Saturday, February 27, 2016

Fat Head's Saloon and Primanti Bros. - Pittsburgh

When I was diagnosed with celiac disease 8 years ago, we did not live in Pittsburgh, but when we traveled back to our hometown to visit family, I was always sad that I could no longer eat at Fat Head's Saloon or Primanti Bros.  That all changed last year when I found out that Fat Head's Saloon now has an extensive gluten free menu, and Primanti Bros. could make me one of their famous sandwiches without the bread.  So in 2015, we were able to introduce our daughters to two restaurants that represent what Pittsburgh is all about.

The gluten free friendly menu at Fat Head's has the typical disclaimer you see in almost all restaurants today - they take precautions, but they cannot guarantee that cross contamination will not occur.  Even Disney has warnings like this on their allergy-friendly menus.  After asking our server questions about how they protect against cross contamination, I felt comfortable dining there.

Fat Head's has a variety of gluten free hard ciders on tap, and when I couldn't decide what to order, our server brought me two to try.

I ended up choosing a grape cider made by a local company, Arsenal Cider House.

When my husband and I used to dine at Fat Head's when we lived in Pittsburgh, we always ordered Garlic Parm wings and house-made potato chips.  Those wings were the best I have ever had, so I was definitely disappointed that they were not on Fat Head's gluten free menu, because they are made in a shared fryer. Fat Head's is known for their Headwiches, which can be served on a gluten free baguette, but I decided to order their house-smoked whole wings.  The wings were huge, and I am pretty sure I had them sauced with Fat Head's Original house-made sauce.  It is hard to remember, because we dined there over Thanksgiving break, which was three months ago.  I definitely told our server that I like a sweet and spicy sauce, so I ordered what she recommended.  My wings came out on a green plate, the color Fat Head's uses for gluten free orders.

I really enjoyed the wings, and ended up eating pieces of chicken on top of my house-made potato chips, which were just as amazing as I remembered.  Fat Head's cooks their potato chips and fresh-cut fries in a dedicated fryer.

December 1, 2016 Update 

For the second year in a row, we traveled to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving Break.  Before we went to the airport to fly back to California, we had lunch with both sides of our family at Fat Head's.

I ordered a cranberry cider made by Arsenal Cider House.  It was definitely one of the best hard ciders I have ever had.

For an entree, I chose the Triple Bypass burger with cheddar, house-smoked brisket in Beastly BBQ sauce, a sunny egg, and a side of fresh-cut fries.  I had no interest in my bun, so I did not even try it.  The burger was so good, this will be my regular meal at Fat Head's from now on.  The brisket was a little bit spicy, my burger was cooked well, and the fried egg on top was the icing on the cake!  The fresh cut fries were great too, but I missed having Fat Head's chips.  Next time, I will have to order a side of them, because they will not let you substitute chips for fries with the burgers.  My husband and daughters got a side of garlic fries, which looked and smelled amazing.  I did not notice that they were on the gluten free menu until I started to update this review.  I definitely see those in my future too the next time we stop at Fat Head's.

My aunt Karen, who also has celiac, ordered the Nicole's Original Cheesesteak Headwich served on a gluten free baguette, with a side of house-made potato chips.  She really liked it, but said there was a little too much bread.

Overall, we have had two great dining experiences at Fat Head's, which is located in the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  Their Portland restaurant also has a gluten free menu.  You can read more about Fat Head's Saloon here.

When we were in Pittsburgh in July, we had lunch at the Primanti Bros. in Grove City.  Our server was very knowledgeable about gluten free options, and I felt comfortable eating there after we discussed my cross contamination concerns.  It has been way too many months for me to recall specifics, but I think she told me that all the sandwiches are gluten free without the bread.  You can view Primanti's allergen menu here.

Primanti Bros. sandwiches have been featured on several shows on the Food Network and the Travel Channel.  What makes them so special is that they are topped with fresh-cut fries and coleslaw.  My daughters did not like the idea of fries and coleslaw on their sandwiches, but it was love at first bite for both of them.  They asked to go back to Primanti's when we went to Pittsburgh over Thanksgiving break, so we dined there with family at their restaurant in Harmarville.  You can view all Primanti Bros. locations here.  Their restaurants in the Strip District, Market Square, South Side, and Oakland do not have dedicated fryers for their french fries, so I would avoid those locations.

My favorite sandwich at Primanti's is the Black Angus steak with provolone cheese, coleslaw, fresh-cut fries, tomato, and a fried egg.  I really didn't even miss the Italian bread, because everything tasted great, and it was so nice to just enjoy dining at Primanti Bros. again.  Primanti's uses a mayo-free slaw that is a little tart, and tastes like the coleslaw I make with oil and vinegar for my BBQ chicken wraps.

Because of how busy Fat Head's and Primanti Bros. can get, we had an early lunch at both restaurants, which I look forward to visiting again on our next trip to Pittsburgh.

What are your favorite gluten free options at Fat Head's and Primanti's?


  1. Do you recall what Primanti's said about making their sandwiches without bread?

    1. Sorry, I just saw your comment, and I am not sure what you are asking.