It has been about five years since Jake Mulliken, one of The Strip!’s most intriguing writers, left the environs of the three rivers for supposedly [Bowling] Greener pastures. Recently he’s been feeling nostalgic and wanted to remind our readers of all the
    wonderful “miss-able” things about the Steel City.

    It’s 7:00 a.m. here in Bowling Green. A brisket has been on the Pit Boss for eight hours, and ham hocks are boiling away with white navy beans on the range, while coleslaw and potato salad marinate in the fridge—a typical Sunday for me these days, in the heart of western Kentucky.

    After five hours, I venture down to the Alley Cat on Broadway for thin-crust pineapple-and-bacon pizza, throw my quarters on the pool table, and order a pitcher of Yuengling. At around 5:00 p.m., I stumble back home, cutting through Western Kentucky University’s campus, and stopping for a six-pack of Yuengling.

    By 8:00 p.m., the brisket—covered in my granddad’s secret barbecue sauce—is perfect, ready to enjoy with helpings of fried cornbread fritters, white beans and ham hocks, and slaw and potato salad.

    And sometime after 9:00 p.m. I’ve finished four Yuenglings and have done what I do most evenings in those quiet moments of dripping sweat and enjoying the good work of America’s oldest brewery—reminisce about Pittsburgh.

    It has been five years since I’ve jumped on I-71 North out of Louisville toward Cincinnati and through Columbus to catch I-70 East toward Wheeling—to hit the signs that finally lead one through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and then …

    Pittsburgh.

    Where I sit now, I am 500 miles in every cardinal direction from anything that could remotely pass for a meatball sub or a Sunseri’s pepperoni roll … I am 500 miles from PNC Park, Yovi’s Chicago Hot Dogs, and getting a Roland’s lobster roll while Irish Johnny tells me to behave myself for the third night in a row … 500 miles from the pilgrimage across the Clemente Bridge … 500 miles from watching rugby games at Claddagh over an 8:00 a.m. Irish breakfast with a Guinness … 500 miles from benders that tear through Lawrence-ville and end with breakfast to sober us up for day drinking and a Steelers game … 500 miles from late-night walks through downtown Pittsburgh in the snow … 500 miles from haluski and pierogies at S&D Polish Deli … and 500 miles from a Lucy’s Banh Mi sandwich in the gravel lot between Penn Avenue Fish and the Leaf and Bean.

    Now, ask yourselves: When was the last time, if ever, that you beheld the Mike-Ditka-clad walls of Yovi’s while waiting to order a legit Chicago-style Italian beef sandwich?

    When was the last time that you took the incline up to the Mount Washington outlook or trekked down Butler Street through Lawrenceville into the Strip District and continued further through downtown on foot?

    When was the last time that you looked at your city through the eyes of a tourist or through a lens (as I did five long years ago) focusing on your weirdly unique city?

    It is an all-too-common mistake to take home for granted, to fail to see the simple beauty of the daily miracle that is a city like Pittsburgh.

    As one who without rhyme or reason found himself in Yinzer territory and found his success in its dive bars, publications, and independent film sets, and who was eventually called elsewhere, I understand that Pittsburgh exists far beyond its physical borders.

    During football season, go to any bar in the city and you will see someone proudly sporting the black and yellow and complaining about Mike Tomlin and the Rooneys—while chugging Heinz ketchup and throwing coleslaw and french fries on some sandwich, to the horror of those who know nothing of the miracle of a 2:00 a.m. Primanti sandwich and an Iron City brew.

    For those of you who have read this, do me a favor: Stop every so often to look up and appreciate the incredible architecture of downtown Pittsburgh. Check out a show at the Thunderbird. Grab some grub at Roland’s or Yovi’s or Mullaney’s. Get buzzed on a Sunday in an old locals bar and catch a game. My point is, for those of you lucky enough to be there, hold on tightly to that city because there is no place like it and no people more fine and true than Yinzers.

    Some of the destinations Jake Mulliken would frequent when he was in  Pittsburgh (clockwise from top): Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle, Lucy’s Banh Mi  Sandwiches, and S&D Polish Deli.

    Some of the destinations Jake Mulliken would frequent when he was in
    Pittsburgh (clockwise from top): Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle, Lucy’s Banh Mi Sandwiches, and S&D Polish Deli.

    HarpFiddle-BStrip-Sept-2021-C

    Jake Mulliken, who enjoys life to the utmost, contributed many articles to The Strip! in his past life in Pittsburgh. He writes now from Kentucky.