The Kielbalsa All-In-One Sandwich @ Giordano Brothers, San Francisco

giordano

The standard Kielbalsa, which arrives with provolone, coleslaw and, of course, fries.

I’ll be flying out to Pittsburgh to attend a wedding in July, which means that I’m relishing the opportunity to eat something über regional. Naturally, a sandwich at Primanti Brothers tops the list. What says more about Pittsburgh than their famous all-in-one sandwiches, named because they contain a side of coleslaw and french fries within the sandwich itself. It’s freakish and demented, and I can’t wait to eat one (so far, I have only seen them featured on television). In preparation for this occasion, I visited San Francisco’s Giordano Brothers, which has been making all-in-one sandwiches since 2004.

Giordano Bros is tiny, but stuffed to the hilt with Pittsburgh memorabilia. The restaurant features about half a dozen variations of the all-in-one sandwich, with choices ranging from pastrami, to Italian sausage, to coppa. The meat actually plays a minor role in the sandwich itself — it functions more as a garnish than anything. The height of the sandwich is provided by the coleslaw and the french fries, each of which deserves a mention: the fries are hand-cut and rustic, while the coleslaw is dressed with oil and vinegar, not mayonnaise.

The fries and the slaw combine to dominate the all-in-one’s flavor profile in a profound way, especially with the presence of the vinegar-based coleslaw dressing. The bread itself is both functional and neutral — sliced thick like Texas toast — but the type that smashes flat as soon as you pick up the sandwich. Giordano Brothers might agree to toast this bread during their downtime (something that I always view as a noteworthy improvement), but if business is brisk, these nit-picky modifications are mostly discouraged. Additions, however, are welcome: many Giordano faithful will request a fried egg on their sandwich (rendering the choice of meat even more irrelevant).

For me, the best way to experience Giordano Brothers is to plan around the lunch rush, and order the Italian sausage all-in-one, on toasted bread, with the fried egg option (aside from coleslaw and fries, the sandwiches also come with provolone cheese). Unless I’m advised otherwise between now and July, this is what I’ll be ordering at Primanti Brothers as well.

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