Friday, December 12, 2008

When In Rome, Eat As the Romans

Although I don't completely subscribe to the saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans," I do subscribe to the idea of eating like the Romans when in Rome. So before we left for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania a couple weeks ago, I asked several people who had been there what constitutes truly Pittsburgh or western Pennsylvania food. I got no ideas. So on our arrival, we asked around and still didn't get any suggestions save one, which was to try out a place called Primanti Brothers that made good sandwiches.

The first Primanti Brothers restaurant my Garmin GPS pulled up was near the college part of town and after driving around for twenty minutes in heavy traffic of both the rubber wheeled and the rubber soled persuasions without finding a single place to park, we found another one in the part of the town referred to as the south bank area. There we easily found parking and headed inside for a very late breakfast slash slightly early lunch.

Evidently when the Primanti Brothers began their restaurant, their plates and silverware didn't arrive in time for the opening and so they put the entire meal between two slices of sourdough bread and served it on pieces of waxed paper. It was unique, caught on and the rest has been history. Not knowing this before I ordered, I ordered a Pittsburgh Cheese Steak sandwich thinking it may be a close cousin of the famous Philadelphia Cheese Steak sandwiches that are on my list of things to eat someday when in the area. What I got was not what I expected.

Between my two slices of sourdough bread besides the steak and the cheese was also my order of fries and the side of coleslaw. As you can see from the picture above, it ended up being a pretty hefty sandwich and was good though not what I would call exceptional. It was definitely unique and probably only found in Pittsburgh so for now, it met my needs until I know differently.

The second meal of note while in Pittsburgh was when my wife was taken out on a business dinner at supposedly the best place to eat in town. As a tag-along spouse, I was invited. We arrived in the swanky section of the Mt. Washington area of Pittsburgh built on a mountain overlooking downtown with a fantastic view. There the valet confiscated our vehicle and we had to ride an elevator some 10 plus stories up into the air to the Monterey Bay restaurant where a 360-degree view greeted us.

I won't bore you with the details but the food, three of the four courses, was what you could find in your average mom and pop seafood place in Anywhere, USA. The fourth course, dessert, was truly spectacular but the first three were bland, elf like in portion size but came with huge price tags. It cost me less in gas to drive clear from Iowa to Monterey Bay in Pittsburgh than the tab of my wife and I combined and this is no exaggeration! Fortunately I didn't have to pick up the bill and that made the bland food a lot more palatable. While my wife and others talked business, I mainly just looked around, tried not to act bored, and to figure out which of the four forks I was supposed to use on the dish before me. I used them all in the end but I'm still not sure if I did so correctly.

At least it wasn't this place below which brings a whole other level to the meaning "Drive-Thru".


The Real Mother Hen said...

Ahhh Pittsburgh, so the mountain with a view (with restaurants and stuff) is called Mt Washington? I actually can't remember the name despite I was there many times. In fact I once lived near Pittsburgh many years ago (only a short period), but I can't bloody remember much now... oh I may have Alzheimer's!

Murf said...

Yuck. That doesn't even look good muchless feel good since it looks like it could give one lock jaw. What's with the receipt? The timestamp problem is bugging me.

So for this fancy dinner, were you wearing a suit?

Ed Abbey said...

Mother Hen - That's the name on the map.

Murf - What timestamp problem are you referring too? I just showed the receipt to give people a feel for the pricing which I felt was pretty reasonable. I dressed up to my standards which pretty much means a nice pair of jeans and a button-up shirt.

Murf said...

The Start Time is 11:06 a.m. and the End Time is 13 hours later. Since you aren't bitchin' about the wait for this sandwich, I'm guessing it should read 12 p.m. ;-)

Ed Abbey said...

Murf - Good point. I hadn't noticed and if they had forced me to wait 13 hours to pay, they wouldn't have gotten paid.

Beau said...

Lots of our older family that grew up in Pittsburgh, and their families before them... relatives buried there too. But I know very little about the area beyond all the stories and steel mills, and visiting a half-dozen times in my early youth. Sandwich looks almost like a Kebap- but they are really, really good!

sage said...

wow, I'm late getting here--I was in Pgh for three years--the restuarant that served those sandwiches was near the warehouse district, on the northside of the point--I've eaten on a couple of places on the top of Mt. Washington. One of them even had matches (this was before the anti-smoking became rabid) with your name on it. The view from Mt. Washington is nice--do you know what incline you went up?

Ed Abbey said...

Beau - Never heard of a Kebap?

Sage - Primatis had three or four locations now according to my GPS. Stayed tuned on the incline. I think that post comes up today.