This list of eight Pittsburgh foods together, may actually grant you automatic Pittsburgh residency.
Pittsburgh’s rich culinary history is a blend of myriad immigrant traditions, as the iconic foods in this city can often trace their roots to immigrants from Poland, Germany, Greece, and Italy.
At the same time, many Pittsburgh foods are purely Pittsburgh, invented in the city and beloved for decades.
We’ve curated a list of eight Pittsburgh foods that, together, may actually grant you automatic Pittsburgh residency.
I’m not sure this one truly needs an explanation, but we’ll provide it anyway: Pillowy mounds of potatoes, mingling with onions and spices, are curled up in the embrace of a doughy blanket. Then they’re thrown onto a hot skillet to become martyrs to the cause of comfort food. Flowery language? Only if you’ve never had pierogies.
And many people across the country have not had pierogies! They’re available in Pennsylvania and surrounding states, but otherwise you may meet an out-of-stater who has trouble pronouncing “pierogi.”
Pittsburgh is so into Pierogies that the grocery aisles where you can find this delicacy helpfully include “pierogies” on their signs right under “frozen vegetables” and “frozen dinners.” However, this does make things confusing when you’re looking for Mrs. T’s somewhere out of state.
Primanti Bros. Sandwich
Primanti Brothers’ fame extends across the country, especially across the viewership of Food Network classics like “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” meaning that the sandwich shop attracts a lot of tourists. The traditional Primanti’s sandwich is piled with meats, cheese, slaw, and french fries.
Perhaps you enjoy Primanti’s from time to time, like when you bring visiting friends and family there for the famous sandwich. Or perhaps you think Primanti’s is overrated, and you’re scoffing as you read this. Either way, you’ve certainly tried it.
Cookies from a Cookie Table at a Pittsburgh Wedding
Weddings are great: free food, open bar, and lots of cake. But a Pittsburgh wedding? You get all that and piles of cookies. It’s traditional in Western Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, for friends and family of the wedding couple to bake dozens and dozens of cookies to display at the reception. If you’ve been to a Pittsburgh wedding, you’ve almost certainly enjoyed cookies from a cookie table in addition to the wedding cake. And if you’re too stuffed after dinner, that’s fine; you usually get to take some cookies home.
Mineo’s Pizza vs. Aiello’s Pizza
You surely have picked your favorite of the two. Perhaps you’ve even ordered two pies from each shop at the same time in order to do a proper taste test. I like to think that Aiello’s has the best crust and Mineo’s has the best sauce, so if they combined forces, they’d have the best pizza in the country. Or they’d at least have the building blocks for a romantic comedy circa 2005.
Burnt Almond Torte
Prantl’s, a Pittsburgh bakery with several outposts in the area, baked the first burnt almond torte—a yellow cake with custard and buttercream and covered in toasted almonds—in 1970. Since then, burnt almond torte has risen to the top of Pittsburgh food culture, in that it is regularly discussed as a “must-eat” item for visitors touring the city. The Huffington Post even called it “the best cake America has ever made” in 2014.
Whether or not you’ve tried Prantl’s original, it’s likely you’ve had some form of burnt almond torte in Pittsburgh. The local Giant Eagle grocery store chain, for instance, bakes its own version, as do a few other bakeries in town. You can also find the flavors in other sweet treats across the city, like burnt almond doughnuts at Valkyrie Donuts or almond torte cupcakes at Grandview Bakery.
‘Ketchup?’ you may be thinking. ‘Possibly the country’s most common condiment is on a list of Pittsburgh foods?’
But of course you’re not thinking that, because you’re a Pittsburgher and you nodded at your screen when you saw that Heinz was on this list.
Pittsburghers are particularly loyal to Heinz Ketchup—we buy Heinz even if we get the store brand of every other grocery item, we expect Heinz at others’ barbeques, and when the powers that be change the name of the football stadium from Heinz Field (pithy, easy to pronounce, steeped in Pittsburgh history) to [redacted], we have opinions.
A Pittsburgh salad is like a regular salad, just made a little less healthy with the addition of a handful or two of fresh, hot french fries.
What is it with Pittsburghers and french fries? I’ll tell you: french fries make everything better, especially salads.
Potato Patch Fries
Not only do Pittsburghers eat french fries on sandwiches and salads, but we also eat fries all by themselves! Potato Patch fries are only available at Kennywood Park, Pittsburgh’s very own classic amusement park, which opened in 1898. These iconic fries are fresh cut, fried, and salted right there, and then you can add whatever toppings you fancy, like gravy, vinegar, or cheese.
Not only are Potato Patch fries simply good, but they’re also a staple of a day at Kennywood. Once you’ve ridden the Phantom’s Revenge roller coaster and conquered its 232-foot drop and 85 mph speed, you can reward yourself for your bravery with a bevy of Potato Patch fries.
…But maybe don’t eat them just before you hop on the coaster.