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,