When I am experiencing a new place what I eat is just as important as what I do. Every meal or snack might not be destination oriented but there are always a handful of spots I have in mind. I want to eat like a local and sample the best that area has to offer. The farther away I am and the shorter the length of my trip puts pressure on making sure my list is full of the essentials any foodie would be proud of.
As for Pittsburgh there was only one must have food adventure I knew I would get to no matter what. I had seen it on the Food Network when Adam Richman visited. I am of course talking about the legendary institution, Primanti Brothers.
Primanti Brothers has been a Pittsburgh landmark since 1933 in its original eighteenth street location- of course the location I was determined to see. There were several others in the area most notably in the Southside district and Market Square. But I wanted to experience the real deal.
After arriving at my hotel on my first night of sightseeing, I was exhausted from all of the driving and of my tour of Falllingwater. I truly wanted to just lay down and pass out but it was only six o’clock and I was hungry. We decided to forge ahead with our plans because the thought of what I was in for was worth the effort.
We touched down in our location after a nice ride through the city. I love seeing a new place for the first time in the evening. The skyline is glowing and in this case was particularly wonderful. I especially liked the Heinz ketchup bottle. It was a personal nod to their history.
I had been worried about seating and having to wait on long lines to get in but luckily that was not our problem. The restaurant has two huge rooms and despite the heavy flow of traffic in and out it was never truly packed. Another perk is that it is open twenty-four hours, one of the few changes made from 1933.
The menu had a lot to choose from but I knew what I was there for: the classic deli sandwich with their signature toppings of house made coleslaw and crunchy French fries. Believe me this is a thing of beauty. I went with the turkey and my mother with the steak and when I saw my sandwich coming towards me I suddenly recaptured my spent energy.
Those first few bites were intoxicating. They were full of crunch yet soft textures and all sorts of flavors. Although there are only a handful of ingredients they are freshly prepared and I stared at the sandwich as though it was the first time I ever saw one. So you can imagine my dismay when I realized I could only finish half. I sat there giving it some time but that didn’t help. Finally I decided I would take it to go, as I couldn’t bare to part with it. I did some shopping (love a good gift shop) and we were off. It pains me to recall that despite me taking my sandwich back to the hotel (luckily I had a refrigerator and microwave!) I never managed to finish it. I had too many yummy things to eat.
Needless to say I slept like a log in my bed that night. The next day I awoke to a busy day of sightseeing. I had an amazing dinner awaiting me that evening so after breakfast I knew I would just grab a snack at lunch to save room. At this point I must bring up the hotel I was staying at. It was one of the best I have ever stayed at, and the price seemed too good to be true.
For starters there was the free shuttle. That’s right, no matter where I wanted to go I was dropped off and picked up as long as I gave advanced notice. This was one of the BEST parts of my stay. I was staying at the top of Mount Washington, not really in the city center. So having free transportation and not having to drive made all the difference.
The other major plus was the free breakfast. I know you have seen that before and usually a hotel will throw you a muffin or bagel from the year of the flood. That was NOT the case here! There was enough food to feed an army and all of it was fresh and tasty. There were cakes, muffins, eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, fruit, cereal- you name it they had it. My personal favorite was the mini waffle maker that made individual waffles, as you wanted them. Again a huge cost and convenience saver. Plus the staff was friendly and the hotel gorgeous. I would go back just to be able to enjoy the Holiday Inn Pittsburgh Greentree West.
After my satisfying breakfast I went on a cruise and on the incline ride. Before I knew it, it was time for lunch but I had something much better up my sleeve. It was Klavon’s Ice Cream Shop. It has been in existence since 1923 and I heard it described as a place straight out of the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Despite the years, two-decade closure from 1979- 2009, and the changing of management from the original family to the current owners, nothing else has changed. All of the original furniture including the phone booths remains there. As do the black line on the ceiling that shows how high the water flooded during a storm in 1936.
I had a hard time deciding but I went with the Strawberry Shortcake sundae: vanilla ice cream with strawberry sauce, vanilla wafers, and caramel sauce. Very rich for my blood but when in Pittsburgh…………….The other sundae had vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, and walnuts. Each was delicious and for those who desire sweet treats you could spend the day there. There are certainly enough desserts and lunch items to patch you up no matter what you are craving. It is old timey places like this that are the keys to any city.
From here it was onto see Mister Rodgers and so on. Then it was back to the hotel to rest and change before my big night out.
When planning this trip I knew I wanted to have one really nice dinner out. Since this trip was also semi-celebrating my mother’s birthday I wanted to go to a nice steakhouse, something we would both enjoy.
To find the right place I did something I have never done before: I googled it. Usually I rely purely on travel guides, television, or a personal recommendation for suggestions. I feel like general searches can be iffy. But I was on a roll after just one click of my mouse. By searching for the best steakhouses in Pittsburgh I found Hyde Park Steakhouse. A jewel among gems I am sure.
My entire experience here was impeccable. For starters it is gorgeous. I loved the dimmed red lighting and the dark colored furniture. Everyone that worked there was more than helpful. But of course the best part was the food. I hardly know where to begin.
For appetizers we started with the crispy calamari with sweet chili sauce and scallions. My God I am so used to a dish like this coming with marinara sauce in Italian restaurants. This version was a nice change of pace, sweet with a slight heat to it. I really enjoyed it but it was too much for two people who wanted to eat their entire entrees.
Next we were onto the main course- steaks baby! Damn this was a great one too, definitely better than the ones I have had at The Palms or even at Morton Steakhouse, both in New York City. This is saying a lot. It was well done like I prefer it but not rock hard. It had a great flavor and I was able to cut into like it was a fresh stick of butter. For sides we went with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and spinach and mushrooms. This meal was such a thing of beauty I could have wept. I really could right now thinking back to that night. It is what I hate most about writing this blog; it makes me crave things I cannot get my hands on immediately.
I wish I could say that I had room for dessert but I could barely finish my meal. I was stuffed to the gills and I was still looking around the room seeing what else people were ordering that I wanted to eat. Leaving here was going to be tough. I think I might miss it most of all.
It was a fast trip but one that left a lasting impression. I think about Pittsburgh often reflecting on what I did and what I ate all of which brings a smile to my soul.
Although I felt I got to do everything that was a priority on my list I feel an urge to return to this place for its sheer beauty of landscape and people. This is the most productive I have felt on a vacation lately especially one that was so short. But there is something to be said for leaving a piece of a place unexplored knowing you will return someday and reconnect with all you fell in love with.
If there was ever a place I would return to just because, Pittsburgh, The City of Bridges, is definitely one of them. This city has created a whole new category of reasons for me to return to a vacation spot.
It turns out Pittsburgh and I go together like French fries on a Primanti sandwich.
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