Growing up in the 1970's one of my favorite lunches at school was when Sloppy Joes were served. Sloppy Joes are still one of my favorite sandwiches. However, I pretty much like anything with ground beef in it! Have you ever wondered why we call those tasty sandwiches Sloppy Joes? It is easy to understand where the sloppy came from but how did the name Joe become affiliated with this popular sandwich?

There are a couple theories about the origin of Sloppy Joes.  One is that Sloppy Joes is a product of Sioux City Iowa. Loose meat sandwiches originated in the 1920's when mothers were looking for dishes that were economical yet filling. Ground beef was a perfect fit. A man named Dave Higgins at Ye Olde Tavern claims it's invention in 1924. There is another restaurant Maid-Rite in Muscatine Iowa that also claims ownership.

There was a cook named Joe at the Maid-Rite location in Sioux City Iowa that came up with the idea of mixing tomato sauce with ground beef. Sloppy Joes became more popular and were in many cookbooks in the 1940's through 1970's. It was in 1969 when the popularity of Sloppy Joes skyrocketed thanks to marketing. I am sure you have heard the phrase " A sandwich is a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal." Thanks to branding as an easy one pan meal for the whole family Sloppy Joes moved into the America food culture.

The other theory is that Sloppy Joes originated in Havana Cuba. There was a bar owner named Jose Abeal Otero who had the nickname Sloppy Joe. He changed the name of the bar to Sloppy Joes and was looking to add food items to compliment the drinks on the menu. The story goes he put together a sandwich filled with ground beef stewed in tomatoes. According to this theory Ernest Hemingway loved sloppy Joes in Havana. His friend owned a bar in Key West, Florida in the 1930's called the Silver Slipper. Hemingway convinced his friend to change the name of the bar to Sloppy Joes and start serving the sandwiches.

Sloppy Joes in Key West closed in 1959 after the Cuban Revolution and reopened in 2013. It still serves Sloppy Joes today for $9.99. You can believe either theory. However, being I am an American from the Midwest I will go with Sloppy Joes being invented in Muscatine Iowa!


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