a chance to try their fries off of the sandwich, and they were also excellent. The fries are extremely greasy and soft, and are quite similar to the fries served at other renowned grease joints such as Five Guys, In-N-Out Burger, and The Varsity. (I've never actually been to Five Guys, but Amber made that comparison.) Seems like all of these trademark burger and sandwich joints follow this standard french fry recipe, doesn't it? I'm thinking that these restaurants all prepare their fries - and all their food, really - in the most unhealthy way possible. Calories? Oh yeah! Sodium? Lots! Trans fat? Probably! These places didn't earn their reputation because they're healthy. Save the salads for Wendy's, folks. If you want something that just tastes good, regardless of the health consequences, then Five Guys/In-N-Out/The Varsity/Primanti Bros. is for you!

I actually don't know how healthy or unhealthy a Primanti sandwich is. I couldn't locate any nutritional information about Primanti Bros.' sandwiches, but I'm guessing - and hoping - that my genoa salami sandwich had fewer calories and less fat than the In-N-Out Double Double combo I had last year (burger + fries = 1,070 calories and 59g fat; source). But even if it did, at least my Primanti Bros. sandwich did not result in two days of explosive diarrhea. Take that, In-N-Out! ("Explosive diarrhea" is an exaggeration, but my Double Double combo did not sit well.)

So, in conclusion: Primanti Bros. wins my seal of approval. Its reputation is deserved. But there is one thing I don't like about this place:


James Allen said...

The correct spelling is "Urine = Steeler Country"

allen_t said...


Spartangoogle said...

In this month's Consumer Reports, In-and-Out and Five Guys rank 1,2 for burgers (Large chains only rated). Also, I'm sooo upset about the quarterback situation in Pittsburgh :-(