Is there anything more satisfying than biting into a truly great sandwich? Whether it’s built on fresh-baked bread or piled high with pickled vegetables, crafting a quality sandwich takes loads more talent and care than just shoving some meat and cheese into a bun -- and sandwiches mean a lot to Pittsburghers. Not only is the sandwich one of our city’s most iconic dishes (thanks to the world-famous Primanti Bros. and their "Pittsburgh-style" fries-and-slaw invention), but in the last few years, we’ve seen some seriously talented chefs forego opening fine dining establishments to flex their sandwich-making muscles in smaller spots around the city.
That’s why we've put together this road map to Pittsburgh’s very best sandwiches. From iconic originals to unique up-and-comers, these sandwich-makers are at the top of their game right now.
South Side Casual deli and bar with massive sandwiches and a huge local beer list Carson Street Deli allows sandwich fans to create their own meals, with a healthy selection of breads, meats, cheese, vegetables and condiments for complete customization. The bustling shop also offers more than two dozen signature sandwiches, with concoctions like The Beast (roast beef, melted cheddar, blackened caramelized onions, roasted red peppers and Sriracha mayo) and The Three Little Pigs, a hefty pork-centric option with sliced honey-baked ham, smoked pulled pork and bacon. Wash it all down with one of their 300+ craft beers. What you're getting: The Beast
Garfield Small pizzeria offering traditional hoagies and wings with vegan/vegetarian varieties Although the mighty Spak Brothers are known for serving some of the best pizza in town, their hoagies have become a Pittsburgh favorite, thanks in part to their expanded vegan and vegetarian options. While you can order meat-heavy classics at this tiny counter-service spot (like an Italian and a "Pittsburgh Steak," loaded with French fries), we suggest opting for the Seitan Melt, smothered in BBQ or Buffalo sauce, whether you’re a meat-eater or not. What you're getting: The Seitan Melt
Millvale Small sandwich shop with an inventive, rotating menu There’s a lot to love about Duncan Street Sandwich Shop. From the team behind the popular underground supper club Duncan Street Dinners, this tiny brick-and-mortar sandwich restaurant serves a small menu of inventive sandwiches, like their popular “Everything” Pork: a two-handed affair made with roasted pork, “everything” seasoning, and a house-pickled red onion jam. They also make daily-changing salads and homemade sides, and for dessert? Their own sweet puffed-rice cereal “Crispies” in flavors like rosemary/lemon/mint and chocolate mint. What you're getting: The Everything Pork
Strip District No-nonsense, old-school sandwich spot serving Jewish-style deli foods You’ll find all the classics at this old-school deli, in its original (since 2001) location in the Strip District. Order a Reuben or a Rachel for lunch, or get a little crazy and get your corned beef sandwiched between two homemade potato latkes. Don’t overlook the homemade soup selections here, either, including "Phyllis’s World Famous Matzo Ball Soup," a warming dish that lives up to its name. What you're getting: The Reuben
Swissvale A Pittsburgh staple for more than 65 years, serving huge hoagies with a full bar You can’t mention Pittsburgh hoagies without mentioning the Triangle Bar & Grille; it's also one of our 33 favorite sandwich shops in the entire country. This local institution has been serving “Battleships” (aka outrageously large, 27-inch Italian sandwiches) for more than 60 years from its old-school corner lot in Swissvale. The original Italian is the biggest seller at this cash-only joint, packed proudly with salami, ham, provolone, lettuce, tomato, and onion. Triangle also offers hoagies with roast beef, corned beef, turkey, ham, capicola, and pastrami; whatever you get, you'll be ordering by the size, from the "Super Battleship" (a Battleship with double the meat) down to the "Torpedo" (a 6-inch hoagie), depending on how hungry you are. What you're getting: The original Italian Battleship
Multiple locations Low-key local sandwich chain with inventive orders With unique locations dotted all over the city (from their hole-in-the-wall Strip District joint to a converted diner car in Point Breeze), you’re never far from a fantastic Peppi's hoagie. This cash-only chain is known for killer hoagies, cheesesteaks, and chicken cheesesteaks. Create your own, or order off the menu with interesting options that include the Blazin Saddle (steak with ultra-hot sauce), the #7 (a burger with sausage, egg, and American cheese), and the Santucci: a “wonderfully messy” Italian sub with meats, provolone, and grilled peppers, mushrooms and onions. What you're getting: The #7
Troy Hill Friendly café featuring seriously good coffee, breakfast sandwiches, and hoagies While the spacious Pear & the Pickle Café is (rightfully) known for its incredible bodega-style breakfast sandwiches, lunchtime visits are just as special thanks to the selection of seriously stuffed sandwiches. There are plenty of hot options (standouts include the Homemade Meatloaf sandwich, and the Turkey Reuben), but if you can only choose one, go with the cold Rialto: named after the super-steep street that leads you right to the cafe’s front door, it's a classic Italian hoagie with sweet sliced ham, pepperoni, capicola, sweet onions, peppers, and doused in a delicious Italian dressing. What you're getting: The Rialto
Multiple locations Tiny sandwich shop with multiple locations and friendly service Not only does Uncle Sam’s Sandwich Bar have fantastic sandwiches, but they're also well-known for their massive piles of crispy, skinny fries -- as they should be. Step inside one of their four locations for an old-school sandwich shop experience, with diner-style counter service and a staff that treats you like family. From the Filet Mignon Steak Sub to the Special Italian Sub, you’re going to want to go right for the "specialities" section on the menu, where Uncle Sam’s sandwich specialists have created some mouthwatering selections. What you're getting: Uncle Sam’s Special Steak
Multiple locations A Pittsburgh original, with iconic sandwiches, piled high with French fries and coleslaw Any Pittsburgh sandwich roundup has to feature this iconic Pittsburgh-based restaurant chain. Primanti's fries- and coleslaw-topped ‘wiches put Pittsburgh on the map for crazy food combos, and they’re as beloved today as they were when the restaurant first opened in 1933. No matter what you order here, you’re in for a treat. From the Pitts-burger (proudly listed as their #2 best seller) to the Colossal Fish & Cheese, every sandwich on the menu is a tried-and-true standout, made even better by being served on their soft Italian bread, and with the aforementioned fries and slaw. If you’re visiting town, and have some time, it’s worth it to make a pilgrimage to the original Strip District location to soak in the atmosphere at this legendary eatery. The lines can be long (especially after last call), but it’s a small price to pay for a taste of Pittsburgh food history. If it's an especially beautiful Pittsburgh day, head to the Market Square location for an outdoor table and some people-watching with your meal. What you're getting: Capicola & Cheese
Downtown Bakery and café with fresh, healthy sandwiches and salads If you find yourself wandering Downtown (and feeling a little hungry), chances are you’re going to make your way to Bluebird Kitchen: the bustling, light-filled cafe that’s been a hit with the downtown office crowd since it first opened in 2012. The uber-popular restaurant’s two locations serve breakfast (the local fried egg sandwich is a favorite) and lunch. All sandwiches are served on house-baked bread and rolls, and the Croque Monsieur (served with rosemary ham, emmentaler, and a creamy bechamel) is well worth the inevitable lunch line. What you're getting: The Croque Monsieur
Bloomfield Tiny counter spot serving breakfast and lunch Everything is always fresh at Becca Hegarty’s Bitter Ends Garden & Luncheonette… like, really fresh, because almost all of the produce is sourced from the restaurant’s own micro-garden located just outside of the city. That’s why when the Veggie Hoagie is on the menu (and it almost always is), it’s the one to order; made with whatever happens to be in season at the moment, from marinated asparagus sunflower shoots, it’s a substantial choice that even avowed meat-eaters will love. Bitter Ends also serves homemade soup, and some of the city’s very best toast, usually topped with cheese and honey. What you're getting: Veggie Hoagie
Strip District All-day café, deli, and restaurant serving everything homemade There’s a lot going on at DiAnoia’s Eatery, from their quick breakfast service (house-made Italian pastries and espresso, anyone?) to their fresh pasta dinners. During the day, the restaurant turns into a deli offering hearty standout sandwiches, like eggplant Parmesan, classic meatball, and Lebanon sweet bologna. Get ready to sit down and stay awhile, because these sandwiches are meant to be savored. What you're getting: “Ham & Cheese”
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Emily Catalano is the creator of Good Food Pittsburgh, a site devoted to all of the good food that her hometown has to offer. She loves fries on her salad, Jalapeño Hannah, and any event with a cookie table. Follow her at @emcatalano.