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A Sandwich Eater’s Guide Through Pennsylvania

pat's cheesesteak

Philly Cheesesteak from Pat's King of Steaks in South Philly; photo by Yuri Long/flickr

My dad has always raved about real Philly cheesesteaks that are made (and eaten) in Philly, but I must admit that they’ve never appealed to me. Well, it turns out that the cheesesteak is not Pennsylvania’s only famous sandwich. Foodies will delight in this virtual sandwich tour of a guest post.

Legend has it that John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, was participating in a heated game of poker when his gut told him to get up and eat a proper meal. Instead of leaving the card table to indulge in a variety of meats, he ordered his servants to put meat between two slices of bread. Around 250 years ago, Montagu’s peers couldn’t have fathomed his culinary ingenuity. Today, anyone with access to prepaid phones and a Google Search app can find an amazing sandwich.

It’s no coincidence that around 250 years ago, residents of Pennsylvania decided to go against the British government’s tyrannical rule and form a new country based on life, liberty, and the pursuit of condiments. The home of Benjamin Franklin, the Liberty Bell, and The Continental Congress is now the premier sandwich capital of the US.

Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA is the birthplace of The American Revolution and the first Capitol of this country. From their sports teams, to their notoriously advanced research colleges; everything that happens in Philadelphia is a serious matter.
Signature Sandwich: Residents of Philadelphia don’t mess around with their cheesesteaks. It might be called The City of Brotherly Love, but there is no toleration for inferior sandwiches in the Philadelphia city limits. A proper cheesesteak contains a base freshly chopped beef mixed with onions, peppers, and mushrooms. Then the cheese must be American, Provel, or Cheez Wiz; no exceptions. Finally the ingredients should be served on a fresh Amoroso roll.

primanti bros sandwich

Sandwich from Primanti Bros by Wally Gobetz/flickr

Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA, was once known as the largest steel producing city in America. After all of the jobs packed up and headed overseas, Pittsburgh has remained the largest economic stronghold within the Appalachian mountain chain with its important healthcare, financial, and robotics industries.
Signature Sandwich: By using the Earl of Sandwich’s idea and taking it a step further; The Primanti Brothers chain of restaurants has created a Pittsburgh staple residents have been enjoying since the 1930’s. A normal person would take two slices of bread, slap some meat, cheese, maybe a few veggies in there then call it a day. The Primanti brothers decided to disregard separate side dishes and toss the cole slaw and fries in with the sandwich.

scrapple egg and cheese

A scrapple, egg and cheese sandwich; photo by Robyn Lee/flickr

Rural Pennsylvania and Old Dutch Staples
Most of rural Pennsylvania is located within the Appalachian mountain range and is the home to the Amish order of Mennonites. Pennsylvania Dutch Country has been slower to evolve into society than the rest of the state and still retains plenty of old charm.
Signature Sandwich: Imagine all of the parts of a pig that are not used for mass consumption; the head, heart, liver, kidneys, and other parts not often seen at your local grocer. Now mash that up with a bunch of cornmeal, fry it up on a griddle, and put it between two pieces of white bread and you have Scrapple. This dish is typically enjoyed with eggs and is a breakfast staple for parts of the Mid-Atlantic region.

San Francisco might have Rice-a-Roni and New York might have their pizza; but the entire state of Pennsylvania has a monopoly on the innovative sandwich market.

One Response to A Sandwich Eater’s Guide Through Pennsylvania

  1. Josh Aggars September 30, 2011 at 9:27 am #

    Oh my, that pic from Pat’s King of Steaks has made me hungry! That looks absolutely amazing. How could something like that never have appealed to you? :-) Your Dad clearly knows his steak sandwiches.

    Not so sure about the Primanti Bros sandwich though. That looks like they’ve shoe horned every last thing in the kitchen into it. I’m all for fusion food but sometimes less is more.

    Cheers for the guide
    Josh Aggars recently posted..Rio de Janeiro Street Art Photo Essay

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