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Sand Wish List: Beef on Weck at Schwabl's

February 9, 2010 7:30 am · Posted by Nancy Einhart

Unless you are well acquainted with a Buffalonian, as I am, you've probably never heard of beef on weck. A cousin of the French dip — possibly even a predecessor — this famous regional sandwich originated in Buffalo, NY, in the early 1800s, making it one of America's most historic sandwiches. And beef on weck purveyor Schwabl's has been around almost as long, since 1837.
The catchy name is short for beef on kummelweck or kimmelweck, and the weck in question is a Kaiser-type roll sprinkled with caraway seeds and salt crystals. It's piled with thinly sliced hot roasted beef and drenched in roasting juices, either on the roll, on the meat, or on the side, much like an Italian beef sandwich or French dip.

The rolls are thought to have been brought to Buffalo from the Black Forest by William Wahr, a German baker, and the fact that the credited French dip inventor, Philippe Mathieu, stopped off in Buffalo en route to California from France suggests the beef on weck might be the French dip's inspiration.

As with any beloved regional sandwich, locals seem to have strong opinions on how to make 'em right, like whether or not you should spread horseradish on the sammie. So Buffalonians, tell me: what's the best way to eat beef on kummelweck? And should I try Schwabl's or somewhere else?

Source: Flickr User Nickgraywfu

posted by
2/10/10

absolutely do not try this snad at the native new yorker. YUCK!
I'm willing to give it another try elsewhere.
this one looks great.


posted by
2/11/10

Hi Nancy -

Like a lot of local specialties around the country, people in Buffalo squabble about which is best. Schwabl's is one of many favorites. It so happens that Bourdain went to this place, which I have to admit not only has a decent sandwich but exudes the sort of old timey charm that is a hallmark in a lot of our old establishments. To say that it is the best in Buffalo is probably a dubious claim, in my own opinion, but to have an older gentleman hand carve your sandwich who has done it for decades in a place that feels like your grandpa's old local is worth the trip every time.

I prefer Charlie the Butcher - http://www.charliethebutcher.com/ - not only because the sandwich is awesome, but because his restaurant is around the corner from my office. (It is also adjacent to Buffalo airport, visitors). I'll go there for lunch and take a couple of pictures with my iPhone for you. Charlie's business has evolved and expanded the past few years, which in our region is a nice success story for a private enterprise.

Really though, despite the plethora of old school, local places that serve beef on weck, it is something that you can find on almost any menu at a neighborhood bar. Our best stuff is working man's food - simple, cheap things that we all love. Another is the fried bologna sandwich, which doesn't seem like much until you've had a locally produced bologna grilled at the Old Pink. (Those who brave this smelly dive bar and eat off its grill are richly rewarded... same goes for the steak sandwich there as well). I get a kick out of the fact that Jonas made you a chicken finger sub/sandwich, which by the way looked amazing. In my opinion the epitome of this sandwich is served at Jim's Steak Out but I'm sure others might disagree.

As for how to eat it - as far as I'm concerned it is "go big, or go home." You've got to have it all - horseradish, au jus (I prefer on the side so I can add it myself) and messy.


posted by
2/11/10

Josh, it's so great to have an expert Buffalo opinion. I kind of figured that the atmosphere of Schwabl's would be a big selling point; from what I've seen, it looks awesome. But I will definitely take your recommendation on Charlie the Butcher — definitely with the horseradish and au jus. I have heard of that one and the airport proximity is a plus! I am not a big bologna fan, but if it's a local specialty, I'll give that a shot too. Thanks!


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