Located in the heart of Oakland, home to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, Union Grill could easily be mistaken for just any college hangout. It serves typical bar food and is wildly popular with students and visiting parents. What puts it on the Roadfood must-eat map is that it is also where you will find the city’s best turkey Devonshire.
Legend has it that local restaurant owner Frank Blandi invented the Devonshire in 1934, and we Pittsburghers have been enjoying them ever since. The typical version of this open-faced sandwich features turkey on top of toast, which is then covered with tomatoes and a thick cheddar cheese sauce, and finally topped with bacon. Health food it isn’t! Obviously, it is a close cousin to Kentucky’s Hot Brown.
What distinguishes the Union Grill’s Devonshire is the high quality of the ingredients. Heavy slices of tender oven-roasted turkey are always used, not turkey loaf lunch meat. The bread is thick Italian toast and the tomatoes are always fresh and sweet. The cheese sauce is a pleasant cheese mix; Parmesan is the predominant flavor. Unlike the sauces found in many other restaurants, this one isn’t overly gloppy and doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the sandwich.
There are other good things on the menu, including homemade soups, juicy burgers, and an appetizer of that Pittsburgh staple: buttery, onion-covered, potato and cheese filled pierogies. But for your first visit, you have to try a slice of Pittsburgh culinary history and order the turkey Devonshire.
A couple notes of warning: the Union Grill can get very crowded, so expect a significant wait on weekend nights. And street parking is very limited, so I usually park in the lot for the nearby Carnegie Museums.