Pittsburgh has made many contributions to America and the world. (You’re welcome.) In this series we explore some of those things that PGH Made first and PGH Made famous. 

PGH Made: The Big Mac


At this point we assume that only those living under rocks and vegans don’t know that Pittsburgh is the birthplace of The Big Mac. Yes, that Big Mac – from that little place called McDonald’s. 

The story goes that Jim Delligatti was hungry one night in 1965 and while in his McKnight Road Ross Township McDonald’s franchise location he decided to make a sandwich. It was that or he was thinking about the steelworkers who he often served and realized that a single-patty didn’t seem like quite enough for them. He knew that one burger was good. But you know what’s better than one burger? Two burgers! He got some bread from a local bakery then alternatingly stacked together bread-meat-bread-meat-bread, topped it off with his special sauce, and the rest is history.

The twoallbeefpattiesspecialsaucelettucecheesepicklesonionsonasesameseedbun became the “symbol of American capitalism” – and it garnered Mr. Delligatti world-wide fame, yet somehow no royalties. (Did McDonald’s make him pay for those Big Macs he continued to eat every week? If so that’s just cruel and pure capitalism right there.)

Mr. Delligatti first tested out his sandwich in his Uniontown franchise location. It was test-marketed by McDonald’s around all of Pittsburgh shortly thereafter under several different names: the aristocrat and blue ribbon burger. The delicious sandwich with the lackluster name was saved by Esther Glickenstein Rose, a 21-year -old secretary in McDonald’s advertising department, when she said it should be called the “Big Mac”. In 1968 the Big Mac went big-time – sales went national and quickly became McDonald’s cash cow. 

Today’s recipe is only slightly changed from the original – around 1993 they cut the fat content of the sauce in half. But that’s pretty much all they’ve been willing to change from the iconic 563 calorie heart-attack-in-a-bag. So if your “Let’s get some Big Macs to cure this hangover” has felt any different since 1993 you now know why. 

You can get your Big Mac fix at any McDonald’s, but for all you BIG Big Mac lovers out there we’ve stacked up some historical places of interest for you that have a little something extra special in their historical sauce:  

Birthplace of the “Big Mac” concept: 4849 McKnight Rd, Ross Township, Pennsylvania 15237


The historical documents we found had statements that Mr. Delligatti invented it in the kitchen of his location on “the inbound side of McKnight Rd in Ross Township”. This is the only McDonald’s that fits that description so we’re going with: “The Big Mac” was invented in this unassuming location’s kitchen. The sandwich was given several unmarketable names before it was finally given its famous one. But whatever it was called it was still the PGH Made sandwich that took over the world. 

1st McDonald’s to ever sell a “Big Mac”:  575 Morgantown Street Uniontown, Pennsylvania 15401 

Image via heraldstandard.com

This location is the “birthplace” of the Big Mac – if what you’re counting is when it was first sold to the public and had the name “Big Mac”. In our opinion it’s like the difference of calling your birthplace the hospital you were born in versus the town you were born in — both are technically right. Whichever side of this debate that you fall on you’ll still get to enjoy a Big Mac here and isn’t that what truly matters? 

The Big Mac Museum: 9061 US-30, Irwin, PA 15642

Photo via James A on TripAdvisor

This is a McDonald’s that double(decker)s as a museum dedicated to the fatty-good burger. Curious about history and also hungry? Next time you’re on the PA Turnpike take a short sideventure at the Irwin Exit and nab your next Big Mac here. Eat it while standing beside the 14 foot high by 12 foot wide Big Mac replica — because why not?

Go Big and Go Mac.

This content was provided by a local, independent contributor to Made in PGH, a lifestyle blog.
Mo Macel

Mo is a pun-loving Pittsburgher who likes to take photos and write. She blogs at givegodyouryes.com and fullhipster.com.

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