You can travel anywhere else in the US, and every major city (other than possibly Cincinnati) has its charms: San Francisco is adorably bizarre and unrelentingly beautiful, New York has the best food on the planet, Philadelphia is the be-all, end-all if you’re an enthusiast of being assaulted on the street by random strangers. But you’ll find few places with as fierce a commitment to their own identity as Pittsburgh.
Make no mistake, the city’s roots are deep blue collar, and everything is designed to make sure you don’t forget it. Even as Pittsburgh’s industry has refocused itself on eminently modern growth industries like robotics, biomedical technology, and (especially) health care, the city still sees itself as working class, and probably always will. The steel mills may be closed now (which, to be fair, is great news for anyone who’d like to be able to breathe the air outside without eventually needing an iron lung), but the shadows they cast are long. Popular legend even holds that the city’s signature food item -- french fries on sandwiches themselves rather than on the side -- came from steelworkers not having enough time on their lunch breaks to eat both a sandwich and fries, so they just smashed them together. In this, as in everything else, Pittsburgh is a city deeply devoted to its own past. Nowhere is this more clear than in the Strip District.