Pittsburghers love their potatoes -- from fries on sandwiches and salads to pierogi at the city's annual Pierogi Festival -- they slot neatly into the city's firm working class- and immigrant-influenced culinary history. The fry-stuffed sandwich and its (somewhat fuzzy) origins is a prime example. Legend has it that the sandwich was created for busy truck drivers in Depression-era Pittsburgh so they could eat one-handed on the job. Instead of a sandwich with fries and coleslaw on the side, which would require a seat at the deli counter to consume, you get all of this slapped between two thick slices of Italian bread. It is this perfect multitasking sandwich that turned Pittsburgh into a contender for one of the best sandwich cities in the U.S.
Now, do you want to eat the sandwich while driving? Experience says no. Besides being dangerous -- eating or drinking while driving increases your risk of being in a crash -- it's super messy. There's no way to neatly (or safely) eat it. It's a big sandwich, and it's filled with unwieldy ingredients and is therefore structurally unsound. It flops over, tomatoes and coleslaw slide out -- it's just not a good idea for enjoyable eating or safe driving. But it's still worthy of our admiration and praise.
The Primanti Bros. Sandwich Is Customizable, But Best Enjoyed Whilst Sitting Down
As seen on an episode of "Man V. Food", a Pittsburgh fry sandwich is like a more robust chip butty or a Reuben sandwich with fries stuffed between the sauerkraut and corned beef. The sandwich is made with thick slices of soft Italian bread, and the fillings are piled high -- french fries, provolone, a tangy coleslaw, tomatoes, and meat. The sandwiches are listed on their menu as "Almost Famous Sandwiches." The meat/protein options are not your average sandwich shop choices -- Angus sirloin, capicola, egg, kielbasa, chicken, Genoa salami, fish, and there's even a bean burger for the vegetarians and vegans among us. Everything comes with cheese, and, of course, add-ons like onions, bacon, or extra cheese are extra. It's customizable within limits, but it just kind of makes sense exactly as it is.
There's no sauce or mayonnaise on the sandwich, but the tomato and coleslaw add plenty of juiciness. However, if you want condiments, it is recommended you add your mustard or ketchup while seated at the sandwich shop -- not while waiting at a red light.
Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention...or A Happy Accident
The Strip District of Pittsburgh -- though now home to boutique shops, international and specialty food shops, and some of the best restaurants in the city -- was once an industrial hub, home to the city's mills, foundries, and factories. In the mornings it was busy with the comings and goings of food wholesalers. The area was a hub of activity thanks to the railroad nearby. This is where Primanti Bros. comes in.
It was 1933, and Joe Primanti was running a small lunch counter in The Strip District, catering to the blue-collar workers there. According to the origin story from the Primanti Bros. website, founder Joe's nephew John DiPriter explains: "One winter someone drove up with a load of potatoes. He brought them over to the restaurant to see if they were frozen. I fried the potatoes on our grill and they looked pretty good. A few customers asked for them -- so I tossed them on the sandwich." The combination took off. The drivers found it convenient because they could drive their truck and consume a whole meal they could hold in one hand, without needing to pause longer than it took to order a sandwich ... supposedly.
You Can Have A Taste Of Primanti Bros. At Home For A Price
If you're planning on going to Pennsylvania anytime soon there are 19 Primanti Bros. sandwich shops in western Pennsylvania, with locations steadily marching east (watch out Philly cheesesteaks!). If you live in Maryland, Florida, Ohio, or West Virginia you're in luck, because you can find a Primanti Bros. sandwich shop in any of those states.
If you're in any other state you can have your Primanti Bros. sandwich delivered. Yes, through the magic of the internet and overnight shipping, you can have a sandwich pack delivered to your door for $104.95 via Goldbelly. They'll send you everything you need for four Primanti Bros. sandwiches -- your choice of meat (pastrami, capicola, roast beef, corned beef, Genoa salami), a loaf of Italian bread, tomatoes, coleslaw, fries, Provolone cheese, and hot sauce. They also include cooking instructions. It might lose a bit of the magic without the Pittsburgh-infused ambiance of a Primanti Bros. shop, but at least you'll get the essence -- just don't try driving while you're eating it.
Read the original article on Mashed.