Local Flavor: Sloppy Joes…it’s not what you think

…At least in New Jersey and more specifically, northern New Jersey.

When I think of sloppy joes I have visions of ground meat in a sweet, thick tomato sauce spilling over soft yeasty hamburger rolls. Specifically, the dish they used to serve in my old high school cafeteria. I think I’m one of the few who LOVED school lunches. It was so different and “American” from what I usually ate at home, but I digress…

The sloppy joe outside of northern Jersey. (istockphoto.com)

I drove in to check out Town Hall Delicatessen, the “Birthplace of the Sloppy Joe”, in South Orange, NJ. When I first walked in, I had no idea what to expect. Apparently in northern New Jersey, the sloppy joe is not what is pictured above, but a “cold deli-style” sandwich. I ordered The Original because, well, it’s THE Original which included ham, beef tongue, and swiss cheese. I opted for the half-order since the standard order can feed 2-3 people and I wasn’t ready to make that committment. The sandwich is a layered beauty of thin slices of rye bread, two meats, cheese, coleslaw, and their own russian dressing. I love watching them meticulously construct the sandwich. It takes some time, but it’s definitely worth the wait.

The Original

Wanna know how the sloppy joe was first created. The full story is found on the Town Hall Deli website. The following is an excerpt:

During the 1930’s, the then-Mayor of Maplewood, Mayor Sweeney, visited Havana Cuba. While there, he visited Sloppy Joe’s Bar and Eatery.  Ernest Hemingway and other famous figures frequented Joe’s which, at the time, was open to American tourism.  Joe, the proprietor, was well-known for the disarray in the Bar- alas, the nickname “Sloppy” Joe!

While the Mayor was at Joe’s in Cuba, he had a sandwich that he loved so much that when he returned to the US, he asked Fred and Hans to duplicate the recipe. It was made with cole slaw, ham, cow tongue, swiss cheese, with lots of dressing served on thin rye bread.

I love supporting local businesses, finding cheap eats and kid-friendly eateries.I know it’s not fair for those of you outside of the tri-state area, but if you’re ever in the Maplewood/South Orange area, check out Town Hall Deli, 60 Valley Street, South Orange, NJ.

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  • http://baconandsouffle.blogspot.com Jessica

    This looks so much better than the typical version of sloppy joes! Healthier and creamier looking. Love it!

    • AMY

      I hate to admit it, but I have one at least once a week! :-) Their homemade russian dressing is perfect…right amount of tang and creaminess.

  • http://www.thepeche.com Chris @ The Peche

    I was so freaked out by these when we first moved to NJ. I wondered what in the world was wrong with Jersey. Then I ordered one and fell in love. They are fantastic. Will have to pack up the kids in the van and drive over to SO to try the original.

    • AMY

      I pretty much prefer this version of sloppy joes over the other! LOVE their russian dressing and Pullman bread.

  • http://www.thelittlefoodie.com Mariko

    Paired nicely with a Black Cherry soda! Mmmmm.

    (I liked school lunch too. It’s amazing that I turned out so well.)

    • AMY

      And NJ’s own Boylan’s soda is the best! Yeah, thinking back, I can’t believe all the “stuff” they fed us…

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