Pittsburgh restaurants and bars

We tried the new Primanti Bros. Polish Hill pierogi sandwich and have one criticism

We want the fries, too.

Peak Pittsburgh.

Peak Pittsburgh.

Photo courtesy of Shane Culgan

Updated 4:20 p.m. June 8

Sometimes it’s not a question of “could it be done?” but rather “should it be done?”

This is true of dog pants but also food.

And it’s especially true of Primanti Bros.’ new Polish Hill sandwich, a gargantuan gastronomic mashup as tall, steep and crowded as the neighborhood it’s named for.

If peak yinzer had an official dish, this would be it.

Primanti Bros. unveiled the Polish Hill sandwich at its Market Square location today with plenty of Pittsburgh pomp and circumstance. The Mrs. T’s Pierogi Racers from PNC Park posed for photos and famed Primanti Bros. server Toni Haggerty chatted with guests while a Grammy-nominated accordion player provided background music.

Primanti Bros. teamed up with Mrs. T’s Pierogies to create the sandwich, which is available at locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Michigan now through mid-August.

“Since we have so many Polish people in town, in the Pittsburgh area, we figured ‘oh why don’t we put pierogies on it?’” Haggerty said.

We tried it out (you can watch below).

First thoughts: We miss the fries.

Granted, we’ve never had Mrs. T’s Pierogies — the brand used here — that weren’t freezer-burned and dried into husks in our misguided cooking attempts, but they didn’t add much in this case except maybe a cross-promotional opportunity and adherence to a theme. Pierogies are a flavor sponge, and we’d recommend bamming these up by cooking them in more butter and onions.

With apologies to our doctors, we’d also recommend topping the Polish Hill with a few french fries. Sure, the sandwich isn’t lacking for carbs or caloric intake, but the fries add crunch, a bit of saltiness and some texture. Plus, they serve as an important vehicle for Heinz Ketchup.

Three pierogies per sandwich.

Three pierogies per sandwich.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Seconds: Kielbasa + Primanti’s = 4eva.

The kielbasa was a solid base for everything placed atop it, the truss in this feat of food engineering. It was lightly grilled and slightly toothsome — a little unwieldy but good and super filling. We expect to be hungry again by Labor Day. Also, if this is your lunch break, maybe leave a little wiggle room in your schedule for an afternoon nap.

Thirds: That mustard, tho.

The house-made mustard was arguably the best part. And while the pierogies didn’t add much overall or play very well off the sausage, they sang when combined with this mustard, like a Fourth Tenor. Primanti’s, if you’re reading this, I think we’ve found your new side dish. And if this is already a side dish, we’d like to make another reservation asap. Thx.

Fourths: Fried coleslaw is a revelation.

Hard to explain this one, but when fried or touched on a grill, something magical happens to ordinary coleslaw — although I’m sure Primanti’s would take issue with the use of “ordinary” in describing theirs. In this case, it softens and gets a little tarter. It conjures up tastes reminiscent of sauerkraut, which worked here, when combined with the mustard and sausage. In summary, if central Pennsylvania and western Pennsylvania had a cabbage baby, this would be it, and it would be a powerful child.

Fifths: The bread.

Same Italian bread. Same tomato slice hanging on for dear life. The more things change …

First bites.

Miraculously, two pieces of Italian bread hold this whole thing together.

The Incline

The backstory

Both brands have long histories in Pennsylvania.

You probably know Primanti’s story: Joe Primanti opened a cart in the Strip District selling sandwiches to hungry truckers who were coming and going at all times of the night in the 1930s. Then, he expanded to a small storefront on 18th Street.

As for Mrs. T’s, it all began a little further east at a grocery store in Shenandoah, where Ted Twardzik Sr. dreamed of starting a food company inspired by his mother’s pierogies. In 1952, he sold his first batch to the local grocery store in honor of his mom, Mary Twardzik – the Mrs. T.

So in a way, this sandwich embodies Pennsylvania — with its pierogies and Yuengling mustard. And it definitely fits the original intention of quenching a fierce hunger.

The verdict

Yes, to answer the lead-in question, it’s obvious this could be done. Primanti’s has proven that time and time again. As for whether it should be done, we’d say yes. This sandwich works, the ingredients work together, and it’s enough to feed a small army for less than $10.

So try one and if you disagree, you can tell us about it here: @billpeduto.

In the meantime, if you need us, we’ll be napping at our desks.

Want some more? Explore other Pittsburgh restaurants and bars stories.

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