15 Stories Behind Famous Sandwiches

From the baloney sandwich to the Fluffernutter, learn about the wide variety of sandwiches that Americans love.

Famous sandwiches like grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and French Dip seem to have been around forever. But, that’s not the case. In this article, we’ll dive into the history and founding stories of 15 famous sandwiches.

We all love sandwiches, they’re convenient, easy to make, and delicious. Each of us may have our favorite. We’ve assembled a list of tasty treats that appeal to pretty much everybody. Whether you like your sandwich hearty and hot, or cold and stuffed with veggies, there is something on this list for you.

There are also some traditional “go-to’s” on the list, family favorites like Peanut Butter and Jelly, Grilled Cheese, and Muffuletta. But before we share the list, Here’s a little history of the creation of the sandwich.

 

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Classics: Famous Sandwiches

Moms and Dads have been making sandwiches for kids lunches ever since children started attending school. The ritual of packing a lunch either in a fancy TV themed lunch box or a plain brown paper bag is well worn and treasured. The sandwich has always been the central part of these lunches and the anchor for the snacks and sweet treats that accompanied them. Each child has their favorite, but here are three that are tops on our list:

1.) Peanut Butter and Jelly

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich or PB&J is easy to make and fun to eat. The sandwich generally consists of a layer of peanut butter and a layer of jelly on two pieces of white bread. Peanut Butter has a long history, it is believed that the Inca Indians of South America grew and grinded peanuts to make a “butter.” But in 1895, Dr. John Kellogg (yep, that Kellogg of cereal fame) invented a version of peanut butter that his older patients could eat as a protein substitute. He came up with this to help his patients with poor teeth and inhibited ability to chew. Jelly has an equally long history being developed as a way to preserve fruit using cane sugar.

But who thought of combining peanut butter and jelly? The sandwich begins with the invention of pre-sliced bread in the early 1900’s. In1917, a man named Paul Welch (yes, Welch’s grape jelly) got a patent for mashing grapes and turning them into a jelly. A recipe published in the Boston Cooking School Magazine in 1901 combined Kellogg’s peanut butter with jelly (not Welch’s but rather an apple or currant jelly.) Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches caught on and the rest is history.

2.) The Fabulous Fluffernutter

There is a variant of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich called the “Fluffernutter.” The Fluffernutter is made with peanut butter and marshmallow cream. The marshmallow cream that is used was invented in Massachusetts just before World War I and the troops loved the Fluffernutter, although the name Fluffernutter wasn’t coined until 1960 by an ad agency that felt the name would sell more marshmallow cream.

3.) Grilled Cheese

On a chilly Autumn day, what family doesn’t enjoy sitting around and having a lunch of warm tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. The history of the grilled cheese sandwich can be traced back to the 1920’s when both sliced white bread and sliced American cheese became available. It was a popular quick dish for the Army during World War II and soldiers loved the hot, gooey, tasty sandwich.

The state of California is the largest producer of cheese in the U.S. Each year state holds the Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championship. Held in Dodgeville, WI, the championship is a two-day event with a beer and cheese event held Friday night and the “grill off” is Saturday.

4.) Bologna / Baloney Sandwiches

What child hasn’t walked happily to school carrying a bologna sandwich in his/her bag or box with mayonnaise and American cheese? It has also been spelled Baloney and something called myrtle berries give bologna its distinct flavor. Italian immigrants brought a sausage with them called mortadella which is very similar to bologna but has visible pieces of pork fat in the slices.

The Oscar Mayer company created a unique vacuum-sealed package that kept the bologna from drying out or spoiling. In the early 1970’s, Oscar Mayer came up with a famous jingle that really drove the sales of bologna through the roof. A child sitting on a dock with a fishing pole sings the letter of the name OSCAR MAYER. He says that’s what his baloney is called. In Arkansas, bologna is taken very seriously. Chefs in that state like to slice their bologna up to one inch thick and fry it before placing it between the bread slices. I guess it is an acquired taste.

Famous Sandwiches Meme

 

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Sandwiches Made Famous in a Specific City

There are many cities in the U.S. that have their own signature sandwiches. Started in one or two establishments and then spreading across the entire city until it is a staple. The choices vary from specific ingredients that might be available in certain cities to the acquired tastes of unique meats and cheeses. Read on to see if your city is renowned for its own famous sandwich.

5.) Philly Cheese Steak

Cooks love to create a good sandwich, one that will please their customers and keep them coming back for more. Such is the case with the Philly Cheese Steak. Thin slices of prime rib eye steak smothered in cheese sauce and covered with grilled onions and peppers on a hoagie roll.

According to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the creators of this delicious sandwich are Pat and Harry Olivieri in the early 1930’s. They owned a hot dog stand near South Philadelphia’s Italian Market. After the popularity of the sandwich soared, the little stand grew into a full-fledged restaurant called Pat’s King of Steaks which is still operating today.

6.) The Hot Brown Sandwich from Louisville, Kentucky

This hearty, satisfying sandwich was first made at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky in 1926. It’s an open-faced sandwich with roasted sliced turkey over toasted bread that is covered in Mornay sauce and then baked or broiled to make the top wonderfully brown and bubbly. Often bacon and/or tomatoes are added last on top of the sauce. When the sandwich was created it had unique appeal because generally roast turkey was only served at Thanksgiving. So, this sandwich immediately became a hit and over 90% of the guests at the hotel ordered it. The Brown Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and still serves the Hot Brown today.

7.)The Shrimp Po’ Boy and 8.) Muffuletta from New Orleans

These two sandwiches are both synonymous with New Orleans cuisine. The Shrimp Po’ Boy is served on a buttered, toasted French roll with a mound of battered fried shrimp, crispy shredded cabbage, diced tomatoes and a rich and savory remoulade sauce. A remoulade sauce is a mixture of mayonnaise, herbs (including parsley, chives, chervil, and tarragon), capers, diced pickles, and a little anchovy juice.

There is a fair amount of controversy about the origin of the Shrimp Po’ Boy sandwich, but some version of it has been served since the 1920’s to hard working farmers, dock hands, and laborers. There is no controversy about the Muffuletta sandwich consisting of a round bread also called a Muffuletta sliced a covered with several layers of marinated olive salad, salami, ham, Swiss cheese, provolone, and mortadella. The Central Grocery Delicatessen is generally considered the creator of the sandwich in the 1950’s or 1960’s, but the sandwich itself has been served by Italian immigrants for years.

9.) The French Dip from 10.) Los Angeles and Italian Beef from Chicago

Two establishments in Los Angeles claim the invention of the French Dip sandwich. Cole’s Pacific Electric Buffet and Philippe The Original both say they made the first French Dip sandwich. Both of these restaurants were started in 1908, Cole’s says they created the sandwich shortly after opening specifically for a customer that had tooth problems and problems chewing. By soaking the bread in beef au jus, it softened the sandwich and made it easier to chew. Philippe the Original claims the sandwich was invented in 1918 by then owner Philippe Mathieu. We may never know the real story, but either way the French Dip is delicious.

The French Dip’s kissing cousin is the Italian Beef sandwich served in Chicago. Again, we have Italian immigrants to thank for this scrumptious sandwich consisting of thinly sliced beef cooked in a beefy au jus (affectionately called “gravy) and served on a French roll with Giardiniera or sautéed green peppers. The bread can be dipped or double dipped depending on how wet you like your sandwich. The Italian Beef sandwich from Chicago, going strong since the 1930’s.

11.) Minneapolis’ Juicy Lucy

Okay it’s a hamburger so technically not a sandwich, but we had to include it on this list. The name is deliberately misspelled to emphasize the rhyming with Lucy. Not unlike the French Dip, two different establishments each claim they invented this delicious concoction. The Juicy Lucy is a cheeseburger, but no ordinary cheeseburger, because the cheese is stuffed inside the ground beef. When you bite into the burger, cheese comes oozing out like molten lava.

Two bars in Minneapolis, claim the Juicy Lucy as their own. The 5-8 Club and Matt’s Bar both say that the invented this wonderful burger. In the 1920’s, the 5-8 Club was a speakeasy during prohibition but the origins of the burger at this spot are sketchy. Matt’s Bar however says the Juicy Lucy was invented by original owner Matt Bristol in the 1950’s and it became very popular. So popular that today you can get a Juicy Lucy in any burger joint you frequent in the Twin Cities. The fame of the Juicy Lucy has spread and you will see lists like “the 10 best Juicy Lucy’s in New York,” all over the place. 

How to make a Juicy Lucy Burger

Regional Favorites

Each region of the country has a favorite sandwich that is dear to the hearts of the people who live there. Whether it’s North, South, East, or West, there’s a sandwich waiting for you to try. Some of these sandwiches have been round for a long time and others are relative newcomers but they are all good. So, here are a few of our favorites at List Caboodle.

12.) Pimento Cheese Sandwich (The South)

Everybody knows how much southerners love barbecue, so, why not put it in a sandwich. Some restaurants in the South make a yummy white BBQ sauce made with mayonnaise, vinegar, fresh horseradish, and a little mustard. Placed on barbecued pulled chicken on top of a soft bun and it’s a slice of heaven. Not to be outdone, barbecued pulled pork makes an excellent sandwich on the same kind of soft bun with a vinegar, mustard, or ketchup-based BBQ sauce. You may just want to have on of each.

The South is also well known for their famous Pimento Cheese sandwich made of sharp cheddar cheese (or American cheese), mayonnaise, and chopped pimentos, all blended together and spread on white bread. The sandwich can be served cold or grilled like a grilled cheese. It’s the official sandwich of the Masters Golf Tournament and still is sold there for just $1.50.

13.) New England Lobster Roll (East Coast)

On a sunny summer day on the East Coast of the U.S. nothing is better than a New England lobster roll. It’s served on a traditional hot dog bun, but the bun is split down the top instead of down the side. The buttered and grilled roll is then stuffed with chunks of lobster swimming in either butter or mayonnaise and seasonings. The sandwich started being served in the 1920’s. The sandwich can be served warm or cold and is usually accompanied by fries or potato chips. Bon Appétit.

14.) Loose Meat Sandwich (Midwest)

The Midwest is home to a unique sandwich called a loose meat sandwich. A loose meat sandwich uses fried ground beef, but not in patty form, it is cooked loose and crumbly. It is also called a Tavern sandwich because of all the little taverns that serve it. The beef is mixed with sautéed onions and placed on a bun served with ketchup, mustard, and pickles, just like a burger.

The sandwich was popularized by the Maid-Rite chain of restaurants in the Midwest. A kissing cousin of the loose meat sandwich is the Sloppy Joe. The Sloppy Joe uses the same loose meat, but in addition to onions, other veggies, and a tomato-based sauce is added (sometimes with Worcester sauce as well) and it’s served on a bun. It’s become a go to family dinner all over the U.S. 

15.) Cubano (The Southeast)

Credit Florida and points South for increasing the profile of the Cubano (or Cuban) sandwich. Cuban immigrants loved this sandwich made with Cuban bread, roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard. The sandwich is assembled and grilled in a sandwich press until toasty. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s travel from Cuba to Florida was relatively and the Cuban visitors suggested a taste of their homeland in the form of the Cuban sandwich and we’re certainly glad they did.

How to make a Cubano Sandwich Video

An Overview of Sandwich History & Famous Sandwiches

The concept and use of the word “sandwich” dates back to the eighteenth century. It is attributed to Mr. John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich. Yes, the Sandwich Islands are named after the Earl of Sandwich when they were discovered by Captain James Cook in 1778.  But our favorite thing on sliced bread, the sandwich is also named after the Earl. Sandwich is an area near the town of Dover, England in the County of Kent. Mr. Montagu was responsible for overseeing this area and making sure that all laws and proclamations were followed.

An avid card player, the 4th Earl of Sandwich loved to play cribbage and other card games and didn’t want to be disturbed by having to use cutlery to eat during a spirited game. So, he summoned his valet and asked him to bring some sliced meat between two pieces of bread. Thus, the sandwich was born. Other players also requested the new food item, many exclaiming “I’ll have what Sandwich is having.” Other theories say that the Earl was a particularly dutiful politician. Thus, he would have eaten his sandwich sitting at his desk. So, without further ado, here is a list of our all-time favorite sandwiches.

Sandwich Summary

Next time you’re dining on one of these beauties listed above, don’t be afraid to amaze friends and family with a little history on what you’re eating.

So, go out there, have a good time, and enjoy one of your favorite sandwiches. And whatever you do, remember to tip your waiter.

— Tim Moodie

Tim Moodie is a Freelance Writer, Product Designer, and Inventor but he has cooking in his blood. His grandfather was a baker who owned a restaurant, his grandmother was, a caterer, his mother was a professional cook for over 30 years, and his father was an amateur gourmet. He also owned and established a spice company called Dr. Mop’s Moppin’ Mixes. Dr. Mop’s Moppin’ Mixes made spices used to create mopping sauces for barbecuing.

Further Reading

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