Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pittsburgh vs. Arizona in the Super Bowl (of "Killer" Sandwiches)

Tomorrow is the Super Bowl, and I think I can speak for all New York Giants fans when I say, "who the [expletive deleted] cares?" So, pardon me if this post is a little negative, but I just can’t get up for this second-rate match-up. By the way, thanks Eagles - you beat the Giants and then lose to the Cardinals? Yo, Philly, are you [expletive deleted] kidding me?

But, I wouldn’t be doing my food journalist duties if I ignored the game completely, so I present below a video battle between the most famous sandwich places from each local. You be the judge as to which spot takes the trophy for gastronomical insanity.

First we have Primanti Brother, a Pittsburgh icon famous for huge sandwiches filled with meat, cheese, coleslaw, and…fries! That's right, they put the fries in the middle of the sandwich. This ensures they are extra greasy and soggy. This place has my vote for "worst sandwich in America." What's wrong with you people? It must be all that rust that's seeped into the drinking water.

Next we have the Heart Attack Grill, a hamburger restaurant in Chandler, Arizona. Its claims to fame are unbelievably high-calorie items like the "Triple-Bypass Burger," served by waitresses called, "nurses," who take orders called "prescriptions" from the "patients."

I can’t rip this place too much, because compared to the national embarrassment that is Hooters (worst uniform ever - the only person those shorts have ever looked good on is Rick Barry), this place actually sounds kind of fun. I especially like the wheelchair rides back to your car.

Anyway, enjoy this
[expletive deleted] Super Bowl match-up. If you are hosting a party, I hope your wings, chili, and meat muffins come out nicely. Now, I've seen both these videos already, so I declare that my winner is…Lipitor! Enjoy.

Pittsburgh: Home of America's Worst Sandwich

Arizona: Home of an Exploitative Burger Place Slightly Less Moronic than Hooters


Anonymous said...

For the gastronomical stupidity, my vote goes out to the Primanti Brother sandwich; because apparently picking up the fries separately is just too depressing.

Atticus said...


As a Pittsburgher I could go on a long rant why the fries are on the sandwich. And if one actually watches the full episode of "Man V Food" it explains why the fries are on the sandwich.

Primanti Bros is a pretty decent place, Jon Stewart recommended it to Obama on the Daily Show.

On a side note (when your blasphemous anti-Steelers/Pittsburgh rhetoric is ignored) you freaking rock. As soon as I find employment I'm buying your DVD. Thanks for all the recipes!

Anonymous said...

The place that serves the Garbage Plate beats both these, hands down!

Greg said...

Arizona gets my "shwiiiiing" vote.

Anonymous said...

It's a WTF moment when the interviewer asks the woman if doctors should get equally as upset over "Dr. Pepper". lol! What the hell kind of question is that? TOTALLY not the same.

Pyrofish said...

If Primanti's had the nurses... now that's something I'd have to visit!

Anonymous said...

Primanti's - gastronomical stupidity????? I think not. It is just incorrect to use that label.

I am a native Pittsburgher, and while I am not a regular at Primanti's because it is heavy fried comfort food, I have always held the place in high regard.

Basically - a Primanti's sandwich is one of those unique cultural items that you have to experience if you are going to make a fair evaluation. Otherwise, you risk allowing your biases to cloud your judgment.

First of all - John's "allowing the rust to affect our judgment" line just flat out misses the mark. Pittsburgh lost its heavy industry (mostly steel in the 1980s), and has spent the subsequent 30 years establishing a service/baking/education and technology-based economy. There is no more "rust" here today than in any other city. The Primanti's sandwich is a nod to where we came from and what we value (more on that later).

Second of all - not having tasted the sandwich leads you (John) to make an erroneous statement that the french fries are soggy. I'm sorry - but if you have ever had a Primanti's sandwhich, you know that they have a sturdy type of bread which holds the heavily fried meat and/or egg. The french fries are essentially cooked "al dente" so that they do not become soggy unless you do not eat the sandwich right away, and the coleslaw is fresh. The sandwich has a distinctive taste, which is heavy, but enjoyable after a night out or with a beer or two after a summer softball game - like many comfort foods.

Third - it is most definitely NOT gastronomical stupidity. The person who wrote that comment should apologize, as this goes against the entire history of the sandwich and the culture behind it. The original Primanti's were located in the South Side and the Strip District (heavy industry). As legend has it, blue collar workers flocked to Primanti's because the unique combination of delicious fried meat/egg plus al dente french fries and fresh coleslaw - wrapped in a piece of wax paper, could easily be put in one's hardhat and taken back to work. Steelworkers were lucky to get a few minutes for lunch. A sandwich like this is filling, quick and economical.

If you are going to label it as "gastronomical stupidity," then I would like to see you produce an alternative that is as filling, quick and economical for large numbers of working men to eat on their lunch breaks on a regular basis.

Bottom line - say what you want about the sandwich (and - like I said - I don't eat there very often as the sandwiches are really heavy), but it is a nice piece of culture that fits in with what Pittsburgh is and what people from Pittsburgh value (economy, value, accessibility, etc.).

And - the rest of you can hate all you want, but my Steelers are playing for their 6th Super Bowl title tomorrow night at 6:19 PM. Go Steelers!!!!!

Chef John said...

"...french fries are essentially cooked "al dente..."

Undercooked potatoes?? This sandwich is even worse than I first thought!

BTW, I will officially amend my stance regarding this sandwich, but ONLY for the working stiffs who can't eat the potatoes any other way. Poor bastards.

Chef John said...

Oh, and I must add... That was the best defense of a hometown sandwich EVER!

Go Steelers! (and take the Pirates with you)

Anonymous said...

Haven't tried Primanti's, but I've had some pretty good sandwiches with fries. Well, not sandwiches as such; shawarma. Tahini sauce, middle eastern pickles, a bit of tomato, and a few fries -- best way to eat a shawarma.

"If you are going to label it as "gastronomical stupidity," then I would like to see you produce an alternative that is as filling, quick and economical for large numbers of working men to eat on their lunch breaks on a regular basis."

Cornish pasties. Samosas. Shawarma.

Anonymous said...

haha that burger place in AZ is actually much worse than hooters. at least hooters food tastes good. you wouldn't go to heart attack grill for the's actually really bland. the patties are not seasoned or anything. just huge 1/2 pound greasy burgers. the fries are cooked in lard, and are just soggy and bland. and the girls aren't actually as hot as the ones in the videos..our waitress was around 40 years old dressed in a skimpy yeah, my experience at Heart Attack Grill was pretty disappointing. i'd highly recommend hooters over that place any day.

Unknown said...

I think Arizona Arizona......OK I give up....they should be joint winners!!

Unknown said...

Dear, dear, Anonymous Primanti's "cheerleader,"

Has Chef John dropped a post on your toes, with his comments? Your rant smells a little suspicious. You may be too emotionally attached to this place, perhaps a relative of the owners? A city official? I thought CJ's rust comment was clever, and your defense underscoring undercooked fries has only made his objections more reasonable.

The only valid point you made is that you have been there, but, then you establish that you don't think it is suitable to return. Well ouch - that' not a very good recommendation.

I hope your day gets better; your team does you proud, your blood pressure levels out, and for sure, I'd advise no heavy food! We still love you. So, keep coming here and making comments. You write well.

Your friend,
A foodwishes fan

Anonymous said...

Chef John, I have two comments. First, nothing beats a Primanti Bros. sandwhich, no matter what meat you choose. Second, we spell Pittsburgh with an "h". This sandwhich and the Steelers are from Pennsylvania, not Louisiana! Thanx!

Anonymous said...


I saw a video of yours where you stated that your salt/meat ratio was 1tsp/1 lb of meat. Do you also have a ratio for rice/salt? I Have a dish with ground beef/rice/sour cream and I never seem to get the salt right so we have to continually add salt while eating....


Chef John said...

I don't since it depends on the other ingredients in the dish. If you are always adding salt, Im thinking you need more in the recipe. ;) Test and record, and you'll always know.

Charlemange said...

Both of these places look gross and the woman complaining about the 'nurse' waitresses is pathetic.

Totally unrelated...congrats on the YT feature!

Anonymous said...

Hey! You can trash talk on Primanti's and its defenders all you want, but right now the Primanti's in Oakland, the South Side and the Strip District are all deluged with revelers celebrating the "six pack."

And - once again - if you haven't eaten there, you don't have the slightest idea what you are missing.

Ya Steelers!

Anonymous said...

Trust me - the fries in a Primanti's sandwich are most definitely not undercooked. They are "al dente" - which you foodies can grasp as "to the tooth" - meaning that they are cooked to the point where they still have a pleasant trace of firmness.

When you cook pasta to "al dente", it allows you to go in and add sauce or pesto without making the pasta soggy. It is the same thing with the potatoes on Primanti's sandwiches. The fries are delicious because they still have some firmness to them when you put them on a sandwich with greasy meat and fresh coleslaw.

So - unless you start labeling "al dente" pasta as "undercooked," it is not accurate to call the french fries on Primanti's sandwiches "undercooked" - particularly when the sandwich is designed to be carried back to the job.

And - for the person who wrote "Cornish pasties. Samosas. Shawarma." Great - I'm sure steel workers in the 1930s to late 1970s could afford mass produced cornish pasties, samosas and shawarma - all of which would have been plentiful in Western Pennsylvania agriculture back then. These would have been much more affordable for guys in the mill than a sandwich consisting of bread, coleslaw, french fries and fried meat.

Chef John said...

Go Steelers!

Tyler Hinkle said...

I lived just outside of Pittsburgh for a couple of years, and found Primanti Bros. to be highly over rated. To me the fries on the sandwich were just filler and only served to mask the flavor of the scant amount of meat that was in it. I did like the slaw though, and I don't usually care for slaw. I can't fault them for a lack of business though. The place is packed after the bars close. That doesn't make it good though.

Anonymous said...

I totally cracked up at foofifofum's comment :)


Vilamoura Villa said...


For someone that eats a garbage plate, you really should go down to pittsburgh and have one of those.
They are great! I lived in pittsburgh in 1995-1996 and I can tell you that that is the best sandwich I came across in my life. Now living in London, I can only dream abou it...hummmm primanti bros

Anonymous said...

Oh please people calm down. Pittsburgh here born and raised and I love Primanti bros. The man is entitled to his opinion. Obviously, people who've eaten there and love it will think differently.

Luatica said...

To be fair, while it seems weird, who knows, it might work.

I recall when I was in Belgium I teased Belgians for having sandwiches that included fries in them among other things.

An well, delicious Flemish fries were yummmy in the sandwich. Though the sandwiches are not so big.

To be fair, if people there eats it, maybe, just saying maybe, it has something that works. To be fair, I'm somehow curious.

Anonymous said...

You people crack me up! Why are you getting so defensive about a "sandwich"?

Chef John is entitled to his opinion like everyone else and it's his blog, so get over yourselves!

If you can't handle someone else's opinion, get off our planet, there's far too many air gobbling idiots all-ready!

Even though they won....Steelers Suck!

Chef John said...

The whole post was an attempt at humor. Im sure theyre both fine sandwiches. In fact, I'd have to admit I would probably like the Primanti Bros. better. Besides, i would probably get to see a nurse either way.

Anonymous said...

Get off our planet? Dude - this is a comment board, so I think it is more than appropriate for us to debate with Chef John here. Even though I am sure he enjoys the numerous compliments for his recipes (which are much deserved), he clearly allows people to discuss and debate his points. There is nothing wrong with good back and forth conversation.

Steelers suck...Are you kidding me? Who is your NFL team? I know one thing, your NFL team hasn't won as many Super Bowls.

Watchman said...

Hi Chef John, Always glad to see what new thing you have cooking in the kitchen. You're always fun to watch (and it tastes good too). Reading the blog today, made me feel that we were in a therapy session and it's your turn to just vlet it all out (Just kidding). Those places remind me of Jolt Cola whose sole claim to fame was "All the sugar and twice the caffeine of regular soft drinks". God Bless, Paul

Chef John said...

Yes! This post was for exactly this purpose to upset people, to let people defend their hometowns, to let people dis' each others teams, etc.

Well done everyone. Especially the women (a real nurse?) who demanded I take down the ass picture.

Anonymous said...

First: Anonymous at 2:42pm on Feb. 4th, I'm not a "Dude", I'm a "Chick", so much for making assumptions, huh?

Second: I know quite well that this is a comment board, I left a comment, didn't I? Are you one of those air-gobbling idiots I referred to, or am I now, just making assumptions?

Third: My NFL team? THE REDSKINS! And no, we haven't won as many Super Bowls as the Steelers......but......Steelers still SUCK!!

Fourth: Thanks for using spell check, it's obvious you had to!

Steelers SUCK!

Anonymous said...

THAT LADY NEEDS TO GET LAID lol naughty nurses are killing people? ummmm ok . . .