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A sloppy joe is an American dish of ground beef, onions, sweetened tomato sauce or ketchup and other seasonings, served on a hamburger bun. Commercially made sauces such as Manwich are also available. Textured vegetable protein may be used as a vegetarian substitute for the meat. The Original Sloppy Joe Sandwich was invented at Sloppy Joe'smarker Bar in Key West. The original is still available and consists of ground beef in a sweet rich tomato sauce, with onions, peppers and spices. Hence the sandwich was named for the establishment, not the consistency, as suggested by the Manwich people.

In Australia and the UK the Sloppy Joe is Colloquial term for a light, summer weight, cotton jacket or sweater.


One theory to the history of the sloppy joe begins with Sloppy Joe's Bar, the famous and infamous Key West saloon, on December 5, 1933 – the day Prohibition was repealed. The bar was destined to go through two name changes and a sudden change of location before it would become Sloppy Joe's, seen by millions of visitors to Florida's southernmost outpost. It was Hemingway, a favorite patron of Russell's bar from the start, who encouraged its name change to Sloppy Joe's.

Similarities to other sandwiches in the USA

In the Midwest a variant known as the loosemeat sandwich exists. In other parts of the Midwest, these are known as looseburgers or as Maid-Rites. This version of the sandwich is made with only seasoned ground beef, and does not include a tomato-based sauce. According to The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink, it was created in 1934 at Ye Olde Tavern Inn by Abraham and Bertha Kaled. In Iowa, Roseanne Barr popularized the name Canteen style sandwich for this type of sandwich.

U.S. variations on the term

In parts of northern New Jersey, sloppy joe refers to a completely different type of sandwich. There are a handful of variations depending on the deli, but it usually includes one or more types of sliced deli meat, such as turkey, ham, pastrami, corned beef, roast beef, or sliced beef tongue, along with coleslaw and Russian dressing, served on rye bread. Sometimes they are made in a "foot-long" variety and sliced individually.

Sloppy joes are also referred to as:
  • Wimpies in parts of the Northeast USA, especially Northeastern Pennsylvania
  • Yip Yips in parts of southwestern Illinois near St. Louis
  • Slushburgers in parts of the Upper Midwest, particularly in Eastern Montana
  • Barbecues in other areas of the Upper Midwest, and also in some parts of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
  • Hot Tamales in parts of southeastern Wisconsin, particularly in the Sheboygan area despite the fact that tamales are a completely different food item.
  • Taverns in parts of northwest Iowa and Minnesota.
  • Steamers in parts of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland.
  • Gulash in parts of the Upper Midwest, especially in areas where people of Scandinavian heritage, boasting Viking roots, are prominent.
  • Dynamites in northern Rhode Island. This refers to a particularly spicy version of the recipe.

International variations on the term

Also, a loose fitting pullover, often made from fleecy lined cotton, in Australia (and other countries).


  1. Ingram, Gaye G., Labensky, Sarah R., Labensky, Steven. Webster’s New World Dictionary of Culinary Arts 2nd Edition.
  2. The Low Carb Luxury Online Magazine: Volume VII / Number 4: April 2006
  3. Sloppy Joes, made by pros, 02/04/07. Accessed 02/05/07.
  4. Reference Macquarie Dictionary, second edition, The Macquarie Library Pty, Ltd, 1995, page 1648.

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