What To Eat in Pennsylvania
Definitive cheese steaks and their close cousin, the roast pork sandwich, plus big soft pretzels make Philadelphia a worthy Roadfood destination. The city of Pittsburgh is an eater’s paradise for all sorts of good reasons. These include grazing through the bustle of the 24/7 Strip District where attractions include sensational fried fish and piled-high sandwiches that include French fries and slaw at the legendary Primanti’s. Italian, Polish, and Hungarian fare of the highest quality are found in little-known eateries throughout the city. Every eating trip through Pennsylvania should include a visit to Pennsylvania Dutch country for groaning-board meals, hand-crafted sausages, snickerdoodles, and whoopie pies.
Everyone knows about Philly cheese steaks, but a handful of local sandwich shops up the ante with a similar-looking but more deluxe roast pork sandwich: moist, sweet meat forked from a drippy trough and piled into a seeded roll, then supplemented by clumps of spinach or broccoli rabe sautéed in olive oil with plenty of garlic. Forget cheese; here, it is only a distraction.
Pittsburgh's Devonshire is a hot, open-face sandwich of sliced turkey and bacon on toast, smothered with cheddar cheese sauce. It is said to have been created at the Stratford restaurant by Frank Blandi, who went on to become one of the city's best-known restaurateurs. Steel City chefs do not hesitate to elaborate on the formula, substituting crab, chicken, and/or vegetables for the turkey or garnishing the sandwich with tomatoes ... or even with French fries, like a Springfield, Illinois, horseshoe. Needless to say, utensils are required.
In Scranton and Pittsburgh and points between, Pennsylvania has its own unique ways with Pizza. Sure, you'll find plenty of traditional Neapolitan-American pies, made in circles and cut into triangles, but pizza cuts are something else. The pie is rectangular as are its cuts (aka slices). Out in the western part of the state, into West Virginia, yeasty, thick-crusted trays (pies) get cooked with only tomato sauce on top. Pulled from the oven, the cuts are only then topped with cheese and whatever ingredients you want. Strange, messy, and curiously addictive!
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The Devonshire, a sandwich unique to Pittsburgh, is great at the Union Grill, where heavy slices of freshly roasted turkey are always the foundation.
Center City is the factory from which some of Philadelphia's best soft pretzels come. Buy them warm, by the bagful.
Raised and glazed cake donuts and cream puffs are best bets at Oram's. Must eat: the hugely satisfying cinnamon roll.
Prantl's Bakery burnt almond torte, a Pittsburgh classic, is soft custard-filled butter cake with buttercream frosting and toasted sugared almond slivers.
Steve's just might be the best traditional Philadelphia cheese steak: a classic topped with Whiz and grilled onions, packed into a shaft of quality bread.
Browned and crusty Hatfield franks are topped with onion, mustard and Yocco's famous spicy sauce. An irresistible combo in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Appointment-only dinners at Pittsburgh's Jozsa Corner feature such superb Hungarian comfort food as chicken paprikash, haluska, and goulash.
Head to Ambridge, PA to Pizza House, AKA Police Station Pizza, for Ohio Valley-style pizza, where cold toppings are applied after it comes out of the oven.
For well under $10, lunch at Pete's on chili dogs, fried pierogies and a carton of chocolate milk: a soulful taste of Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley.