Monday, September 5, 2011

The Original Oyster House: Classic Pittsburgh Dining at it's Finest

As loyal Blast Furnace readers know, I have been doing a pretty good job making my way around some of Pittsburgh's best known and hidden gem eateries. Although the majority of restaurants that I have reviewed have been repeat dining experiences, you all may be surprised to read that I have never been inside of nor eaten food from one of Pittsburgh's oldest and most famous eateries, The Original Oyster House located at 20 Market Square in downtown Pittsburgh. The Original Oyster House is not only famous for it's great food, but also it holds a spot as one of Pittsburgh's many Historic Landmarks marked by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation. This restaurant holds a special place in the hearts of Yinzers and out-of-towners alike as most people are sure to make their way to Market Square in order to wander around at least once a year.

The menu of the Original Oyster House is very limited, but each item seems to be a great and delicious choice. The Oyster House is your typical fish sandwich bar where I would imagine most people order the same sandwich again and again the same way they would at Primanti Brothers. While I am on the side-topic of Primanti Brothers, I must say that The Original Oyster House surely would be the #2 or #3 on a 'Restaurant Icons of Pittsburgh' top 10 list. I ordered the Spicy Whitefish sandwich while my companions for the outing ordered 'Our Famous Jumbo Fish' sandwich and the Maryland Style Crab Cakes with a side of both onion rings and coleslaw. The Spicy Whitefish was breaded with a Cajun seasoning which when topped with Red Devil hot sauce was a great treat. The bread was soft, but not mushy and allowed the hot sauce to soak into it like a sponge....just the way I like a fish sandwich. It was big enough to eat alone with no need for a side. I definitely would order this sandwich again. My companions were more than pleased with their meals as well.

The Oyster House environment is what sealed the deal for me. This place was 'Pittsburgh'. From the location in Market Square to the staff themselves, this place was more 'Pittsburgh' than the hands down favorite in most circles, Primanti Brothers.

Why is the Oyster House 'Pittsburgh'? I thought a bullet point list could best illustrate this explanation.

Location: Market Square - views of PPG building and the last remnant of old time Pittsburgh
Food Culture: Giant fish sandwiches that can't fit into your hand. A no frills presentation as the sandwich is served on a paper plate. As Dave Wannstedt said "at night, I (can) walk down to the south side and have an Iron City Light and a fish sandwich with the guys who just got done working." This is where I imagine he would eat.
Beer Selection: This may be the one place where local beers dominate the draft taps and who wouldn't want an Iron City, IC Light, or Augustiner Lager to wash down a hot fish sandwich.
Interior Design: The walls are filled with newspaper clippings, paintings, pictures, and slogans from Pittsburgh's past and present. In addition, I can't imagine that the bar or tables have change much since inception. When I walked in I felt like I was transported to a time when things were more simple and it gave me an 'at-home' feel. Even the bathroom had the traditional urinal cake smell and watered down pink liquid hand soap in an old ketchup bottle.
Staff: The staff was very friendly and polite. Not pushy, but made sure you got what you wanted quickly. From the waitress asking, 'Yinz ready to order?' to the bartender's Pittsburgh moustache the staff oozed Yinzer in all of it's glory.
Price: 3 people, 3 beers, 3 meals, $30 - fits right into any Pittsburgher's budget

In addition to the Oyster House being 'Pittsburgh' we headed off to the Pitt home opener and were told to enjoy the game on out way out. I really enjoyed the Oyster House and I will be sure to eat there again. The only thing that disappointed me was that I had never before eaten at the restaurant. I will be sure to rectify this loss over the rest of my life.

Pills gives the Original Oyster House 5/6 Irons for a great experience that helps you to achieve true Yinzer status. Be sure to bring any visitor to this restaurant so they can experience what we have all come to love over out lifetime here in the Burgh. The food will bring the customers in, but it is the combination of the food and environment that will keep customers coming back.


  1. R Korn said...

    I too had never eaten there until Saturday. I had been inside before though. I enjoyed my jumbo fish sandwich. Fish sandwiches are a Pittsburgh dietary staple.

  2. I'm going to have to try some food there sometime. The last time I was there (and I'm definitely dating myself) the place was a huge underage drinking hotspot, especially when you could drink outside on the streets on Fri night.

    I remember walking outside, and seeing a guy about 5 feet in front of me get nailed by a white patio chair. A huge fight erupted, and cops were everywhere.

    Then, on the way home, some guy was peeing in that middle connector thing that pivots on the trolley. No one seemed to mind, and no one said anything to him.