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Cameron Goes North: Pittsburgh, Day 1

PNC Park with the most people you'll se in it all year.
PNC Park with the most people you’ll se in it all year.

After a seven-and-a-half hour drive from Virginia to Pennsylvania that was only supposed to take six and a marginally good night’s sleep, I woke up in Pittsburgh to see snow falling on my friend Bobby’s deck. Sorry, shorts I foolishly packed. It’s not going to be your week.

The snow could’ve gotten us down – our friend Christine, joining us from Buffalo, had seen enough of it recently – but we had motivation in the form of lunch. Primanti Brothers sandwiches awaited us.

Capicola + cheese + hand-cut fries + homemade slaw + tomatoes = food coma.

With multiple Primanti’s locations to choose from, we chose the original in the Pittsburgh strip for the most authentic experience possible. Bobby, my freshman year roommate at USC, has been harping on me to make a road trip if only to try this sandwich for years. It didn’t disappoint.

What sticks out with Primanti’s, outside of the unconventional move of putting fries on the sandwich, is the freshness of the ingredients. I’m generally not a fan of coleslaw, at least how it’s often served in the South, because its thick mayo coat softens the vegetables into a grotesque paste. The slaw at Primanti’s is the exact opposite, providing an excellent crunch and forgoing the mayo for a peppery, vinegar based dressing that goes perfectly with the spicy capicola. The ripe tomato slice and the creaminess of the melted provolone balances the crunch factor, and all ingredients are held in by two slices of fresh baked french bread. The sandwich was an experience I won’t soon forget and hope to enjoy again today, time and appetite willing. Strike that, just time willing.

After walking off our food coma, the three of us waded through the largest pack of Pirates fans you’ll ever see for their season opener against the Cubs. As a Braves fan, I feel slightly guilty that the Pirates haven’t had a winning season since 1992 (see “The Slide” – thanks, Sid). Therefore, I had on my only black and yellow shirt and was ready to toss back some oat sodas in support of the Buccos with 35,000 Pittsburgh residents all skipping work.

Iron City – fueling angry Pirates fans since 1850.

My goal at the game was to drink only beers brewed in Pennsylvania (which I succeeded). After being passed over by the only beer vendor I saw in the first half hour, I headed to a concession stand and procured a Yuengling. If you don’t know about Yuengling already, crawl out from under your rock, pawn the iPad 2 you’re using to read this and head to a grocery store to buy yourself a six-pack. Later in the game, I had to grab an Iron City Lager from the most frustrating vendor in the stadium who thought my South Carolina ID was a fake. IC is a classic American lager, akin to Budweiser, but with a darker, maltier body, making it more enjoyable in my opinion. Not a high-class brew by any means, but at roughly $6-7 a six-pack at your local Total Wine, it’s well worth trying to have your own Steel City beer experience.

In the middle of the 6th inning, the real reason I came to Pittsburgh finally happened – the famed Pirates pierogi race. I had my money on Onion. Much to my chagrin, Chester Cheese took the checkered flag in a photo finish. Still, it was every bit as ridiculous as I’d hoped it’d be – and that’s as ridiculous as four humans racing around an outfield dressed as Polish dumplings.

Pirates Race
Fucking Chester Cheese, man.

Sadly, my attempt to get into the Pittsburgh spirit couldn’t help the team, as they fell to the Cubs 3 – 1. It’s more of the same for Pirates fans and just what I expected, so I don’t feel any worse for their fan base. However, I do feel bad for the owners and operators of PNC Park. It’s one of the newest and nicest ballparks I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and it’s a damn shame that attendance won’t nearly reach Opening Day numbers for the rest of the season.

Day one in Pittsburgh was highly entertaining, satisfying my love for sandwiches, beer and sports. Day two, I hope to mainly satisfy my love of beer and find some great area craft brews.

Until tomorrow.

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