Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has about just as many native food delicacies as it does bridges, traffic, and construction work. And if you aren’t familiar with the Pittsburgh area, that means that there is a lot.
Pittsburghers of all generations have been raised accustomed to pierogi dinners, free Smiley cookies on their birthdays, and an innate hatred for Hunt’s Ketchup and other subpar condiments. We live our lives naturally piling greasy side dishes onto our sandwiches, valuing cookies as the most important dessert known to man, and demanding only the most high quality lunch meats for our ham sandwiches.
It’s not until you leave the City of Bridges that you realize these food rituals we have grown up cherishing are sadly not practiced anywhere else in the country — at least not to the extent in which we appreciate them, that is.
It’s rare that someone would miss the murky waters of the Ohio, Allegheny and Monongahela rivers, the hazy air laden with ancient smog from the steel industry, or the miles of traffic eternally clogging the Fort Pitt Tunnels when departing the Iron City, but what is always missed is our native food culture — whether it be considered odd or otherwise.
1. Clark Bars
Only Iron City natives can relate to collecting an excessive abundance of the milk chocolate peanut butter candy bars in their Halloween pillowcases every year. Despite the monotony, nothing gives a Pittsburgher more of a sense of home than tearing open the inviting red wrapper of a Clark bar.
Primanti Brother’s started the fad of putting french fries and coleslaw on sandwiches in the early 1930’s, and although the trend has been countlessly copied and imitated in the tri-state area, it is gladly accepted all the same.
After indulging in delicious flavors like Wisconsin Cheddar, Crunchy Caramel, Peanut Butter Cup, or those seasonal flavors, Orville Redenbacher or — God forbid — Pop Secret just won’t cut it. Especially when you can get a 3 gallon tin of Pittsburgh Popcorn shipped nationwide straight to your door (thanks, Mom).
4. Eat’n Park
Denny’s may be “America’s Diner,” but do they have Smiley cookies, Smiley Waffles, and a kick-ass breakfast bar? I think not.
Even though grandma didn’t make them with her own two hands, Mrs. T’s frozen pierogies are still considered a delicacy. Even though the company really has no relation to the city of Pittsburgh (it was actually established in Shenandoah, PA) everyone, including the Pittsburgh Pirates, obsesses over them in the Steel City. If you want to step up your game, though, you’ll take a visit to Piergoies Plus in the McKees Rocks to get a more authentic Polish dish.
Pittsburghers know darn well that people don’t visit historic Kennywood Park for the traditional rides or the rundown, dilapidated Homestead scenery. Rather, visitors embark on their weekend journeys to the amusement park to stand in line at the much sought-after Potato Patch stand, AKA the greasy spoon institution responsible for the best damn cheese fries a person could ever consume.
Maybe everyone else in America accepts Hunt’s as a comparable ketchup competitor, but that is not acceptable. Not one bit. The Steelers don’t play in Hunt’s Field, now do they?
8. Anything Sheetz M-T-O
It is common for Pittsburgh natives to habitually partake in weekly Sheetz runs even while on a full tank of gas. Why else would someone venture out to the trendy gas station, you may ask? Fried mac ‘n cheese bites. Made-to-Order. Case closed.
Isaly’s ritualistically makes an appearance on every Pittsburgher’s weekly grocery list. We’re so serious about our lunch meat that we don’t just settle for chipped ham. It has to be chipped chopped to transparency or else it will be immediately returned to the counter.
10. Klondike Bars
Every Pittsburgh grandmother has boxes upon boxes of these frozen treats stored away in her freezer for her grandkids to devour all year long. Even though they have been a nationwide treat since 1978, it’s safe to say that the city of Pittsburgh appreciates them the most in all their glory.
11. Cookie Tables
It isn’t a party, wedding or family gathering without the famous Pittsburgh cookie table. The platters of lady locks, chocolate chip cookies, Italian pizzelles, and love knots take the dessert lime light, making the otherwise significant wedding or birthday cakes only a side show.