Three Square Meals Of Primanti’s

Achievement: #55. Primantis for All 3 Meals One Day

For the last few years, Pittsburgh has been reinventing itself as a craft cocktail and farm-to-table sort of town. Innovative and new restaurants and bars are popping up everywhere — so many that it’s hard to keep up.

This post is not about any of those places.

No, this post is about a staple of the Old Pittsburgh food scene — an eatery you’ve surely seen if you’ve ever watched national coverage of a Pittsburgh Steelers game, because it always gets mentioned by one of the broadcasters. The establishment we’re discussing now is Primanti Bros.

If you’ve never heard of Primanti’s, it’s a small restaurant chain that was established during the Great Depression, in the Strip District of Pittsburgh. Primanti’s, basically, is a sandwich place, but one where the sandwiches themselves contain your entire meal: whatever protein you choose, provolone cheese, tomato slices, vinegary cole slaw, and a heap of French fries, all served on thick-cut Italian bread.

Millions of Primanti’s sandwiches are eaten each year, so we decided to attempt to answer a simple question: could we eat three meals at various Primanti Bros. locations in a single day?

Primantis for All 3 Meals
We began our quest on a rainy fall day at the Market Square location of Primanti’s in downtown Pittsburgh.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
One charming thing that we’ve seen at every location we’ve visited is the giant menu. This menu shows the essential items that you can find at any Primanti’s — their sandwiches — plus a handful of additional menu items. You haven’t had the true Primanti’s experience until you’ve looked at one of those giant menus and picked an item from it.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
Of course…that’s not how we started. We ended up relegated to the outdoor seating, because we managed to attempt our three-meal effort on the day of a big college football rivalry game, so the whole place was overrun by folks draped in Pitt and Penn State gear.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
With a chill in my bones, I sipped a giant cup of IC Light as we awaited our meal.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
Fox attempted to class things up with a little bit of pinot grigio. (Good try!)

Primantis for All 3 Meals
Fortunately, our meal arrived quickly, and piping hot. We decided to try an order of tater tots with “retro” sauce — I’m not sure what makes it retro, but what I do know is that it was sort of like a chipotle ranch, and it was very tasty. The tots themselves had a great crunch.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
For sandwiches, since it was breakfast time, Fox kicked off with a deluxe double-egg and cheese…

Primantis for All 3 Meals
…and I got myself a bacon & cheese with an egg top. One great thing about Primanti’s sandwiches is that they’re big, dense, and filling without being overwhelmingly heavy; I think it comes down to their choice of a vinegar-based slaw instead of a mayo-based one.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
Still, after scarfing these sandwiches and washing them down with our beverages, I was already feeling pretty stuffed. Fox helpfully reminded me, however, that this was simply round 1 of 3.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
After a short break we felt ready to have our second meal, so trekked over to Garfield, to a newer Primanti’s location on Penn Avenue.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
A number of years ago, we took a tour of all the Primanti’s locations that were open in Western Pennsylvania at the time. We discovered then that there were two types of Primanti’s — “city” locations that offered the basics, and “suburban” locations that had much larger menus. This Garfield location, which opened years after our survey, is sort of a hybrid: a city location with all the suburban menu items.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
We didn’t want to get all non-sandwich stuff, so we opted to split a single sandwich this round — the delicious pastrami…

Primantis for All 3 Meals
…and then we tacked on a mushroom and anchovy pizza to share, as well as some spicy boneless wings for good measure. (Not pictured.)

Primantis for All 3 Meals
In addition to beer, this Primanti’s offered a handful of boilermakers, so I ordered the “Basic Irish Girl,” which is a Guinness paired with a shot of vanilla vodka. (And you know what? I don’t care what you think; it was a delightful marriage of vanilla and chocolatey flavor.)

Primantis for All 3 Meals
As we ate, I realized that I was yet again becoming almost deliriously full, but Fox cheerily indicated that we still had one more stop to make.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
That stop? Dinner at the original Primanti’s location in the Strip District, open 24 hours a day. (Luckily — we had to wait quite a while before we were ready for this third round!)

Primantis for All 3 Meals
Being the original location, the Strip’s menu contains just the basics.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
So we ordered a capicola sandwich for Fox (this is one of the most popular options at Primanti’s, and a total classic)…

Primantis for All 3 Meals
…while I got the sweet sausage for myself.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
Fox tucked in to her third Primanti’s meal of the day with the calm self-assuredness of a seasoned pro.

Primantis for All 3 Meals
I, on the other hand, approached the final sandwich with a little more trepidation.

In the end, though, we both managed to finish our meals and limp back to the car, stuffed to the gills with bellies full of Old Pittsburgh. So to answer the initial question: can you eat three meals at Primanti Bros.? Yes, you can!

Should you? Well, that’s a question each of us must answer for ourselves.

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Filed under #55, #55-18, downtown, food, french fries, garfield, primanti bros, primantis, strip district, Uncategorized

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