Who Invented Sloppy Joes


Who hasn’t had a Sloppy Joe at some point in their life? Made from ground beef and a tomato sauce that may or may not be spiced, this messy sandwich is a staple of dinner for many Midwestern US homes. Sometimes it may be called a Maid Rite and some recipes call for the sandwich to include chili beans. Whatever the case may be, the invention of the Sloppy Joe is credited to a guy named Joe who worked at a diner in Sioux City, Iowa. His loose meat sandwiches were a hit and the sandwich was born.

Could Someone Else Have Come Up With This Sandwich?

There’s a bar in Key West that’s also called Sloppy Joe’s and as the story goes, Earnest Hemingway would frequent the bar quite often. He would go into a place that was just called “Joe’s” at the time and be starving. As luck would have it one day, the only thing that was available at the time was some spaghetti sauce that had been simmering most of the day, so it was rather reduced. Hemingway said he’d take it and eat it like a sandwich.

There’s also a Sloppy Joe’s bar that is in Cuba that Hemingway used to frequent in the 1930’s. It was given that name not because of the food that was served, but because the owner of the place never kept it very clean. You can find a Sloppy Joe sandwich being served at this place today, 80 years after Hemingway frequented it, made with a combination of olives, tomatoes, and ground beef.

There’s a final idea about the invention of this sandwich that also originates from Cuba. It is believed that the filling of the sandwich is actually a variation of ropa vieja, which is a shredded beef dish that many eat. It’s just not very appetizing as the name translates to “old clothes” in its original form.

What Is the Secret Weapon in the Modern Sloppy Joe?

No matter where the sandwich was actually invented or even if it was invented simultaneously in Cuba and in Iowa since the time frames match, the secret to a good Sloppy Joe is in the quality of the sauce. You can’t just toss ground beef and tomato sauce together and call it good these days. You’ve got to put something good with it, like tabasco, to really get it spiced up! Other variations call for barbecue sauce, the use of straight-up chili for the sandwich, or ketchup.

No matter what you call it, you don’t have to be 12 years old to enjoy it! The loose meat sandwich took off in American culture in the 1940’s, became a pop reference, and the sandwich has never looked back. It’s affordable for many homes, is incredibly easy to make, and is delicious in pretty much any variation one can dream up. If you’ve never had a Sloppy Joe, don’t settle for a mixture that you can get from a can. Get some ground beef, put in your favorite sauce once it’s been cooked, slap it between two pieces of bread, and you’re ready for a great treat.

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