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The Term Sloppy Joe’s Had An Early Definition Of Any Cheap Restaurant Or Lunch Counter

National Sloppy Joe Day is observed each year on March 18th.

One of America’s all-time favorite hot sandwiches, it is often made with ground beef, onions, tomato sauce, brown sugar, cola or maple syrup to sweeten it and seasonings to spice it, all served up on a hamburger bun or roll.

  • There are different claims to the origin of the sloppy joe.  In Havana, Cuba in the 1930s there was a genuine bartender who gained popularity with vacationers who went by the name of Sloppy Joe. He earned his name for his less than enthusiastic way of cleaning the bar.  He was, however, an attentive bartender, and the bar was a hot spot for the jet set.
  • However, no mention is found in papers from the era of a hot sandwich on the menu matching the description of a Sloppy Joe, and the man of the same name retired to Spain in 1933.
  • Reader Steven Hirsch wrote to National Day Calendar and informed us that Town Hall Deli in Maplewood, NJ has a direct connection to Sloppy Joe of Havana fame. It opened in 1927 and during the 1930s, Maplewood’s Mayor Sweeney traveled to Havana where he met the bartender named Sloppy Joe and was served a delicious sandwich. He came back to New Jersey and with a well-developed taste for Joe’s sandwich. The mayor enjoyed it so much in fact he asked one of Town Hall Deli’s proprietors, Fred Heinz, to replicate it.  According to the website “It was made with coleslaw, ham, cow tongue, swiss cheese, with lots of dressing and was served on thin rye bread. Hence, the origin of the Sloppy Joe sandwich and how Town Hall Deli of South Orange became The Birthplace of the Sloppy Joe!”
  • Another claim on the sandwich is at the Ye Olde Tavern Inn by Abraham and Bertha Kaled in Sioux City, Iowa that had a loose meat sandwich on their menu in 1934.
  • Others say that the original sandwich was born at the iconic restaurant in Key West, Florida, Sloppy Joe’s Bar.
  • Whoever brought the Sloppy Joe to the world, it was made more convenient when in 1969 Hunt’s put it in a can and called it Manwich.
  • The sloppy joe goes by many names, including Manwich, slush burger, yum yum, barbecue, dynamite, and even sloppy jane.
  • “Sloppy Joe’s” were mentioned in several movies of the 1930’s, Citizen Kane and even It’s a Wonderful Life. Even though it was not widely popular until the 1960’s.
  • Some other names for sloppy joes include: barbecues, dynamites, goulash, sloppy janes, slush burgers, steamers, wimpies, and yum yums.
  • Early and mid-20th century American cookbooks offer plenty of sloppy joe-type recipes, though they go by different names: Toasted Deviled Hamburgers, Chopped Meat Sandwiches, Spanish Hamburgers, Hamburg a la Creole, Beef Mironton, and Minced Beef Spanish Style.
  • The term sloppy joe’s had an earlier definition of any cheap restaurant or lunch counter serving cheap food quickly or of a type of casual clothing.


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