14 Things You Don’t Understand About Pittsburgh (Unless You’re From Here)

Perhaps you’ve noticed all of the praise be heaped upon Pittsburgh. But you just can’t understand why.

Obviously you’re not from here. If you were, you’d already know all of the reasons that make Pittsburgh great (and quirky). Since you’re not, everything you know about Pittsburgh begins with steel and ends with our sports teams. Which is okay, the latter is all most of us pay attention to anyway. But we’d like to add to that list.

From the odd to the awesome, here are 14 things you wouldn’t understand about Pittsburgh (unless you’re from here).

Lousy liquor laws

liquor laws2
So you’re visiting Pittsburgh and looking to do a little pre­gaming? Ha! This is always fun. You’ll need to find a start­ run liquor store for your booze or a beer distributor for your brews. But, at the distributor, you can only buy a case of beer. No six packs here. For that, you’ll need a bar or some insider knowledge about which grocery stores sell alcohol. Even then, you can only buy two six packs at a time. Get it? Neither do we.

Pittsburghese

pittsburghese
Yes, some Pittsburghers speak with a very distinct, some have even called it ugly, accent. Truth be told, not that many people speak true Pittsburghese, but those who do are hilarious. They say things like yinz (you all), n’at (and that), worsh (wash) and dahntahn (downtown). There’s also a good chance they’re wearing a Steelers jersey and drinking an Ahn City Beer.

That’s an incline

Duquesne Incline
Yes, that box traveling up the side of Mt. Washington is a viable means of commuting to and from the city. And, believe it or not, there used to be a lot more of them. In fact, early on, they were used to transport coal and cargo, not people. But when industry was on the rise, and more people moved to “Coal Hill” (aka Mt. Washington), inclines were used for transportation.

Pittsburgh potty

Potty-A
When house hunting in Pittsburgh be sure to take a look­-see in the basement. Initially, the musty scent will sting the nostrils. Next, you’ll notice a random toilet in the corner of the room. That, our out­of­town friend, is a Pittsburgh Potty. It’s is the equivalent of a mudroom, used by steel or mine workers so they could wash­up in the basement upon arriving home, as to not track their mess through the house. In current housing market it counts as one-­third of a half-bath.

We’re neighborly

misterrogers
Maybe we’re following in the footsteps of Mr. Rogers. Or maybe it’s the fact that Pittsburgh is just the right size. But whatever the reason, we’re really neighborly around here. We’ll smile at you on the street. Chat you up in the bar; especially if we get to talk about our beloved city or sports teams. And we’re happy to give you directions to where you’re headed. Even if we do it using irrelevant landmarks in place of actual street names.

Kennywood’s open

kennywood's open
That statement will make a Pittsburgh kid reach for their crotch every time. You see, Kennywood is our local amusement park; also know for Potato Patch French Fries (see below). Kennywood Day, when an entire school district descends on the park at the same time, is one of the best days of the year around here. On the other hand, it’s a bad day when Kennywood is open. Which is confusing, we know. Because if it were Kennywood Day, then Kennywood would, in fact, be open. But, in this case, Kennywood is open actually means your zipper is down. Go ahead, ask a Pittsburgh kid to test it out.

Banjo night

banjo
It certainly is a sight to behold each Wednesday night when the hipsters hang out with their elders at the Elks Club. To see what we’re talking about, head over to the Elks Lodge 339 on the North Side. That’s were the Pittsburgh Banjo Club holds their rehearsals before a lively crowd of onlookers of all ages, ranging from teenagers to grandparents. Everyone’s packed the house to hear the the pickers perform classics on their 4­string banjo (not to be confused with 5­ string bluegrass banjos) while drinking $2 Pabst and $1.50 Yuengling.

Cookie tables

cookie table
There is one thing that truly sets a Pittsburgh wedding apart from all the rest. That one thing is the cookie table. It is a delicious and impressive Pittsburgh tradition wherein an Italian grandmother, mother or aunt leads a team of relatives on a mission to bake enough homemade cookies to cover (multiple) six­foot long banquet table. It’s an incredible sight made better when you get to taste the treats. It’s better still when, at the end of the evening, when you make off with three trays of cookies.

Smiley cookies

smiley cookie
Speaking of cookies, there’s another kind we’re pretty fond of. It’s the Eat’n Park Smiley cookie. Of course bringing this cookie up also means that we have to explain Eat’n Park. Okay, that would be a Pittsburgh ­based restaurant chain started way back in 1949 as a carhop, where you would eat in your car. Nowadays the eating, mainly early­-bird dinners for the elderly and late night meals for drunkard, occurs inside. But the Smiley cookie is for the kids. Every kid diner gets a free smiley cookie. As a result, they give away more than 1 million each year!

French fries

frenchfries1
If you thought we loved cookies, wait until you see how much we enjoy French Fries. Yes, we eat them as a standalone snack. Especially if they’re from the Potato Patch (see Kennywood above). And only with Heinz ketchup. But we also stack them on a certain iconic (and very much overrated) sandwich. You’ll have to try Primanti’s and decide for yourself. But, here’s the real star of the French Fry show. While everyone else is putting croutons on their salad, we’re stacking French Fries on top to create the Pittsburgh Salad.

Getting around

driving in pittsburgh
There’s really no good way to explain Pittsburgh’s roadways, other than to say they take some getting used to. There is no beltway or grid system in place here. Just roads, interchangeably referred to as the Parkway, all of which seem to be referred to as the Parkway. You’ll become accustomed to slamming on your brakes before heading into a tunnel in no time. You’ll learn which bridge to take where and when. The Pittsburgh left will become law in your mind. But you may never get used to merging across three lanes of traffic in one go. Oh, don’t even get us started on parking chairs. Just know that it’s a sin to move one.

Bleeding black and gold

steelers picture
Quick! Any idea what “one for the thumb” means? How about, “we are family”? Yoi and Double Yoi? What about, “scratch my back with a hacksaw”? Nothing?! Well you’re clearly not from Pittsburgh. If you were, then you’d know these sports references in an instant. Chances are also good that you’d also own a Terrible Towel. You’d have seen a Pierogie Race in person. And it wouldn’t be weird when a family member wore a Steelers jersey to church or a funeral. Around here, we live and die with our sports teams because we bleed black and gold.

It’s a great time to be a Pittsburgher

google bakery square
Really and truly. We’re not yanking your chain. Pittsburgh is on the come up. Some tech giants like Apple, Uber and Google, who have offices here, are already in the know. So too are the Hollywood types, like Will Smith, Tom Cruise and Jake Gyllenhaal who have all recently filmed movies here. But you don’t have to take our word for it, just consult any one of the fifty or so top 10 lists we’ve made in the last few years. See, told you so.

Pittsburgh is an identity

home
Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that Pittsburgh love Pittsburgh. We’re not shy about sharing our passion for the Steel City. And no matter how far outside the city we live, we’ll still tell you that we’re from Pittsburgh. And even if we move away, we’ll never let you forget that our roots are in Pittsburgh.