8 iconic foods to try in Pittsburgh

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Pittsburgh is regaining its reputation in recent times – yes, it still has a gritty industrial past, however, as foodies can attest, it is cultivated across the culinary scene as well. New restaurants often appear, and some of the plates they serve could be stacked against fancy places in much larger cities.

But at the end of the day, Pittsburgh’s most iconic foods tend to be the comfort food variety. They have stood the test of time and are still loved by locals and visitors alike. Reflecting the city’s immigrant population – past and present – no trip to Pittsburgh is complete without trying at least a few of these Steel City must-sees.

Here are 8 iconic foods you should try while you visit!

Photo credit: Erika Ebsworth-Goold

1. Piérogies

Where to start with pierogies? For starters, these little Polish pillow pockets, filled with a variety of fillings, are so popular that their large plush versions host races at PNC Park during Pirates matches. They can be found almost everywhere in Pittsburgh and are served fried or steamed. Pierogies are usually stuffed with savory ingredients – our favorites are variations on classic mashed potatoes and cheese. These dumplings are as Pittsburgh as they get, and you’d better throw caramelized onions and sour cream on your own, maybe with some sauerkraut on the side for the full experience!

On a recent trip here, we loved the deals from Cop Out Pierogies, in the Etna district. The chicken marsala pierogis we ate for lunch were a terrific international twist to the Eastern European staple, as was the bacon and blue cheese.

While it’s easy to whip up an extremely filling meal from a plate of pierogies, some places in Pittsburgh also stuff them with sweet toppings for a decadent dessert. Our advice? Try them both ways while you’re here!

Wiener World sign, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Photo credit: Erika Ebsworth-Goold

2. Sausages

As mentioned earlier, many immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe settled in Pittsburgh during the city’s industrial boom, coming to work in the area’s mines, factories, smelters, and factories. With them, they brought their favorite foods, including the beloved sausage. Call them kielbasas, salciccia, hot dogs or bratwursts, you’ll find more of them in Pittsburgh. If you bring some home as a culinary souvenir, head to the Strip District near downtown, where you’ll find several deli and butcher shops happy to ship your order home. For a German version, grab a bite at Max’s Allegheny Tavern, which serves knackwurst (a heavily seasoned short sausage), bratwurst (the familiar favorite), and weisswurst (a veal version of sausage). For the all-American option, grab a cheese dog at Wiener World. This iconic spot has been around since 1965 and is a great place to stop on the go.

Pro tip: The restaurant also offers wonderful sweet service!

Primanti signature sandwich.  Restaurant of the Primanti brothers Founded in 1933.
Photo credit: Rey Rodriguez / Shutterstock.com

3. Sandwich from the Primanti brothers

In most places we have been, fries are served with a sandwich. Not necessarily in Pittsburgh, and certainly not in the legendary locations of the Primanti brothers. The sandwich shop chain began life as a small sandwich cart in Pittsburgh during the Great Depression. It quickly evolved into a brick and mortar, the star of the menu being a grilled meat, cheese and tomato sandwich served with fries and coleslaw inside, as opposed to a side. It’s an acquired taste, of course, but so many people love the unique combo, Primanti Brothers now has locations in multiple states.

4. Chopped ham sandwich

The people of Pittsburgh take their sandwiches seriously – they’re hearty and designed to go with you throughout the day. Another favorite is the chopped chopped ham sandwich originally created at Isalys. The Deli has been around since 1904, and although it makes a variety of cold cuts and cheeses sold in grocery and specialty stores in the Pittsburgh area, its ham sandwich was by far the most popular offering on its menu when the deli still served meals inside. all its locations. It consists of a sliced ​​ham bread, topped with barbecue sauce, served on a soft white bun. Today, these iconic and delicious sandwiches can be found in many restaurants and delis in Pittsburgh.

Homemade Pittsburgh salad with steak and fries.
Photo credit: Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock.com

5. Pittsburgh salad

So salad is generally a dieter’s staple – something that is bound to be healthy and lower in calories than your typical meal, especially if you leave the dressing out. This is not the case in Pittsburgh. Here, a “Pittsburgh salad” consists of the usual foods: green vegetables, some vegetables, and grilled meat like chicken or steak. But what sets the town version apart is a generous portion of fries that are layered on top. Add a drizzle of ranch dressing on top and you’ve got something that, much like the Primanti Brothers Sandwich, can double up for a full, extremely filling meal. We haven’t seen anything like it elsewhere, but you have to admit, the idea of ​​having fries for croutons is just great (although maybe a little heavier than the usual side salad)!

6. Pamela’s buns

Since 1980, Pamela’s Diner has been THE breakfast spot in Pittsburgh. Whether you need a plate of hash the next morning or Gail’s favorite scrambled eggs with cream cheese, there are plenty of tasty dishes to choose from. But hands down, Pamela’s is best known for its sweet breakfasts. The caramel and croissant French toast topped with nuts is a decadent treat, but the buns here are king. These crepe-style buns are served stuffed with your choice of toppings, including fresh fruit and berries, sour cream, chocolate chips and nuts. Of course, they’re all topped with a perfect dollop of whipped cream. Go ahead and treat yourself: it’s the holidays, after all! There are several Pamela locations in and around the city; grab a hearty breakfast here at the Strip District, and you’ll be well fed for a day of adventure there and near downtown.

Word to the Sage: Expect a wait – and sometimes a long one – to enter any Pamela’s location. Consider going early in the morning or after regular breakfast hours for a shorter line. Either way, these buns are worth the wait!

7. Burnt almond tort

As we explore the sweets, let’s not forget the world-famous Pittsburgh Cake, first created at the city’s famous Prantl’s Bakery. Of course, we are talking about burnt almond pie. This cake was first created in 1970, after baker Henry Prantl went to a national bakers’ conference and took detailed notes when a California cake expert presented an almond cake. Prantl put his own twist on the sweet treat on his return to Pittsburgh, changing the flavor of the cake, adding custard between layers and topping it all with a delicious light buttercream and toasted almonds. . It’s dessert time again?

Although the Prantls have since sold the bakery, the square-shaped pie remains a favorite and is available at all four of Prantl’s Bakery locations in the Pittsburgh area. It’s light, airy, and absolutely amazing. If you don’t have room to try one out when you visit here, no worries. They can ship nationwide.

Close-up of a single bottle of Heinz Tom and French fries on wooden background.
Photo credit: SSokolov / Shutterstock.com

8. Anything Heinz

We know that condiments are not in themselves a specific food. But when you have a literal realm of condiments located in town, you’d better add them to the “Iconic” list. Heinz – this juggernaut of sassy flavor combinations – was founded in Pittsburgh and still has a large division office in town. Of course, they’re best known for ketchup, but you’ll also see all kinds of Heinz products on tables in pubs or cafes where you might dine – from steak sauce and relish, to mayo, mustard. and of course, the iconic Heinz 57 Sauce. Add them liberally to your sandwich or to your side for a real Pittsburgh taste!

Although Heinz Ketchup is no longer made in Pittsburgh, the city still takes great pride in its hometown heritage. You’ll see the Heinz imprint all over town, not just on your plate.

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