Braddock Oven

Forget that age-old rivalry between the Steel City and the Cleve. Writer Susan Glaser of Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer, headed to town to join the SteelCity Sampler—what she called “a most unusual food tour”—to eat and drink at six local dining destinations that are all related to our region’s rich steelmaking roots.

In her article, A taste of Pittsburgh past, Glaser eats and drinks her way through the Burgh, savoring gastronomical delights and taking in the city’s dramatic topography, colorful personalities and local landmarks.

Her first stop? “The spewing smokestacks of the past have given rise to the smoke of a much more palatable sort: the byproduct of freshly baked loaves of light rye sourdough, recently pulled from the outdoor community oven in Braddock,” writes Glaser, where she meets up with bread baker Shauna Kearns. “On a hillside overlooking the still-operating Edgar Thomson Steel Works, Kearns, a graduate student at Chatham University, served us chunks of bread smeared with strawberry jam.”

With stops at places both old and new, the tour took a unique focus. “These are neighborhoods not normally associated with a culinary tour,” said Corinne Bechtel, a guide with Pittsburgh Tours & More.

On the tour with Glaser were “several adult children of former steelworkers, all of whom were trying to get a taste—quite literally—of life during Pittsburgh’s steelmaking heyday.”

Joining Bechtel in leading the tour was Tom Labanc, a McKeesport native, retired teacher and son of a former steelworker who himself worked at National Tube Works. Labanc entertained the group with stories about working in the mills and eating Hungarian fare at home—such as kocsonya (read: jellied pigs feet) and hurka (aka liver pudding).

Other delicious stops featured on the SteelCity Sampler?

The Pretzel Shop on East Carson Street, where Marlene Bowen and her son and granddaughter make some 2,000 pretzels daily and The Triangle Bar & Grill in Swissvale, a favorite spot where steelworkers and Steelers fans alike enjoy 26-inch-long Battleship subs.

Another tour highlight was The Carpatho-Rusyn National Cultural Center in Munhall, housed in the former Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist built in 1903. Tour-goers explored traditional Rusyn dresses and black-and-white images by Czech photographer Dana Kyndrova, while noshing on traditional Orthodox Easter treats such as hrudka (custard-like cheese) and sweet fried dough called ceregi.

The tour then fast-forwarded into present-day Pittsburgh with trips to The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company in Braddock and the Blue Dust restaurant and pub in Homestead.

Read the entire article here.

Jennifer Baron

Jennifer has worked at the Mattress Factory, Brooklyn Museum of Art and Dahesh Museum of Art and is co-author of Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania. She also is co-coordinator...