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Apr 9, 2001 05:13 PM

Pittsburgher: french fries inside sandwich?

  • d

I recently had a interesting sandwich in San Francisco (at Magnolia Pub & Brewery in the Haight) called "The Pittsburgher" and wondered if this is a sandwich common in Pittsburgh, etc. or why it might be called "Pittsburgher". It had cappicola and salami with melted provolone, french fries, cole slaw and tomato on pugliese bread (yes, cole slaw and french fries actually inside of the sandwich) -- sounded so odd that I had to order it. It was pretty good, but I wound up picking some of the french fries out to balance it. Anyone else have experience with french fries inside sandwiches? Why Pittsburgher? Local whimsy?

Deb H.


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  1. A former roommate of mine took me to a sandwich shop in Pittsburgh (Primanti's, I think) that's famous for making sandwiches with fries and coleslaw on them. I enjoyed the food, but I did wind up picking fries out of the sandwich because, like Deb, I felt it lacked balance. My friend claims that they kick you out or something similarly draconian if you ask for things on the side instead of on the sandwich, but I didn't get to witness this.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Lauren

      I was similarly underwhelmed by the sandwich at Primanti's. Glad I ate it...once.

    2. in smaller towns in france they have these trailers that park in the square or by the train station late at night and sell street food, like pizza. one of the best things they have are sandwiches filled with meat and french fries. they split a half baguette (and you literally can't find a bad baguette in france) and fill it with grilled chicken (poulet-frites), beef (steack-frites), or merguez, a spicy lamb sausage. they'll put wonderful mustard on them or ketchup. then they wrap it in foil and...that's a hell of a sandwich.

      7 Replies
      1. re: emily
        Caitlin McGrath

        Surely you jest. I had gathered from previous posts that you lived in France for some time, so I'm surprised you buy into this apparently cherished myth. Or maybe you were really lucky. I've only spent about a week in France--in Paris, a year ago--and while I didn't buy a lot of boulangerie baguettes, I ate a lot of bistro meals where I was invariably served a baguette. And there were a surprising number of bad ones: tasteless, cottony, not-worth-one's-time baguettes. Keeping in mind that these were all relatively inexpensive meals, I found it interesting that there was no positive correlation between price or quality of food in general at these places and the quality of the bread. It was a crapshoot.

        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          hmm. the bistro baguette is not going to be your best source for good bread, i don't think. i too was served some yucky, yucky food when i visited paris for a couple of weeks. but i was surprised because i hadn't really been disappointed before.

          i lived in eastern france for about a year-and-a-half as a student. my memory is probably colored by nostalgia, but i don't remember any truly bad bread, or even any blah bread, come to think of it. i didn't eat in restaurants a lot. i cooked for myself or ate street food. you could get awful, american-style bread, but there would only be one tiny loaf at the grocery store and it would cost $5.

          the paris thing might have something to do with it. bad food purveyors in big cities can subsist on one-timers and tourists; in smaller towns, if your bread is bad there's a better boulangerie down the street and you'll go out of business. but i really think there's a cultural identification with the baguette; it would be unfrench to not be serious about making bread. i mean, even the biggest, most impersonal supermarket has its own boulangerie, and the guys selling hot dogs on the street stuff them into impaled crusty baguettes.

          so i'll revise: it's very difficult to find a bad baguette in france if you know where to look, and even if you don't you're probably going to be pretty lucky.

          1. re: emily
            Caitlin McGrath

            To be sure, there are wonderful baguettes all over Paris and I did eat some of them, but learned not to expect them in a bistro (though I had good ones in bistros, too, if not stellar), even if the food was delish. (And BTW, some of the bad-bread places were full of Parisians and not tourists.) So I don't know, probably the inevitable decline of civilization. I just thought your "literally" was a bit too...literal!

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              I did a pretty exhaustive survey of Parisian baguettes last year -- at least 35 bakeries -- and I can testify that mediocre baguettes far outnumber the great ones. Certainly, the bread at the best New York bakeries (although not necessarily the baguettes) is up to the level of all but the very best half-dozen or so Parisian bakeries.

              Although one bite of the goods at, say, Kayser, or the Poujaran-descended places out in the 20th is enough to persuade anyone that a truly great baguette is worth the hunt.

              1. re: Pepper
                Caitlin Wheeler

                When I was living in Paris last summer, a boulangerie faced our courtyard. The smell of the bread baking was amazing, and the taste of a warm baguette ... ooohhh. I think it got 3rd place or something in the baguette contest. FYI it's on the Rue de Charenton, just off the Dugommier metro stop (I think at 225 Rue de Charenton)

          2. re: Caitlin McGrath
            Caitlin McGrath

            I did *not* do even a cursory survey of Parisian boulengeries for baguettes, and know I did not experience the city's best bread. But I didn't have a baguette there, nor have I found one in NY, that I found as good as the everyday output of Acme in Berkeley, which I consumed regularly when I lived there.

          3. re: emily
            yvonne johnson

            and across the channel, in england and scotland ( probably elsewhere in UK too) french fry sandwiches made with buttered white, soft bread are pretty common. Preferably, chip-shop chips. really yummy. but some find the whole mess too mushy. Poor substitutes are made with potato chips...yup the cold, crinkly things out of bags. i admit i quite like these, made with salt and vinegar chips. but the bread must be better than wonderbread!

          4. Was the restaurant near Carnegie Mellon? There is a sandwich shoppe in Penn State's Happy Valley that does the same french fry trick. I was wondering if it was a College thing?

            1. Chowhounders on a tight budget can get a french fry po-boy in New Orleans. I haven't tried one, but if a place (say, R&O) makes a good roast beef po-boy the french fry po-boy (which should be drenched with liberal amounts of brown gravy) should be pretty tasty.

              I think I have also heard of some place in the Midwest where the french fries are served inside the sandwich. It might be in Roadfood.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Bob W.

                Wonderful memories of the one Horseshoe I ever ate, a specialty of Springfield Illinois.

                A hamburger on toast with a pile of frenchfries on top all covered with cheese sauce. Awesome...

                Has anyone else ever heard of a Horseshoe or eaten one? Am I remembering it right.


                1. re: Laurel

                  Oh Laurel -- you brought tears to my eyes! I spent 6 long months in Springfield, and the only redeeming factor was the Horseshoe! All Springfield restaurants sell the HOrseshoe, from diner to "fancy". Everyone bragged about their cheese sauce. Some places even had a smaller version called the Ponyshoe. I get to S'field about once a year, and I always, always have a ponyshoe. But as a teenager, I would have the full horseshoe and a shake for lunch three or four times a week. Sigh...

                  1. re: Marie


                    Wow! you are the only person I've ever mentioned it to who has ever heard of a horseshoe. And yes, I think it was a ponyshoe I actually ate, so very long ago. One ponyshoe 20+ years ago, indelibly etched in the tastebud memory.

                    Now why don't I ever make a horseshoe at home in New Jersey? since it doesn't look like Springfield Illinois is anywhere in my future? hmmm, it's a concept...

              2. I've learned something. I had no idea these even had a name, much less ever appeared on a menu.
                Fries on a bun is a fundamental Middle School cafeteria survival technique (for those young chowhounds who never fail to inspect the pre-formed meat patties). I even have a digital photo of one on file, sorry I can't figure out how to add it to the bottom of the post.