Some of the best restaurants and shops that exemplify the rich culture within the Strip District are the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (more commonly known as Penn Mac), Lidia’s, Primanti’s, Pamela’s, Deluca’s, and Wholey’s Fish Market to name a few. Notice the names of these restaurants: they are all named after a person with the exception of Penn Mac. For example, Pamela’s Diner is owned by a woman named Pam Cohen and was opened during the mid 70s. Deluca’s on the other hand has been around even longer since the 1950s and operates under the slogan, “Best breakfast in town since 1950.” To name another, Lidia’s is owned by a woman named Lidia Bastianich, along with her son Joe. Lidia’s however was opened much more recently in 2001, but still follows the pattern of other Strip District restaurants by being named after the owner. It is believed by many, specifically Hal Klein of the Pittsburgh Magazine, that the simple yet personable restaurant names like the ones listed above is a byproduct of the culture that existed within the Strip District during the steel days because everyone was so friendly and close to one another.
Dating back to the steel mill days, a sense of pride started to developed within the Western PA region and it all revolved around the steel industry. At the time, everyone in the city was working in the steel mill or working in the restaurants that people from the steel mills went to. Now, to clarify, this is not a generalization, this is in fact what the culture was like during the early development days of the strip district. Matthew Malady qualifies this in his “Where Yinz At” article, explaining how Pittsburghers are uniquely proud of their city.
So this is where the restaurants’ names came from. After a long day in the mill, it would be nothing for someone to ask, “So are we going down to Wholey’s tonight?” or, “We getting some sandwiches at Primanti’s?” This tight-knit culture still exists in the Strip today and even in the rest of the city for that matter. While these are phrases that I hear day after day back home, Malady even notes of these common phrases.
If you are looking for a bite to eat where the owner genuinely cares about the food they serve you and the service that comes along with it, the Strip District is the place for you. So make a stop down in the Strip District and try a famous “Pittsburgher” sandwich from Primanti’s, a succulent lobster roll from Wholey’s, Pamela’s world famous chocolate chip banana pancakes, or even Deluca’s savory chorizo hash. I can promise you will not be disappointed with any of these options.
Malady, Matthew J.X. “Where Yinz At.” Slate, 29 Apr. 2014,www.slate.com/articles/life/the_good_word/ 2014/04/pennsylvania_dialects_from_pittsburghese_to_philadelphia_speak_the_keystone.html.
Schwab, Katya. “Strip District Shops Rich in History and Aromas.” News Interactive- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12 Aug. 2015, newsinteractive.post-gazette.com/thedigs/2015/08/12/strip-district-shops-rich-in-history-and-aromas/.