Ravens at Steelers, Sunday Nov. 2, 8:30 p.m., Heinz Field, NBC
When these two teams played back in Week 2, I swallowed hard and wrote that it was “as close to a must-win situation as I'll ever declare in September." The Ravens won, so although this matchup is important, it's not a must-win. Let's call it a would-be-damn-comforting-to-win. Pittsburgh opened as 1 1/2 point favorites.
I always chuckle when I hear Ravens fans declare their hatred not only for the Steelers (understandable), but for the entire city of Pittsburgh (less so). The Steel City is not unlike Baltimore in its working-class roots, love for its sports teams, proximity to water (rivers vs. harbor), and occasionally less-than-sterling national reputation. I'm a fan of the place, its people, and its culture—just not its football team.
What to Eat: One of Pittsburgh's signature dishes is the chipped chopped ham barbecue sandwich. Originally made in 1933 at Isaly's, a local family chain of dairy/convenience stores, you can now buy the packaged deli meat at certain Walmarts here in Maryland. (Really you can use any ham, just make sure it's shaved razor thin.)
Place the meat in a skillet and cook over medium heat until it breaks into small pieces. Add some ketchup (Heinz, of course) and barbecue sauce to the skillet, then simply pile as much of the concoction onto a bread of your choice (most people seem to use a standard hamburger bun or Kaiser roll).
What to Drink: This being the conclusion of Halloween week (by the way, when did Halloween become an entire week/month/season?), a black and gold martini seems particularly appropriate for Sunday. First, add a few drops of blue, red, and green food coloring to a bottle of vodka. Shake the bottle well and the booze should darken. Pour two ounces into a shaker, add one ounce of Goldschlager Cinnamon Schnapps, shake well and pour into a cocktail glass.
If You Go: Much like Baltimore, Pittsburgh is a city of neighborhoods. The Strip District is filled with bars and restaurants, the original location of the famous/notorious Primati Bros. (46 18th St.) among them. (There's also a location inside Heinz Field.) People seem to get very worked up about this place. Opinions vary from the “putting fries and cole slaw on the sandwich is the kind of revolutionary thinking that made America great" to “it makes the sandwich a soggy, gross mess." I fall somewhere in the middle. My Primanti Bros. sandwiches have been tasty, but I have to say, I find the concept a bit gimmicky. Regardless, if you've never been, you need to decide for yourself.
In the Oakland, near the University of Pittsburgh, the Original Hot Dog Shop (3901 Forbes Ave.) is an institution. A greasy spoon popular with students, drunk people (they're not always one and the same) and everyone in between, it's known for huge portions, cheap prices, and some of the best cheese dogs and cheese fries around.
Downtown, Braddock's Pittsburgh Brasserie (107 6th St.) in the Renaissance Hotel features a deep lineup of bourbons, mixes some of the city's best cocktails, and serves local-inspired dishes like braised short rib pierogies and grilled Strip District kielbasa.
Wherever you go and whatever you eat, wash it down with an ice cold Iron City, the Natty Boh of the 'burgh. (I say that both as a compliment and a, well, have one and you'll understand.)