Saturday, October 18, 2008

More beef commercial sandwiches on the web

I've been slacking with my posts. I have been keeping busy with other tasks, and I am thinking another "commercial pursuit" is in order!

In the meantime, I have been doing some more beef-related research. I stumbled upon a website where people can put in a request to find "lost recipes." On it, I found this thread that discusses a beef (or turkey) "commercial" sandwich. It is interesting that they mentioned the variations (open face, bread on top), as I have observed this as well.

Also in the above listed link, there is also another link to a recipe to make your own homemade beef commercial. (There is also a photo of the finished product...Mmmm, looks great!)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

My homemade beef commercial sandwich

Rather than venture somewhere to eat one, I thought I would attempt a beef commercial at home.

I took a small pot roast and braised it in beef stock with a little bit of red wine and tomato paste and aromatic vegetable (carrots, celery, onions, garlic, fresh thyme). Simmered until tender, I strained the braising liquid, returned it to the heat and added a cornstarch slurry to thicken. I pulled and shredded the beef. I piled the meat on some nice sourdough bread with homemade mashed red potatoes in the middle and topped the whole thing with gravy.

Delicious! Wonderfully tender beef, chunky mashed potatoes, and a gravy that was lucious and rich. Admittedly, this was a little "upscale" as far as this sandwich is concerned, but that isn't worth apologizing for. The meal was fantastic.

My first beef home!

Friday, August 22, 2008

An article I found

While perusing the 'net looking for all things beef and gravy, I stumbled upon this article (even though it is not necessarily food-related) that talks in some detail about the hot beef commercial sandwich.

Apparently, the cafe at the infamous Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota, serves a "hot beef commercial." This is intriguing, as it is somewhat of an anomaly. The article even states that outside of Minnesota, this is usually called a hot beef sandwich.

In statistic, they would probably call this an "outlier!" I just thought it was interesting that Wall Drug called the sandwich by this name.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Commercial Pursuits - Praha Haus Restaurant

On Saturday, I found myself in the decidedly Czech community of New Prague, MN. There, I dined at a restaurant that served up a tasty beef commercial.

Praha Haus Family Restaurant
208 4th Ave Sw

New Prague, MN

The Praha Haus is a family-style restaurant that serves up a lot Czech inspired fare. I had breakfast at this restaurant last month and discovered the wonder that is the kolacky.

But there are also plenty of American classics, too. And since they had a beef commercial on the menu, that is what I would be ordering! (Worth noting, they serve a "pork commercial" as well, so there are also meat variations of this sandwich. It is also not uncommon to see "turkey commercials," too. But, back to the topic at hand!)

After only my second pursuit of the beef commercial sandwich, different styles are already emerging.

The beef commercial sandwich at the Praha Haus Family Restaurant

The Praha Haus version was more of of the beef commercial consists of two sandwiches served on white Texas toast-style bread. The beef was thinly sliced and mounded in between the bread (not served "open-faced," in other words). A mound of homemade mashed potatoes sits in between the sandwiches. Beef gravy covers the whole dish. This is very much a classic presentation.

The bread served as great sopping material for the flavorful, lighter colored beef gravy. The shaved, slow-roasted beef was delicious, moist, and tender. Obviously, the mashed potatoes were homemade, as they were rustic and slightly chunky with the skins included. This was one hearty dish, and a relative bargain at $7.99. I very much enjoyed this sandwich.

While there are only four essential ingredients, I have already seen this served in vastly different presentation styles when compared to the commercial I had at Sunni's Grille in Howard Lake. I had not considered that there could be some variety involved with these sandwiches, and this is proving to make my pursuits all the more interesting to me.

On to the next...

Yours in gravy,


Friday, August 15, 2008

No word from Windom

A little over a month ago I emailed the Windom Chamber of Commerce regarding some information I found declaring them the "Home of the Beef Commercial." Thus far, I have heard nothing back.

Perhaps my e-mail fell on deaf ears, or I was dismissed as a nut case, or maybe nobody is minding the store? Not sure.

Whatever the case, the pursuit goes on, and I will dig up information wherever I can!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Commercial Pursuits - Sunni's Grille

My pursuit of the beef commercial sandwich started in Howard Lake, MN.

Sunni's Grille in Howard Lake
728 6th St
Howard Lake, MN

Howard Lake is located perhaps an hour or so west of the Twin Cities on US Highway 12. It is a charming small town situated on (appropriately enough) beautiful Howard Lake.

Right on the main drag you will find Sunni's Grille in Howard Lake, a bright, warm, family-style restaurant that serves American classics with a bit of a modern flair.

In my research, Howard Lake is probably one of the easternmost locations where I have discovered anyone referring refer to this sandwich as the beef commercial (of course, there are some outliers, but this appears to be the eastern edge of beef commercial country!). As discussed in my earlier post, most areas outside of south central and southwestern Minnesota call this a "hot beef sandwich."

The menu looked excellent, and all the plates of food I saw at other tables looked quite tasty. However, my purpose was a solitary one. I must have their hot beef commercial!

This probably in not the greatest example to start my pursuits with. Most beef commercials are known for their simplicity; plain white bread, roast beef, mashed potatoes, and gravy. The beef commercial at Sunni's Grille was almost gourmet. However, it was a thing of beauty.

The sandwich was served with a hunk of slow roasted beef on top of toasted sourdough bread. Mashed potatoes (clearly homemade, with the skins included) were served on the side as opposed to on top, and beef gravy covered the entire dish. A sprinkle of fresh parsley added a touch of color.

The "Hot Beef Commercial" at Sunni's Grille in Howard Lake

The steak knife you see in the background was completely unnecessary. The meat was so tender it simply pulled apart with a fork. I also liked the sourdough bread as a part of this dish, as it added that characteristic sour note, making for an interesting addition. Loved the rustic mashed potatoes. Gravy. Mmmmm! What a delicious sandwich.

Even though this is an atypical sandwich, you have to appreciate Sunni's Grille for elevating the status of the beef commercial to haute cuisine. Beautiful ingredients were given star treatment here, and I savored every bite.

We are off to a great start. On to the next!

Yours in gravy,


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Windom, MN - home of the "beef commercial?"

In doing some research, I found a cryptic reference to the beef commercial in a newsletter completely unrelated to food.

The newsletter appears to be from, of all things, an advanced life support training organization. On page two of this newsletter from 2004 (note this link will open a PDF file), there was a comment indicating that the city of Windom, MN, was the "home of the beef commercial."

Intriguing. And what a strange way to find out information on a sandwich!

I e-mailed the Windom Chamber of Commerce last week inquiring as to the validity of this claim, and to see what sort of history the sandwich might might have in the area. I am sure that will be one of the more odd e-mails that the Windom Chamber has received, but should they write back, I will report the findings!

Yours in gravy,


Sunday, July 6, 2008

References to the beef commercial sandwich

Below are some places I have found that refer to the hot beef sandwich as the "beef commercial" sandwich:


Babe's Music Bar - Lakeville, MN
Bart's Place - Renville, MN
Big Dog Sprots Cafe - North Mankato, MN
Blackbird - Minnespolis, MN
Bump's Family Restaurant - Glencoe, MN
Country Host Restaurant - Slayton, MN
Dorothy's Cafe - Walnut Grove, MN (possibly defunct)
Emma Krumbee's - Belle Plaine, MN
Farmhouse Cafe - Lonsdale, MN
Family Diner - Blue Earth, MN
G.B. Leighton's Pickle Park - Fridley, MN
Hollywood Ranch House - Hollywood (New Germany), MN
Lau's Czech Bakery - New Prague
Lyle's Cafe - Winthrop, MN
MadCake Cafe - Hutchinson, MN
McCormick's Family Restaurant - Hutchinson, MN
Midtown Tavern - Mankato
Mike's Cafe - Marshall, MN
Millie's Deli - Chanhassen, MN
Oodles Cafe - St. Peter, MN
PB&J's Bar & Restaurant - Sunburg, MN
Praha Haus Restaurant - New Prague, MN
R&B Restaurant - Watertown, MN
Roadhouse 169 - North Mankato, MN
Sunni's Grille - Howard Lake, MN
Torey's Restaurant & Bar - Owatona, MN
Ulmer Cafe - New Ulm, MN
Whiskey River - St. Peter, MN

Saturday, July 5, 2008

In pursuit of Minnesota's "Beef Commercial" Sandwich

There are many American varieties of hot beef sandwiches; Italian beef, French dip, beef on a weck, sliced roast beef, barbecue beef, sloppy joes, and even fast food such as Maid-Rite and Arby's, just to name a few.

To define a "hot beef sandwich" for the purposes of this blog, what I am referring to is a simple sandwich consisting of white bread, sliced beef, and mashed potatoes, with a rich brown gravy covering the whole thing.

The hot beef sandwich is something of a "blue plate" diner staple in many places in the US. However, they are quite popular here in the Midwest, the heart of beef country. There is nothing shy about this sandwich; we are talking authentic, down home, hearty fare!

In southwestern and south-central Minnesota, they call these sandwiches by another name. Here, they are referred to as "beef commercials." It is, for all intensive purposes, the exact same sandwich described above, so this appears to be a regional variation on the name.

But what is interesting (at least to me) is that outside of this zone, most everywhere else in Minnesota and the upper Midwest simply knows this as a "hot beef sandwich."

What does "commercial" mean? One theory is that it might refer to a specific grade of beef as defined by the USDA. I have also heard it may refer to the fact that a "commercial" white bread is used in the dish. Does anyone really know? This is what I hope to find out.

With this blog, I intend to seek out some answers, go on some pursuits, document places where the beef commercial sandwich exists, and attempt to identify the "demarcation line" in Minnesota where a hot beef sandwich becomes known as a beef commercial.

Yours in gravy,