Restaurants of the Road
March 25th, 2005: Chiodo's closed its doors forever following a farewell gathering of hundreds of regulars, admirers, and friends.
When RoadTrip America learned I was going to Pittsburgh, they sent me an email message suggesting a visit to Chiodo's Tavern located in Homestead, Pennsylvania. (Click here for RTA's visit in 1996). I have learned that RoadTrip America gives good suggestions, so at around 2:00pm on Tuesday, 09 November 2004, I visited Chiodo's.
Chiodo's Tavern is a Pittsburgh landmark famous for its longevity and "Mystery Sandwich." I entered the dining room and was asked if I needed any help. I told Joe that I was from Tempe, Arizona, and that RoadTrip America told me I needed to try a "Mystery Sandwich." Joe informed me that the cook was gone and no cook meant no sandwich, but it was a sunny day in Pittsburgh, so it only is natural that a young guy who worked at Chiodo's offered to make me one, but it would take a few minutes. I sought Joe's permission to take pictures, and he told me to enjoy myself and do whatever I wanted.
Joe asked what brought me to town, and I told him a computer conference. Joe asked if I knew Bill Campbell, and my reply was "No." Joe told me that Bill's a computer guy... some company called Intuit... Joe thinks Bill spends time in Arizona... Bill is from Homestead. Joe told me to come with him into the bar because he wanted to show me something. We walked from the dining room past a cage and into the bar. The bar walls and ceilings are full of 56 years of stuff that includes a bra collection. Joe took me straight to a picture of Bill Campbell -- 56 years of stuff and Joe took me straight to Bill's picture. I knew the Mystery Sandwich would be a " sandwich for all seasons."
My sandwich was ready, so I bellied up to the bar and ordered a Pittsburgh-brewed Iron City beer from Chiodos extensive beer selection. What a treat... Iron City beer and Mystery Sandwich.
It was a honor for me to meet Mr. Joe Chiodos and to visit Chiodos Tavern.
note from GT:
On the plane from Phoenix to Pittsburgh,a resident of Pittsburgh told me that he had heard Chiodo's had been sold (or something to that effect). I asked Joe about this, and he didn't give me an answer. But he did say that he'd been there for 56 years, and he didn't know what 2005 would bring. I got the impression that Joe didn't want to talk about his tavern's future.
(Click here for a report that Chiodo's may soon be replaced by a Walgreen's drug store.)
Every building in Pittsburgh can be identified by its relationship to a bridge, and Chiodo's Tavern is no exception. Everybody in town seemed to be able to give precise directions. "It's at the end of the Homestead Bridge. You can't miss it." They also said we shouldn't miss it, under any circumstances. "It's been there forever. The steel mill workers used to go there, and it's full of cool old stuff, mostly hanging from the ceiling."
Under strict orders to "try the Mystery Sandwich," we arrived at Chiodo's with both appetite and curiosity whetted. Joe Chiodo, nephew of the Joe Chiodo who founded the tavern back in the thirties, was on hand to greet us. We also met his wife Bernadine, who is Chiodo's cashier.
Joe gave us a tour of the famous bar, which involved a lot of neck-craning. The ceiling is worthy of the Smithsonian, and does an off-beat but thorough job of chronicling the life and times of a Pittsburgh steel worker. The collection doesn't stop with steel, however. It even includes a long row of bras, presumably donated by happy customers. Some looked quite new.
We obeyed orders and tried the Mystery Sandwich. It turned out to be a hamburger embellished with sauerkraut, several kinds of cold cuts and cheese. Hint: a half is a whole, and a whole is enough for a steel worker. Chiodo's bar offers an amazing variety of beers including local micro-brews and labels from around the world.
We left stuffed and glad to be in the exclusive club that can pass on a Pittsburgh mantra: "Try the Mystery Sandwich!"
107 W. 8th Avenue
Homestead, PA 15120