I'm talkin' 'bout Pittsburgh with an “H” on the end, not the small California town on Susuin Bay. The Three Rivers town, where the Allegheny and Monogahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio. Home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Penguins and the Steelers. I can tell if you’re from “the ‘Burgh” if you pronounce their team’s name “Stillers.”
If you were in the Deep South, you might hear an expression such as:
"Y'all are a buncha damn fools."
In Pittsburgh, that translates as:
"Yinz jag offs!"
There is a whole range of unique Pittsburgh dialectical terminology, much of it indexed to their particular gastronomy. I worked in Pittsburgh for more than a year in my twenties and loved the town—all Western Pennsylvania, in fact. It's fun to learn the language--literally. From the "chipped ham sammitches," "kilbassa," "pisghetti" dinners or" hoagies," there's a lot to love. For a glossary of Pittsburghese, cut and paste this link:
My last visit to the ‘Burgh was on the occasion of a baseball trip that I took with my good friend Mike. We connected with my old buddy Mark, who I’d met during my two-year Pittsburgh sojourn in the early Eighties. (Mark and I met in a night class at the University of Pittsburgh).
I do not remember who won or who played against the Pirates game, but that wasn't he point. Mike had never been to the ‘Burgh before, and even though he didn’t recall Mark from my wedding many years before, they got on famously. Easy conversations were struck up with random seatmates , fellow pedestrians coming to and from the stadium, folks in line for a kilbassa or Iron City beer. We sampled the local cuisine, drank in the view of the golden-colored Allegheny Bridge and the lovely cityscape that formed the right field backdrop, and we laughed the night away.
“This is the best ballpark—next to AT&T—in the majors,” Mike said. Quite a statement from my fellow SF Giants season ticket-holder. “But this town is flat-out great. The people are so damn friendly. I really mean it. Lots of places claim to be friendly, but everyone here walks around with a great attitude and they’re sharin’ the love.” That feeling is contagious: cue "What a Feeling," the hit song from Flashdance, filmed on location when I was living there.
For our brunch the next day, we went to one of my favorite old haunts. Primanti Brothers is a restaurant and bar in the Strip District, a warehouse neighborhood sandwiched between the hills and the Allegheny River east of downtown. Mark had introduced me to this true slice of life in the Three Rivers City decades before. Then, it had been difficult to find Mark in the warren of streets clogged with produce carts and delivery trucks. My how times had changed. This time, I found that most of the neighborhood buildings were the same, but spiffed and polished. Restaurants and retail establishments dotted the area. The Strip District had become trendy.
Primanti Brothers was still the same, homey eatery, and packed with customers as always, but now there were nearly as many polo shirts as overalls filling the joint. Their soups are now world-famous, but it’s the sandwiches we come for. Fries and slaw are piled high on top of your sandwich or burger—my favorite is pastrami and cheese. It may sound a little off, but it tastes mmm good! Just keep your cardiologist on speed-dial, will ya? Framed and signed photos of TV celebrity chefs and travel hosts who’ve made the pilgrimage may don the walls, but this destination restaurant hasn’t lost any of its unique flavor.
Pittsburgh is definitely charming.
Reinvented as a center of education, medicine and high-tech, the ‘Burgh retains the unique character of its rust-belt roots. Pittsburgh's dramatic location and idiosyncratic natives will surprise,you. It's a special and essential community that is a truly American experience.