Family Recipe Friday – City Chicken

The women in our families have likely done the majority of the cooking, and many of us have fond memories of a mother, grandmother, or auntie in the kitchen making a favorite recipe. My father remembers his grandmother Mem (Elizabeth Linneman Speck Merz) making City Chicken as a child when they lived in Pittsburgh.

City Chicken actually isn’t chicken, but cubed beef, pork and/or veal on wooden skewers to resemble drumsticks. This recipe may have originated in Western Pennsylvania, and was popular in other areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Western New York. Early recipes for City Chicken show up in the 1930’s post-Depression Era. Chicken was costly or hard to find, while the other meats (especially pork) were generally cheaper.

Here is an ad from 1932 for City Chicken from McCanns in Pittsburgh: [1]


My father remembers that Mem made it with pork, veal and beef. My parents have continued to cook this meal today, although they usually only use pork. Here is the Cubbage version (there was no written recipe):

City Chicken
1″ to 1 1/4″ cubes of pork loin (and veal or beef) – put 4 on a skewer
dredge in flour
dip in beaten egg
roll in flavored bread crumbs
brown on all sides
put a grate in bottom of a pot and add tiny bit of water
bake at 400F until the meat is done (not sure how long)- just test it with a fork.

I don’t have a picture of our City Chicken (I will be sure to take one next time we have it!). Instead, here is a picture of Mem in her kitchen – probably when she lived on Thelma Street in Pittsburgh.


[1] “City Chicken” in McCanns advertisement, The Pittsburgh Press, 1 November 1932, p. 6, col. 2; digital image, ( : 26 March 2019).