A Few of my Favorite Things

I was watching a show on TV’s Food Network a few days ago. A young chef was explaining his style of cooking and what had inspired him to become a chef. He spoke about his family, his village in Mexico, his culture, and about the food that was native to his land. He described in detail, the specific meals and foods that he loved as a child. He recalled them with such passion, you would almost swear that he had just eaten them hours before!

I began to think about a few of my “favorite things” that I always enjoyed as a child of Duquesne. Certainly, many of the items I thought of are still available, but somehow I always remember them tasting better as a kid. Nonetheless, when I think about them, I still get a smile on my face and a longing to chow down on any one of them in the company of my famility, friends and neighbors by long ago.

Here’s to good ol’ Duquesne food……

  • Pizza from Irene’s Pizza on Grant Avenue
  • Jim’s Hot Dogs
  • Hucksterburgers from Huckster’s Bar on Crawford
  • Sugar donuts from Dawn Donuts in West Homestead
  • Chipped Ham from Isaly’s piled high on white bread with mayo
  • Ice cream cones from Dairy Queen (Remember the commercial? – “With a B and a BI and a BO and a BOP, its Dairy Queen with a curl on top!”
  • A&W root beer from the A&W Drive-in on Rt. 30 across from the Great Valley Shopping Center in North Versailles
  • Mission Orange and Mission Grape Pop from Green Valley Beer Distributors in East McKeesport
  • Freshly baked bread from Vienna Bakery on Bowman Blvd in East McKeesport
  • My mom’s city-chicken, creamed corn and mashed potato dinner.

A writer from the Post Gazette wrote an article and offered area recipes for city chicken recently. Click the following link to reminise along with them – http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/sectionfront/life/pittsburgh-sticks-with-loving-city-chicken-305208/

  • An Isaly’s skyscraper cone with vanilla ice cream with chocolate jimmies mixed into it
  • A giant fish sandwich from the Croatian Club on Wilmont Street
  • My Uncle Lou’s hot sausage with tons of onions and peppers
  • The smell of the macadam that covered most of the walking surfaces in Kennywood Park
  • Fresh Kennywood popcorn
  • Ice cold water from the green Fiesta® pitchers in the old Kennywood Restaurant and how they would sweat with condensation from the warmth of the restaurant
  • Kennywood French fries served in a cone with lots of ketchup and salt
  • My dad’s garlic ring bologna, fried in REAL butter and onions
  • Jelly donuts from Bud and Jerry’s Donut Shoppe on First Street
  • Eating at the lunch counter in ANY of the 5 & 10 Cent Stores in McKeesport, Eastland or Duquesne Village
  • Buying cookies by the pound from the cookie counters at Murphy’s or H.L.Green’s 5& 10
  • Lick ‘em Ade, Pixie Stix and those little wax soda bottles with the ultra- sweet fruit juices insude
  • My dad’s “combination sandwiches” made with chipped ham and eggs on white toast with ketchup
  • Maple rolls and the little glass bottles of milk that were served to the students of Holy Name School on First Fridays

Do you have some other favorites that you’d like to share? Please add yours to the comment section…….

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48 Responses to A Few of my Favorite Things

  1. Bob Chermonitz says:

    Jim stop it! I’m trying to shed some pounds!! My old Duquesne Place buddy, Rich Racan, mentioned the Duke Diner’s (on Duquesne Blvd.) famous brown gravy over fries. I’m pretty sure that this dish is what led to the texting expression of OMG!! They were that good. I recall Rich being in there with a plate of those in front of him (and I may be off on this) when I arrived after they drew the lottery numbers for the military, not NFL, draft. A bunch of guys were out front all asking what number your birthday had been assigned. My number was 263 and they were drafting up to 199. How can I forget? I looked inside the diner through those big plate glass windows and I saw Rich. I asked why he wasn’t outside with the rest of us? I was told his number was 5!! And that explains the letters I still have from him in Viet Nam. Rich you can have them for your grandkids if you like. :)

  2. Becky Wahly says:

    Aaaaah, the fresh bread from Vienna bakery! And Vanilla Phosphates from Gallaghers!

  3. Frank Mullen says:

    Jim, Hoping this is not an imposition on your wonderful hospitality, may I ask if three classmates, whose postings I have read here, are going to our DHS 50th Reunion in August?
    Jack Berta
    Tom Lane
    Michael Bashista
    If I am imposing, just delete this message, please.
    Frank Mullen

  4. chelley1 says:

    Everything at G&K bakery was the best… and I always loved stopping in at Gallagher’s on a hot day, sitting at the counter sipping a cherry soda or cherry coke from the fountain!

    • Jim says:

      Since my home was on Thomas Street, which is directly across from G&K, I became addicted to just about everything George would make. My favorites were the chocolate chip cookies, marble layer cake, anything with apricot filling, the cinnamon swirled donuts and cinnamon twists.

      • Beth Pastrick Keane says:

        Does anyone have the recipe for G &K icing? THey used it on cakes and cupcakes.

  5. Everything in G&K bakery… and sitting at the counter in Gallagher’s on a hot day sipping cherry soda or cherry coke from the fountain! The best!

  6. David Marks says:

    Ya know, you could always get a great fish sandwich, whether at Hucksters, Union Grill, G&M, Babes, or the Cro Club. That’s Wilmot by the way. And the penny candy at Soltesz Market was the bomb after Nick cut your hair while Sam Markides was pressing a pair of your pants.

    But for simple pleasure, those pear trees below chalk hill into Nickoly Hollow toward the VFW offered a great relief after walking home from football practice. God provided the best while he watched over Duquesne – our own little Brigadoon for a spell.

    • Jim says:

      Dave, I LOVE the comparison of Duquesne to Brigadoon!!!! You hit the nail on the head. I suppose one could also consider it our own Camelot!!

  7. Kathy Dobransky Hudak says:

    I also have to say, I remember the “Plaza” theater in Duquesne, and I would never go downstairs by myself, it was soooo scary, with the dark carpeting and they either had big ugly pictures or those gargoyles hanging from the walls. And the old Woolworth’s by the theater too.

  8. Carole Carlisle Schick-Moyer says:

    Especially the smell of the bread baking at Vienna Bakery as the school bus drove past every afternoon.

  9. Frank Mullen says:

    For some reason, all those memories of treats reminded me of a store that specialized in Italian delights, situated along the road that ran past Versailles Cemetery, and a little ways past the exit off the Duquesne-McKeesport Bridge, toward the road to Renziehausen Park; it was called Baraducci’s (sp?) I believe. My father (Italian) used to bring home pitzelles (sp?) from there, as well as an ENTIRE hard salami, a whole provolone cheese that was tied up in cord, and black olives, all to be lavished upon a thick, cloud-soft hunk of Italian bread. A little red wine (I was allowed to have a sip out of a small glass), and we were set for an evening watching shows like Sid Caesar and Imogene Cocca (sp???) or Milton Berle , on our blonde Admiral TV.

  10. Larry McConnell says:

    You hit all of them Jim! I remember the wonderful aroma from Irene’s. You could smell it a block away. and those Kenneywood fries! I worked there three summers. When I would sneak a few for myself I would run them through the frier a little longer. To this day I have not found any better.
    Thanks again Jim and all of you who replied.
    Larry McConnell cskennedy117@att.net

  11. Paula Goldman Smith says:

    God, I’m starving! Don’t forget the pizza from the Kennywood Pool. And lemon blends from Isaly’s. Hucksters also had fabulous fish sandwiches. I’ve been a lot of places, tried many fish sammies but never could find one to rival Hucksters, UNTIL I discovered Keith’s in Trafford about 10 years ago. They are the best ever. But my mother’s stuffed cabbage was truly number one.

    • John (Jack) Berta says:

      Paula,

      I know what you mean about Keith’s in Trafford. Have lived in Levelgreen for 36 years. You should try one of his turkey club sandwiches. Don’t try to get one on a Friday during Lent.

      • Paula Goldman Smith says:

        Yep, Keith has two speeds, slow and slower. NEVER go there on a Friday during Lent.

  12. Lew Soltis says:

    Fish sandwiches from the Village Tavern (across the street from Duquesne Annex Fire Hall).

  13. Debbie Carr Gavlik says:

    I remember the taffy that I bought at one of the 5 & 10’s in McKeesport. It was at the end of an aisle behind glass. It was vanilla, chocolate & strawberry. They would break it with a metal hammer into chunks and then put it into a brown bag, or poke, as my grandma called it. I would be such a happy camper when I rode the bus home and ate my taffy!

  14. Jack Schalk says:

    My list would be lengthy but I can break it down into some favorites.

    Lady locks and cream puffs from Balsamos.
    Fried baloney sandwiches with ketchup, on home made bread especially.
    Anything my Mom made that ended in “paprikas”.
    The Manhattan sandwiches at the Club Car in McKeesport. These were particularly good after a roller skating outing in Glassport.
    Building a fire on the banks of the Allegheny with my Dad while fishing and then rendering slab bacon on a stick till it was finished and then cutting it up and eating on rye bread along with a roasted onion and raw green pepper. I still do this in my yard when I feel a need to reconnect!

    • BOB Vislay says:

      I remember the late night sandwiches at the Club Car, and rendering “Hungarian Bacon” on onion bread at Uncle Bill’s.

  15. Anything from Minerva Bakery in McKeepsort.

  16. Bob Salopek says:

    Banana Splits at Gallagher’s … and those 9 inch diameter layer cakes from Balsamo’s in McKeesport … AND they only cost 85 cents !! 60 cents for a “small” layer cake. One of the treats while shopping there, if you were lucky, those GM F7 diesel electric engines would rumble in, crossing Lyle Blvd and stopping trafic on Fifth Ave, while passengers alighted and boarded. Amazing sight !!

  17. Linda (Negley) Gibb says:

    oh & don’t forget those wonderful bakery things from “Woolfarths” (sp?) bakery in Homestead called Snowballs. They used to have a delivery van that came down our st. (Glenny Lane). They were always a delight!

  18. Linda (Negley) Gibb says:

    wow you covered a lot there but one you would not know about was my Mother’s “ham salad” made with ground up jumbo. Um Um good. Also her deviled eggs.

  19. Frank Mullen says:

    This may be too far-a-field but, a small deli in Shadyside, called The Gazebo (if I remember correctly,) made perfect Corned-beef-on-rye sandwiches, a particular treat when we’d go shopping in that neighborhood. Their mutzaball (sp?) soup was perfect, too.

    Also, a couple bakeries in the Duquesne and greater McKeesport-Monroeville area used to make “thumb-print” cookies, approx. the size of silver dollars, that had a little dollop of perfect icing in the middle, often pink, yellow, or light green in color. Usually, those same bakeries would sell small, palm-sized crescent-shaped nut or apricot rolls that were really good, too.

    Oh, and that Dairy Queen at the bottom of Miller Avenue, in Duquesne Place, would make me root beer milkshakes – yes, milkshakes, not just simple floats – if I asked them earnestly enough (I was a familiar face, living just two houses up the street.) Pure ambrosia!

    • Bob Chermonitz says:

      Frank, I know this is off the topic,also. But I’m in Shadyside/Oakland every other week on business and I’ve been telling everyone about the Gazebo Deli. It’s been gone a long time and I just get blank stares from fellow workers and doctors. They’re either too young to remember or born out of town. The Gazebo was and still is the best deli I’ve ever been to except for the Carnegie Deli on 7th Ave between 52nd and 54st in NYC. OMG the smells/flavors, and abuse from staff was the greatest ever in Pittsburgh! :)

      • Frank Mullen says:

        It’s kind of fun, Bob, finally meeting somebody who knew The Gazebo. It’s been decades since I visited Shadyside, and I am sorry to hear that deli is gone. It’s actually the first place I ever ate and came to appreciate Kosher cuisine and standards.. And you are right, theirs was the standard I used, also, when I went to the Carnegie Deli for the first time. I liked The Gazebo best. Plus, all the shops along that street were very attractive and exuded class, IMHO.

      • Becky Wahly says:

        Okay, Bob. I remember the Gazebo! When I was at Carnegie Tech, everyone would wander over for one on the weekend! And the Carnegie Deli in NYC is absolutely awesome! Had to sepnd a week in the city and managed to eat every meal I could there! And take the leftovers back to the hotel for a late snack!

    • Lou A. says:

      Frank,
      I remember the Gazebo so well that any cheesecake I have ever eaten since is rated against theirs. Oy, Veh!

  20. Colleen Byrne Travis says:

    I remember all of them but, the maple rolls and the little bottles of milk were the BEST.
    Remember, we were fasting to receive holy communion . Not only were we hungry, but that breakfast was soooo good!

  21. sally morini says:

    Holy Name school and the mention of the maple rolls and chocolate milk bottles is a winner

  22. Polly says:

    Toasted ham sandwich from Bud’s (Rainbow Gardens) and Oz’s pizza (Route 30)

  23. Ninabi says:

    Oh yum! Now I’m going to be thinking about chipped ham for days and days and there’s not any to be had within a thousand miles of my house. But I will call up my mom and remind her about city chicken, Pittsburgh gal that she is at heart.

    Another food- why did the candy counters in the department stores in downtown Pittsburgh- and I’m remembering Kaufmann’s, Hornes and Gimbels- smell so incredibly good? The chocolate, the scent of warmed cashews mixed in with the fragrance of the department store wares- it’s like trying to describe what a classroom with blackboards and wood floors smells like- it’s special, but can never be bottled up and sold in spray form.

    Thank you for the Kennywood memories- the fries were so good. Thanks for keeping up your blog- it’s always a bright spot on the internet.

    • Jim says:

      Here in Eastern MD, I am able to find the chopped ham, but trying to get them to chip it thin enough is impossible. The deli clerks give me this deer in headlights look and just botch itup everytime.

      • Linda (Negley) Gibb says:

        Hey Jim I had the same problem when I moved to WV. But the butcher @ Krogers was very helpful. After I described it to him he set the meat slicer on 3 & I said nope too thick, then 2 then 1 & finally a zero setting was just right. He lauged & said it’s all in broken pieces & I replied Yes that’s how it’s supposed to be. I told him it made the best ham bar-b-que. Well I guess he took some home & had his wife make bar-b-que with it & next time I was in said his wife said to thank me. Who knew ?

      • cathy Sturm says:

        Hey Jim, my Mom taught the girls at Piggly Wiggly in Arkansas to make chipped ham. Just tell them to put the slicer on its thin as possible setting….that you want to be able to see through the ham tell them not too to try to go too fast or it will come out chipped the way they do it down here…. it still won’t be Isaly’s but it’s better than nothing!

      • Kathy Dobransky Hudak says:

        Funny, when my Mon went to visit in Fl and then moved there, she actually went behind the deli counter and showed them how to chip the ham!!! And I do love those places mentioned for fish sandwiches.. but I have to be partial to the Duquesne Annex fish diners and sandwiches,they were huge!! And also the Good Humor ice cream truck that came around the neighborhoods ringing that bell!!!! Thanks again for the memories!!!!

      • Michael Bashista says:

        Here in Atlanta area[even had them doing it for me in Destin, FL] I have gotten both my Publix and Kroger meat counters to give me “shaved” ham which is just what those below described. Small shaved pieces that make the perfect tasting sammich!! It is great with a barbeque sauce as the flavor seems to go all through the meat.

      • Lou A. says:

        I just found this article in today’s PostGazette; I knew there was a post about it somewhere. Brought back memories –
        http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/life/food/the-barbecued-chipped-ham-sandwich-still-rules-662704/

  24. Roseanne says:

    Chocolate eclairs from Bud and Jerry’s

  25. Jennifer O Legler says:

    We are in town this week & drive by the Vienna Baking Co, and I know I smelled the aroma!

  26. Jane Fulmer Pocsatko says:

    Ladylocks from G&K.

    • cathy Sturm says:

      George made some great lady locks our kids loved his smiley face cookies no one else’s were anywhere near as good as his

  27. Harold West says:

    Mayo and Tomato sandwiches made with Tomatoes from the back yard.

  28. cathy Sturm says:

    cinnamon raisin bread from Minerva bakery,Menzi’s buttermilk, Feig’s rye bread, Manicotti & pineapple cheesecake for dessert at Gimbel’s restaurant( I think it was a Thursday special), combination club sandwich at the club Car,

  29. Debra Faust-Clalncy says:

    Jim, My dad used to make what he called “Dagwood” sandwiches, after the cartoon character in the funnies. It was fried eggs, maybe even fried baloney (or we called “jumbo”) sliced tomatoes, lettuce and pickles with mayo on toast. You would eat this with a giant glass of cold milk and he
    would have a “bud” or an iron city! This sandwich was a meal and a half, but it was such fun eating them with him, both of us giggling if we dripped. I didn’t know it then, but that was love. Pure happiness.

  30. Tom Lane says:

    I remember the small loaves of bread from Irene’s pizza. Loved them right out of the oven. Hot and crunchy outside and soft in the middle. We used to wait til they were fresh from the oven. Fantastic…

  31. Tracey says:

    I think you hit all the high points!!!

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