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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Destination: Pittsburgh

So, as you know, I recently got married. J and I did a LOT of driving in the month or so after. And of course, we kind of planned our road trips around, um, food. More importantly, restaurants, dives, and beers...with some good friends and sporting events thrown in to keep us well rounded. Since I promised this blog would deliver MORE than just recipes, I thought I'd share a few of our favorite road trip stories along the way, and I'm starting with the most epic. Pittsburgh. 

Yes, that's right. I said Pittsburgh, PA. 
Where to begin? (Warning. This blog is a bit long, but so, so worth it!)
When J and I decided to hit the road a bit early (before heading to NY for the 2nd incarnation of our wedding), it was inevitable that we would eat. I mean, everyone has to eat. But post-wedding dieting and working out had left us both (even him) starving for something new, exciting, and yes, freaking delicious!

Philly came first in our minds, mainly because we have very good friends there with an adorable 1 year old son who we did not get to spend nearly enough time with at our wedding. (I say mainly, but I'm wrong. It was 50% about the Duffy clan, and 50% about J FINALLY taking me to Ishkabibble's for a cheesesteak. Since we've known each other, he has been singing the praises of Ishkabibble's. No Pat's/Gino's war for J. It's Ish, or nothing. And looky-loo, it's 2 blocks from our friends house!)
So, Philly, check. drive straight through to Philly? Nah. Where to stop? Cleveland? A definite thought. And then J..."Pittsburgh for Primanti Brothers." Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. I pricelined a great rate/great room in Pittsburgh, and we were on our way. A road trip was born. (By the way, you'll notice that through reading my traveling posts to come that I am OBSESSED with Priceline. It's genius.)

Neither J nor I had been to Pittsburgh in years, and were both excited and straight up geeked to eat at Primanti Brothers. Yes, the famous, always featured on the food network/Travel channel/PBS Primanti Brothers. You see, my brother in law went to college at Pitt, and I had heard tales of the legendary sandwich. And every time it's featured on a food or travel show, we drool. You know the one...the sandwich with the coleslaw and the fries RIGHT ON THE SANDWICH? How could it NOT be good! 

Sidenote: my genius new husband stubhubbed amazing tickets for the Pirates game the night we were in town. We love baseball, we love stadiums, and we'd never been. 

So...armed with some vital text messaged info from my brother-in-law dictating directions to immediately order an "Imp and an Iron", we made our way through the streets of Pittsburgh to the ORIGINAL Primanti Brothers. You can eat Primanti's at the stadium, or another "branch" of the restaurant. Not for us. We wanted it real, raw, and all the way. Upon entering, you immediately both fall in love and feel slightly intimidated. It's history smacking you in the face--you can almost see the ghosts of the steel workers sitting at the counter, chomping down on a mean sandwich with an Iron City beer. We immediately asked the very burly (yet sweet as a kitten) man behind the counter " we need an Imp and an Iron--is that a beer?" He chuckled and explained that it is a shot of Imperial Whiskey and an Iron City beer, and told us to sit down. It was 3pm, we had been driving all morning, and we had a game to go to that night. But yes, of course we'll have the shot of whiskey and the beer. 

The menu at Primanti Brothers is on the wall, both above and opposite the counter, and calls the Pittsburgh Cheesesteak the Number 2 seller. But there's no number 1. There has to be a number 1! Again, we called over our amazing new friend and asked him.  "Iron City is the number 1." Of course!

We ordered a Pittsburgh Cheesesteak and the Pastrami with a fried egg on top. Our friend said that was a close second to the cheesesteak, and J is slowly introducing me to the theory that everything tastes better with a fried egg on top. We also got fries with cheese on the side (as directed by the aforementioned brother-in-law.) We downed our shot, started sipping the Iron City, and waited. Mere minutes passed before we were greeted by a stunning display of culinary wonder. Italian white bread, dripping with vinegar-based coleslaw, beautiful fries, and meat. Lots of meat. 

The Pittsburgh cheesesteak is actually a patty--very delicious, I must say. But in all honesty, the Pastrami was where it was AT!  We split the two sandwiches, assuming J would eat 3 halves and I would eat one. After all, I'm a delicate wisp of a lady who would never dare to eat a full sandwich. PSHAW! I put those 2 halves away like I was getting paid, and downed my beer in enough time to order a second. 

And the fries. You would think that if your sandwich HAD fries IN it, you wouldn't need fries on the side.'d be wrong. Delightful, crispy, dipped in a cheese sauce I NEVER want the recipe for. We ate, and ate, and ate.

The whiskey must have gotten to both of us, because we were convinced that Iron City was the best beer Pittsburgh could have to offer. (In the home state of Yuengling? We should be ashamed of ourselves.) We wanted to buy cases of it, bring it back to Michigan for all of our friends to enjoy and love! (This soon passed, for the record.) We left Primanti Brothers with our bellies full of food and beer, knowing that we had just eaten a piece of history, and being thankful we had 19 blocks to attempt to let the food settle before heading over the bridge to the game.

A quick nap and a shower, and we were back in business! Now, having never been to either a Pirates or Steelers game, I had no idea how amazing the walk to the stadium was. You walk over a bridge, and there they are, in all their glory. Beautiful pieces of sports nirvana, perched just over a river. At sunset, with people all around, it really was gorgeous. We bought some water (because you can buy it cheaper OUTSIDE the stadium and bring it in as long as it's unopened) and slowly walked across the bridge, listening to a busker play Beyonce's 'All the Single Ladies' on the sax. (Hilarious, yes.)

The stadium is owned by PNC, and upon walking in, I had a feeling like I was walking into Disney World. As a Cubs/Yankee fan, it was a bit much for me. I like the dirt, the grit, the old-timeyness of Wrigley, and the grime of the old Yankee stadium. But, neon aside, it was architecturally very cool to see. It's a small stadium, filled with a small number of fans, sadly. We were there to see the Phillies play the Pirates, and the red jerseys far outnumbered the black. 

After finding our ridiculously good seats (again, the Pirates, not a sell out crowd) we embarked upon the task of finding a beer that didn't cost $10. Not that possible. We started out with a draft pour of an Iron City dark, that neither of us liked particularly. We got to our seats (seated between die hard Phillie fans and die hard Pirates fans) and BAM! We saw the most heavenly sight a midwestern couple can see. A stadium worker, selling 20oz cans of YUENGLING, right there. Just like Old Style at Wrigley! Right there. Sigh. We chugged the beers we didn't enjoy (come on, they cost $10 each!) and decided we needed to make friends with the Yuengling dude. And we did. 

3 beers later, the game was over. The Pirates lost, though in extra innings with a good fight. We learned that Pittsburgh fans are adamant that they don't care about baseball, since they've got championship football and hockey teams. They feel very strongly about this. But more importantly, we walked back over that bridge feeling like kids. Slightly drunk, having eaten an amazing lunch, and wondering what kind of food options we'd find in the hotel. 

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