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,