Pittsburgh is a foodie town in the most wonderful and bizarre ways. We’ve got our hipster coffee shops and breweries, endless happy hours, dive bars sports bars, high end restaurants with chef’s tasting menus, and a pretty famous sandwich shop. We even have an urban cider house. But the Pittsburgh food staples we’re looking at today are long-beloved comfort foods. To me, nothing says Pittsburgh eats like comfort food.
Pierogies come to Pittsburgh from Polish immigrants. These dumplings are filled with potatoes and sometimes cheese, onions, or sauerkraut as well. They can be a main dish, a side dish, or even a topping for pizza or a hot dog.
(Okay, maybe they’re only a pizza topping here in the ‘burgh…)
Pittsburghers love pierogies so much that they even race them during the Seventh Inning Stretch at Pirates games.
The Wedding Cookie Table
The origins of the wedding cookie table are a little fuzzy, but everyone in Pittsburgh loves this tradition. Family and friends bake cookies for weeks before the wedding for all of the guests to enjoy. At some weddings, the cookie table is even more important than the cake. No one can really eat all the cookies at the wedding so there are usually take-out containers for everyone to take some home and eat later…maybe even for breakfast the next morning. Any cookies are acceptable but some popular ones are pizzelles, chocolate chip, buckeyes, and lady locks.
If you’re not lucky enough to be invited to a wedding during your trip to Pittsburgh, you can get awesome homemade cookies in the Strip District at tables outside PennMac. I also love the Party Cake Shop in Brookline.
Burnt Almond Torte
If you prefer cake to cookies, then you’ve got to sink your teeth into a Burnt Almond Torte. Several bakeries claim that they were the first Pittsburgh bakery to serve the torte and nearly every bakery in town makes a version of it now. Every Pittsburgher has their favorite place to buy a Burnt Almond Torte at the holidays.
I’m a latecomer to this phenomenon as I only ever had the torte at one bakery (which I won’t name) and found it fine but nothing special.
Then I tried it at Party Cake and I’m now a Burnt Almond Torte convert. It’s yellow cake with a vanilla custard filling covered in frosting and sugared, toasted almond slivers. It sounds simple, but the combination, when done right, is magical.
The H.J. Heinz Company is a Pittsburgh icon. We’re proud that the best ketchup in the world comes from our city. Seriously, there are no other acceptable brands here.
People here also know that Heinz makes much more than just ketchup. Tomato sauce, pickles, gravy, mustard and baby food are all made by Heinz. It’s a huge company that recently merged with Kraft so many of your favorite brands are probably overseen by Heinz.
Up until the 1970’s Klondike’s were only sold in Pennsylvania (made in Pittsburgh) and Ohio (made in Youngstown). It’s hard to imagine since I grew up during the peak of the “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” campaign, but the original Klondike (vanilla ice cream in a hard chocolate shell) was once tough to get outside of the rust belt.
The Isaly family developed these in Ohio, but we’ve adopted these and other Isaly’s products as our own. There are still a couple of Isaly’s locations where you can get other Isaly favorites like chipped chopped ham.
Klondike bars are easy to come by in any grocery store in America. You can also find them in the freezer of any good Pittsburgher. They now come in 13 varieties of bars plus ice cream sandwiches and frozen takes on candy bars.
What’s your favorite Pittsburgh food? And what would you do for a Klondike bar?