When it comes to local Pittsburgh institutions, none are more famous than Primanti Brothers. For both visitors and locals alike this sandwich shop is one of the icons of Pittsburgh (often being called the Pittsburgh sandwich).
But what makes this shop so special, and why are Pittsburghers so passionate about it (on both sides of the spectrum)? It doesn't take much to figure it out.
So, What's All the Fuss About Primanti Brothers?
Primanti Brothers' sandwiches are famous in part because they are so unusual. The staple toppings are french fries and coleslaw, something you'd typically see as sides in any other sandwich shop outside of Pittsburgh.
These toppings are then wedged between two thick slices of Italian bread, and along with tomatoes, provolone, a meat of your choosing, and an optional fried egg (a must), complete the ensemble of the city's most iconic sandwich.
Since being founded in the early 1930s the popularity of these sandwiches soared, bringing about a food revolution in the city of Pittsburgh where fries are now put on just about anything. As the restaurant grew in popularity, so did its status as a Pittsburgh institution that both visitors and locals flock to in droves to enjoy.
But as much as there is love for this iconic sandwich shop, there is also a large group of people who do not enjoy it at all and there is little middle ground between the two.
So before you rush out for a Primanti Brothers sandwich (especially if it is your first one), there are a few things you have to keep in mind!
You'll Either Love or Hate Primanti Bros
When it comes down to it, our overall theory on Primanti Brothers in Pittsburgh is that you either love it or hate it- much like other local institutions including Beto's Pizza, Iron City beer, or the Yinzer dialect.
To confirm this theory, we sent out a simple question to our Facebook page to see what they think. What we wanted to know was this: Do you love it or hate it?
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After reaching about 23,000 users, and receiving over 250 comments, the split was roughly 2:1 in favor of this iconic sandwich shop- a general trend we think is probably fairly accurate city-wide. The remaining 33% did bring up some valid concerns that are worth discussing further.
Two of the most common complaints about Primanti Brothers are not that it is bad, but that it is too popular for what it is worth, and that the rapid expansion of branches across the country has resulted in a reduction in quality over the years.
After eating countless Primanti sandwiches at a good number of their locations across Pittsburgh, we have to agree with this mindset as none of the branches seem to come anywhere close to the original in the Strip District.
In most restaurant reviews we'd go into the fine details about what we like and don't like about any given restaurant, but for this one we don't want to do that.
The reason for this is because this restaurant is a Pittsburgh institution and is so ingrained in our city's history and fame that everyone really should visit at some point regardless of our opinion of it (if you haven't figured it out yet, we're not fans).
Instead, we want to address some of the concerns mentioned above to help ensure you have a great experience when visiting Primanti Brothers and do not fall into the 33% that dislike this iconic chain.
Three Reasons For Eating at Primanti Brothers
After thinking about this one for many years, we've come up with three cases that warrant a visit to Primanti Brothers. If you fall into any of the below categories you may want to consider a visit in the future:
- If you're visiting Pittsburgh for the first time and want to see what it is about.
- If you've spent the night drinking and are craving a late-night meal.
- You happen to be in the Strip District and other nearby restaurants are closed or packed.
Our reasons for these are also incredibly straight forward.
First, if you're visiting Pittsburgh and want to see what all the fuss is about, of course you have to visit Primanti Brothers. We don't advocate it on a first weekend in Pittsburgh, but we get it- everyone wants to go, and we certainly won't stand in your way if you fall into this camp.
Second, Primanti Brothers to us is best enjoyed after a night of drinking. Although we are not big fans of the sandwiches by themselves, they always seem to taste much better when it is after a late-night bar crawl (and coupled with their Smallman Street fries- below).
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, all visitors to Primanti Brothers must eat at the location in the Strip District.
Although we may choose other Strip District restaurants during our visits, our logic for choosing this location is simple:
- The Strip District location is the original.
- It is open 24 hours a day.
- The restaurant also makes the best sandwiches of any Primanti Brothers in the city.
If you fall into any of the above categories, have a few beers, walk or Uber to Primanti Brothers in the Strip District, and give one of the city's most iconic sandwiches a try.
You may love it, you may hate it, but by following the above tips you'll be well ahead of most when visiting this iconic sandwich chain.
Primanti Brothers has several locations throughout the city of Pittsburgh (and the country); however, the original is located at 46 18th Street in the Strip District and is open 24/7.
Or, for more reviews of Pittsburgh restaurants, click the previous link to be taken to our directory of every review on Discover the Burgh!