“No, we’re not going to do EVERY Southern barbecue sandwich, we’re not insane.”
~AFFotD Editor-in-Chief Johnny Roosevelt
So, we’ve been writing about sandwiches a lot lately, and we’re going to keep that train going. Okay, listen, this is the sixth article out of eight about how bread is a thing that can taste better when you put random shit in it, so at a certain point you just run out of ways to introduce the damn topic. “Hi, AFFotD here. As you’ve surely noticed, we’ve decided to take on the daunting task of telling you about every sandwich that’s unique enough to warrant discussion, outside of submarine style sandwiches that we covered in a four part series a year ago. After telling you about classic sandwiches, open face monstrosities, regional sandwiches of the East, and the unhealthy bread monsters birthed by the Midwest, we’re going to cover the rest of the nation, focusing on the South (and Miami, which doesn’t really count as the south), the Mountain Time Zone region, and the West Coast.”
Huh actually that was a decent way to set up this article. We’re not really sure why we put it in sarcastic quotation marks, come to think of it. Anyway, let’s talk sandwiches!
American Sandwich Series: Lesser-Known Regional Sandwiches of America (Mountain, West Coast and Southern Edition)
We initially intended to center this article around the West coast, until we realized that that whole region in America is depressingly sparse of unique sandwich styles. Sure, California probably does some shit with tofu or something, but come on. Colorado seems to try to get in on the action, but there wasn’t enough to sustain a full article, until we added the South, because when it comes to food the South does not really fuck around. There were a couple of hard lines we had to take on this list—we know the Chick-Fil-A Southern-style chicken sandwich should be on this list, but that’s just enough of a generic style without a real solid established origin story to not make the list. And while we do have a barbeque sandwich here, and we included pulled pork in an earlier article, we had to generally avoid most barbeque sandwiches because every state in the South (and some in the Midwest) have a damn variation of a barbecue sandwich. And yes, they’re all good. We’re just not going to talk about them. What we will talk about, however, is…
Alabama-Style Chicken Sandwich (Alabama)
While we literally just said we’re not going to write about southern-style chicken sandwiches, this is different and more unique, because we said so. Also because the Alabama iteration is regionally identifiable, and relatively unique. This style takes pulled chicken and pairs it with an Alabama white sauce, which is a combination of mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar (though a dash of horseradish is often added), which is placed on a bun and topped with pickle slices. The style was created in 1925 by Robert Gibson, the owner of Big Bob Gibson’s Bar-B-Q, which still is in business and currently has two locations while selling their white sauce online, because the sauce was created at the same time as the sandwich.
So okay, this one is technically a barbeque sandwich. And a chicken sandwich. Two types of sandwiches we promised not to talk about. Man we’re really not doing a good job sticking to our own arbitrary rules.
Pig Ear Sandwich (Mississippi)
The Pig Ear Sandwich is not called that because it’s some “cute name” that describes what it kind of looks like. You might be thinking, for example, of an elephant ear, which is just a term for fried dough. This is a pig ear, which is cartilage and shit because it’s a fucking pig’s ear. This sandwich, slash, food you might see on Fear Factor was first sold in Jackson, Mississippi by Juan Mora, who opened up a restaurant in the 1930s. He came across a good deal on pig’s ears, because it’s the ears of a pig and most sane, non-desperate people do not feel the need to eat them, much like how we’d imagine a pig’s eye can probably be procured pretty cheaply too if you just sort of stop caring about how others think of you. Mora’s great grandson still sells the Pig Ear sandwich at his restaurant, The Big Apple Inn, though other restaurants have taken to selling it to, because, oh God why?
The ear is not fried or sautéed, it’s just, cooked, whole, a whole damn ear. It’s served with mustard and coleslaw on top, and it comes regular, mild, or spicy, which at least helps mask the fact that you’re eating ear meat and cartilage. Because eww. Pig’s ear. Gross. Next sandwich, please.
Frita Cubana (South Florida)
The Frita Cubana, or just Frita, is basically a Cuban kind of hamburger. It originated in the 1930s as a Cuban street food, but like the Cuban Sandwich in our previous series, the fact that Cubans came to America with this recipe and established it as a Southern Florida sandwich is enough for us to look the other way and just, you know, say it’s an American sandwich. It’s believed to have come to America first in 1961, when Dagoberto Estevil opened a restaurant named Fritas Domino in Little Havana. The frita itself is comprised of a ground beef patty (sometimes mixed with chorizo) cooked on a flat top placed between two slices of Cuban bread, where it’s topped with shoestring potatoes, lettuce, onions, and a spiced ketchup.
The sandwich can be found almost exclusively (and cheaply) in Miami, where it’s a bit hard to hunt down, but worth it if you can find a place that makes a really good one, especially if you can down a Batido de Trigo (puffed wheat shake) (we’re not entirely sure how one “puffs” wheat, but apparently it’s done by like, heating wheat under pressure until it pops like a popcorn kernel? Like, think along the lines of Honey Smacks?). Either way, while this is much less common than its more famous Cuban sandwich brother, it’s still damn tasty and worth seeking out if you have the opportunity.
Denver Sandwich (Colorado)
While we specifically said at the beginning of this series that you would not be seeing a “breakfast sandwich” listed here, that only applies to generic bacon, egg and cheese mixtures that you can find anywhere that people who enjoy food exist and eat breakfast. The Denver sandwich, however, belongs solely to Denver, though you can find it elsewhere. It’s also known as the Western sandwich, and has been around since at least 1907 according to conflicting reports by restauranteurs Albert A. McVittie and M.D. Looney, who each claimed to invent the sandwich, which is made by taking a Denver omelet and placing it between two slices of toast. That’s it—the Denver sandwich is a Denver omelet, in sandwich form. For those of you who have never been to an actual restaurant to eat breakfast, that means that the sandwich takes eggs mixed with (at the very least) ham, onions and green peppers and turns it into (slightly messy) portable meal.
Some food writers believe that the sandwich was created by Chinese chefs working the railroads out west during the 19th century, comparing the sandwich to egg foo young, and while the idea of “make an omelet and put it on the sandwich” likely came about that way, we’ll stick with the early 20th century invention of this particular sandwich mainly through the choice of a very specific omelet to place on there. This particular combination spread throughout the coast, and outside of Colorado it’s just as likely to go by the Western Sandwich moniker.
Fool’s Gold Loaf (Colorado)
Elvis Presley really liked sweet shit on his sandwiches, which has had way more of an impact on our culinary history than it has any reason to. While we’ll get to the sandwich named after him in a later article, the Fool’s Gold Loaf would probably just be a super unhealthy sandwich made at one restaurant which would have faded into obscurity when the Colorado Mine company, the restaurant in question, closed. But all it takes is one story about Elvis taking a private jet from Graceland in 1976 to buy 22 sandwiches and eat them with champagne for three hours before flying home to make something important enough to have its own damn Wikipedia page.
This sandwich, which still is replicated in various restaurants that try to leech off the Elvis legacy, was always extremely expensive and extremely unhealthy—it was originally priced at $37.95 and eventually went as high as $65, and is estimated to have had 8,000 calories in its initial incarnation. To make the sandwich, you hollow out a loaf of bread and fill it with the contents of a jar of peanut butter, an entire jar of grape jelly, and a fucking pound of bacon, at which point you place it in front of the person you’ve chosen to be this year’s sacrifice to the fertility goddess while you watch over and make sure they eat the whole thing. As far as we can tell, it’s only available year-round at Nick’s Café, which is owned by Nick Andurlakis who worked at the Colorado Mine Company during the Elvis incident, and Andurlakis is sure to keep the legacy alive and well of this 8,000 calorie sandwich loved by a man who famously died on a toilet seat. But we’re not done with awesomely unhealthy sandwiches that could only really be born in America, because a trip over to Montana brings us the imposingly named…
The Nuke (Montana)
We’re not sure if this sandwich is made available anywhere outside of the Staggering Ox, which has three locations throughout the state of Montana, but that’s not going to keep us from posting about it here. If we wanted to be technical we’d say that this kind of sandwich is referred to as a Clubfoot, since that’s a general style of sandwich that’s been trademarked by the Staggering Ox, which has been around since about 1973. The sandwich is unique in that it arrives vertically, with ingredients crammed into a cylindrical hollowed out half-loaf of bread.
The Nuke is just one variation of the clubfoot, but it’s the one that gets the most national attention, so we’ll toe that company line as well. The nuke takes this half loaf of bread and fills it with ham, turkey, roast beef, cheddar cheese, Swiss, and provolone. All their sandwiches come with a sauce of your choice, which range from standard normal dressing like additions, like ranch, and unique and strangely named ones like camel spit (cucumber and dill). They’re pretty good at making sandwiches, but sort of super weird about their promotional materials, as evident by one location’s sandwich of the month for April (of 2015. As in, this is not 8 years old), so that’s…that’s something.
But, no, the important thing is that they’re good at sandwiches. Because that’s what we’re all about here at AFFotD this month. Sandwiches. Sandwiches everywhere. Stay tuned for our seventh entry on bread-vessels, where we’ll start talking about really weird sandwiches that fall on the sweeter side of things. Because this is America, and if we’re going to get you fat on dinner foods we might as well work on trying to get some cavities in there as well.