Welcome to John of Ya Jagoff!! as he shares his Pittsburgh Summer Favorites!
Some people mark the start of summer with the opening of local pools, Kennywood Park, the rain on the 3 Rivers Arts Festival or when they start to become overwhelmed with high school graduation invitations. I mark the season opening by when Gus pulls the Gus and Yiayia’s cart out over there on the North Side in the West Park area. The cart has been there for almost 80 years. “Since your dad was a lad,” as it says on the cart.
If ya haven’t been there. The treats are only half of the experience. The cart seems to have a “bubble of happiness” around it. People playing tennis in the park, squirrels running around looking for errant peanuts, bicycles, runners, walkers, kids, adults all catching the bug from Gus’ infectious calm demeanor and gentle smile. Nobody cuts the line. People say “excuse me” and car horns only beep when they’re giving a shout-out to Gus who doesn’t even look up.. he just raises his hand in between ice-shaving strokes to acknowledge.
So, it is a snow cone, is it an ice ball, is it shaved ice? It’s a topic of family picnic debates. I have no idea but it IS delicious. HINT: it says ice balls on the cart.
My favorite flavor? It’s a tie between banana and root beer. But, without empirical evidence (because empirical evidence is only necessary in Pittsburgh for discussions of Penguins, Pirates, Pitt or Steelers stats) I am pretty sure that the overwhelming #1 seller is the rainbow or multi-flavored ice. I can’t do the mixed flavors.. I don’t even like when my food mixes on my plate.
The peanuts and popcorn? For all I know, Gus might purchase the peanuts and the popcorn at Costco in 6-ton bags but, when he scoops them into the little bags that feel nice and warm in your hand, ya get this vision that Yiayia just handed them out of her kitchen window to you, the kid next door.
OK…I’ve just made myself hungry so, gotta head over to the North Side now. If you know about Gus and Yiayia’s, comment below about your favorite ice flavor.
If you haven’t been to Gus and Yiayia’ cart yet, go take a selfie of yourself in the bathroom mirror with a sad face… (Make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Don’t be a #SelfieFail) After that, head directly to Gus and Yiayias and come back here and tell me about it. Then you can delete your sad face selfie.
How to find the Gus and Yiayia’s cart:
If you’re a GPS user, the cart is located right around these coordinates:
40.452003 by -80.008682
If you need directions from a traditional Pittsburgh-direction-giver, you can get to the Gus and Yiayia by goin’ up ‘air between CCAC, where my cousin used to go to school before he got a job with the steam fitters union, and where the old plumbing place used to be at the corner of Brighton and North over dair by AGH and the aviary an’nat.
Thanks much to Liz for allowing me to post here!