Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage

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buffetbuster
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/16 14:35:16 (permalink)
Since my sister was recently in Italy and I was helping out with the nephews while she was gone, it was time we went back into the city for some more Pittsburgh food.
 
One recent afternoon, I had to pick up Alex after school and the conversation inevitably turned to food.  I told him my desire was to take them to Union Grill in Oakland for a turkey devonshire.  Once again, not only had he never eaten one, he had never heard of it before.  
 
Frank Blandi is credited with inventing the turkey devonshire in 1934 for his long since closed Shadyside restaurant The Stratford.  One of the nearby streets was Devonshire and he decided to use that for the name of this open faced sandwich.  It quickly caught on and while I was growing up, it appeared on menus all over the city and elsewhere in western Pennsylvania. Every Saturday, my dad would take me somewhere.  It was usually a bar, but as long as they had a turkey devonshire, I was happy.  Unfortunately, in the past decade or so, it has started disappearing.  Maybe it is because people eat healthier now or because there is nothing trendy or hip about it, but turkey devonshires are now much more difficult to find.  By the way, I would love to know if Mr. Blandi visited Louisville and was inspired by the Hot Brown sandwich.
 
Luckily, the Union Grill still makes an outstanding one.  Judging by how large the lettering is of the menu description,

you may even call it their signature dish.  Alex, Andrew, Mariton and I were the first ones through the door when they opened at 11:30AM on a rainy Saturday.  They do a lot of things right at Union Grill, including really good homemade soups.  On this day, I started with a bowl of the corned beef and cabbage soup.

Loaded with lots of meat and vegetables in a clear broth, this was a fine way to start the meal.  Since Mariton was having a hard time deciding, the three males ordered first and the waitress got a kick out of all three of us getting the same thing.  When I told her this would be their first devonshires, she told them they were in for a treat. 
 
When the food arrived,

they both went, "Wow!".  They were surprised by how big it was, plus that it was open faced.  Andrew even asked how do you eat it and he seemed relieved that this is knife and fork food.  Can you imagine trying to eat this with your hands?  Before they dug in, they posed for a quick photo.

 
As usual, while we were eating, we talked about what made the dish work or what we didn't like.  We all liked the very crispy bacon, the real roast turkey and the very hot, mild flavored, mostly parmesan cheese sauce.  I told them that most places use cheap turkey loaf.  Also, many restaurants have the cheese as being more of a cheddar sauce.  I also warned them to eat this dish quickly, because once the cheese sauce cools, the sandwich isn't nearly as good.
 
Both of the boys told me multiple times how much they liked it.  Alex even mentioned he was going to start looking for devonshires on menus when his mom took him out.  Because we had a few more stops planned, they each took about a third of it home, which they heated up the next day for lunch.  
 
Back to Mariton.....  She went for the crabcake sandwich,

which came with a mango salsa on the side and some sweet potato chips.  All three items got a positive review from her.
 
Union Grill
413 S. Craig Street
Pittsburgh, PA
412-681-8620
 
Since we were already in Oakland, we had to make a few more stops.
 
More to come.....
post edited by buffetbuster - 2011/04/15 10:25:08
#31
ann peeples
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/16 14:48:54 (permalink)
Thats a three yum on the scale!!!!
#32
buffetbuster
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/16 14:51:28 (permalink)
annpeeples-
Being from Wisconson, you'd think anything with a cheese sauce would be a three yum!
post edited by buffetbuster - 2011/03/16 14:52:41
#33
MiamiDon
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/16 15:09:40 (permalink)
That's great that they ate it and liked it!  There are so many whiney kids around who won't eat much of anything except chicken strips.
#34
joerogo
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/16 15:19:09 (permalink)
Hey BB, Now you are making me miss Pitt again
 
Love the union grill, great prices and loads of great food.  Glad the youngsters liked it.
 
Do you think we can get your sister to post on her Italy trip?
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dave taube
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/17 02:46:32 (permalink)
Fries from the Dirty O and ice cream from Dave and Andy's?  That's what I'm talking about!
#36
leethebard
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/17 05:02:38 (permalink)
Never had Turkey Devonshire,either, in all my 65 years...Wow..does it look great...I too, will look for it in my travels...another great post. Thanks!!
#37
MiamiDon
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/17 06:19:11 (permalink)
BB, the Pittsburgh turkey devonshire is a lot like some versions of the Louisville "Hot Brown."
 
Look at Michael Stern's photo of a hot brown:
 

post edited by MiamiDon - 2011/03/17 06:20:48
#38
buffetbuster
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/17 08:24:39 (permalink)
joerogo
Do you think we can get your sister to post on her Italy trip?
Ahhh, who wants to hear about Italy, when we can talk about Pittsburgh!
 
Actually, now that you mention it, I haven't even asked my sister about her trip yet.  Andrew has been at Children's Hospital for a week now and our mind has been on that.  The good news is, he is doing much, much better and getting out today!

#39
buffetbuster
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/17 08:32:39 (permalink)
MiamiDon

That's great that they ate it and liked it!  There are so many whiney kids around who won't eat much of anything except chicken strips.

Could not agree more!  A few years ago, we had some young cousins visiting from Delaware.  The one would not eat anything but cheese sandwiches.  That was it!  Even though my sister has not been taking the boys to what we would consider typical Roadfood places, she has taught the boys to love Thai, sushi, Chinese, Indian, etc. 
 
The Hot Brown was invented in the 1920s, so it predates the Turkey Devonshire.  Which is why I think Mr. Blandi must have visited Louisville, had a Hot Brown and brought it back to Pittsburgh.  Because there are so many variations to both, as far as I can tell, the differences are negligible.
 
Here is the Hot Brown I was served at the Brown Hotel in 2007.

post edited by buffetbuster - 2011/03/17 08:45:11
#40
buffetbuster
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/17 08:37:51 (permalink)
dave taube
Fries from the Dirty O and ice cream from Dave and Andy's?  That's what I'm talking about!

You are way ahead of me!  It sounds like you are a fan of these places!
 
leethebard-
If you do ever spot a Turkey Devonshire on a menu outside of Pittsburgh, please let me know.  I have seen Hot Browns outside of Kentucky, but never the Devonshire.
#41
eruby
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/17 09:09:44 (permalink)
The Coachlamp, in Louisville of all places!?!? has a Turkey Devonshire on the menu, though it's listed under 'entrees'.  It doesn't have a Hot Brown. Go figure.
 
http://www.coachlamprestaurant.com/index.php3?pageid=7
 
I've had the Turkey Devonshire at Armstrong's in Caste Village, but it's just okay compared to the Union Grill's version.
 
dave taube, I'll see your 'O' fries and Dave and Andy's ice cream, and raise you a Jim's Hot Dog and a Paige Dairy Bar.
#42
buffetbuster
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/17 11:04:09 (permalink)
eruby-
That is so strange that The Coachlamp in Louisville calls it a Turkey Devonshire, rather than a Hot Brown.  Would love to know the story behind that.  They must have a yinzer in the kitchen! 
 
Even though I am generally a fan of Armstrong's (usually I eat at the one in Moon or Bridgeville), their Devonshire is not very good.  To get my approval you have to use roast turkey and not that crappy turkey lunchmeat.
 
Jim's Hot Dogs and Page Dairy Mart?  Hmmmmm.....
post edited by buffetbuster - 2011/04/15 10:30:16
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/17 13:52:18 (permalink)
In partnership with Southwest Airlines, this woman is doing a series where she visits a city for the day and spends it exploring their food.  In the latest one, she does Pittsburgh.
 
So glad that she made it to Franktuary!  But my favorite thing about the video is how many people are wearing Steelers stuff.
post edited by buffetbuster - 2011/03/17 13:54:58
#44
ann peeples
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/17 14:14:37 (permalink)
Glad to hear Andrew is on the mend!!
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mr chips
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/18 00:54:57 (permalink)
That turkey devonshire looks like something i want to try when i get to pittsburgh again, BB.
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Nancypalooza
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/21 10:15:34 (permalink)
Yeah, glad that Andrew is feeling better!  You are doing those boys up right taking them around and teaching them the local fare dude.  Awesome!  And that crabcake does look pretty good too.
#47
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/21 10:38:34 (permalink)
While we were eating in Union Grill, Mariton pointed out that one of her favorite restaurants in the city, Lu Lu's Noodles, was just across the street.  Although we wouldn't have appetite to include Lu Lu's, nor does it fit with the theme of the day, I couldn't deny her a bubble tea.  Especially since the boys had never had one, either.
 
Here are the four us holding out our bubble teas. 

From right to left:  my honeydew, Alex's coconut, Andrew's banana and Mariton's red bean.  I think the tapioca balls at the bottom of the drink freaked the boys out a little bit and they only drank about half of theirs.  Which was similar to my first experience with one, about a decade ago in Toronto's Chinatown.  And now I love them!
 
The idea was to include some sightseeing while we were in Oakland.  I wanted to take them to the Nationality Rooms of the Cathedral of Learning.  But, they were recently here as part of a school trip.  Unfortunately, with the heavy rain, showing them the remaining fence of Forbes Field was also now out.  I asked if they wanted to go home and come back another time, but they said they had plenty of appetite left and wanted to keep going.  So on we went to the Original Hot Dog Shop.

 
Known as the "O" or affectionately as "The Dirty O", this place had the boys intrigued.  I am assuming it was the dirty part, since they asked me about that several times.  Even though this is a hot dog joint, the main reason to come here is for the fries.  Not only are they delicious, the portion sizes are legendary.  I grabbed a medium size, some condiments for dipping and we headed upstairs.  They looked skeptical that this

was just a medium.
 
The fries are a beautiful golden color, with a crispy outside and creamy interior.  Ketchup comes with the fries, but I also bought some ranch, cheese and gravy to dip them in.

We experimented with which we liked best, with Mariton and the boys preferring the cheese and me liking the gravy.  Still, I would prefer malt vinegar over all of them.
 
Walking past a grill like this,

I couldn't help but grab a couple of dogs, too.  Not really knowing what toppings the boys liked, I got one with sauerkraut and mustard and one with chili, mustard and onion.  Everyone tried a bite or two, but the fries were much more popular than the hot dogs.  Even with four of us picking at the pile, there was still some fries leftover when we were done.
 
Just a few blocks further into Oakland is the best ice cream in the city, Dave & Andy's

The giant cone sign hanging in front makes the place easy to recognize.  The flavors of the day:

I went with a scoop of the hazelnut chocolate chunk and a scoop of the rum raisin.  The ice cream was especially soft on this day, which lessened my enjoyment of it.  Still, it tasted great.  The hazelnut flavor was subtle, while the rum in the rum raisin was very strong.  Alex got the birthday cake and Andrew the caramel. 

Since there were lots of yummy noises, they must have approved.  I did point out to Alex that since he already had birthday cake ice cream, there was no reason for us to celebrate his birthday this year.  He did not agree.
 
After this, we were all stuffed and called it a day.  They have both told me how much they are looking forward to the next time!
 
post edited by buffetbuster - 2011/03/21 10:42:28
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Nancypalooza
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/21 10:57:07 (permalink)
So what are the next things you'll be taking the young lads to?  I'm terribly curious to know what awaits them now.
#49
Ralph Melton
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/21 11:42:51 (permalink)
Wow, a medium O fries for only four people. No wonder you didn't finish.
 
(I realized after the fact that this sounds like sarcasm. It is not intended as sarcasm; the O's portions of fries are enormous.)
post edited by Ralph Melton - 2011/03/21 11:46:26
#50
Ahi Mpls.
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/21 13:05:18 (permalink)
  Collect 3 cool points for getting Ranch, Cheeze, and Gravy!!  
  Yay Unkie Cliff!  
  Love this report. 
#51
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/21 14:33:00 (permalink)
Ralph-
Yeah, that could come across as sarcasm, but since I know that you know how big a portion they come in, that wouldn't occur to me!
 
Thanks to ann, Nancy, mr.chips and AHI for the kind words.  This has been a real pleasure for me. 
 
To answer Nancy's question, next up is Isaly's for a chipped ham bbq sandwich and a skyscraper cone.  The idea isn't just to take them to good places, but good places (and food) that have some history here.
 
Certainly another trip to The Strip District for a Wholey's fish sandwich is in the cards, plus Pierogies Plus.
post edited by buffetbuster - 2011/03/21 14:34:22
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ScreamingChicken
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/21 14:39:08 (permalink)
buffetbuster
Walking past a grill like this,

I couldn't help but grab a couple of dogs, too.

 
I can easily picture you just reaching out, grabbing a handful, and stuffing them in your pocket without missing a beat!
 
This is a neat thread.  PNC Park is on our list of baseball road trips to make someday and it's nice to know that there's more to do in Pittsburgh than just watch the Pirates.  Thankfully.
 
Brad
#53
Foodbme
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/21 16:03:17 (permalink)
When I come back in my next life, I wanna be your Nephew!
#54
The Travelin Man
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/22 00:20:07 (permalink)
ScreamingChicken
PNC Park is on our list of baseball road trips to make someday and it's nice to know that there's more to do in Pittsburgh than just watch the Pirates.  Thankfully.

How high do you think the suicide rate would be in Pittsburgh if all there was to do was watch the Pirates?
#55
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Re:Discovering their (Pittsburgh's) culinary heritage 2011/03/22 21:07:50 (permalink)
The Travelin Man

ScreamingChicken
PNC Park is on our list of baseball road trips to make someday and it's nice to know that there's more to do in Pittsburgh than just watch the Pirates.  Thankfully.

How high do you think the suicide rate would be in Pittsburgh if all there was to do was watch the Pirates?

 
To be a Pirates fan is to believe in the future.
 
THIS is our top draft pick from 2010, Jameson Taillon. Look upon his visage and quiver in fear, National League. For he will STRIKE YOU OUT.
 

#56
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