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Zagat crowns beef on weck as NYS signature sandwich

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Take a step down from your pedestal, New York City. Western New York has you beat in the crucial realm of state sandwiches.

Zagat, a national restaurant review-guide with local branches, has named 50 sandwiches that are best identified with each of America’s 50 states (actually 51 sandwiches since Washington, D.C. is included).

For New York, Zagat settled on beef on weck as the state’s signature sandwich. If you’re a Western New Yorker, you’re more than likely familiar with the blue-collar staple, but it’s a rather foreign menu item to the majority of visitors.

Like many Buffalo treasures, roast beef on weck is quite simple. The oft-misspelled kummelweck roll—regularly topped with generous crystals of kosher salt and caraway seeds—houses a pile of tender roast beef and as much horseradish as you feel comfortable adding.

The rise in the sandwich’s popularity influenced connected brands like Miller’s Homestyle Prepared Horseradish to earn local acclaim.

Here’s the supplemental text from Zagat’s listing of beef on weck:

Western New York seems to have been holding a secret from the rest of the country for many years, and it’s their beef on weck sandwich. Weck is short for kummelweck, which is a kaiser roll topped with pretzel salt and caraway seeds. The legend holds that a German baker concocted the sandwich, its interior filled with rare steak sliced thin and horseradish that’s often described as “sinus-clearing.” Go to Schwabl’s in West Seneca for one of the best around. They have “from 1837” on just about everything around the restaurant, so they’ve had some practice with their beef.

One aspect of the sandwich that Zagat left out is the au jus—the juices rendered from slow-cooking the roast beef that are used for dipping the sandwich. I’ve met Western New Yorkers who bristle at the idea of dipping a sandwich to make it a little soggy, but if cooked and seasoned correctly, the au jus can be a spectacular addition.

Since we’re finicky when it comes to the sandwich that represents our entire state—yes, deal with it, NYC, we’re feeling cocky for a moment—here’s a list of three must-follow rules when it comes to beef on weck:

1) The beef should never, ever, ever, ever be dry. No one wants a dry beef on weck.
2) Don’t shortchange us on the beef—maybe Western New York has earned the profile of gluttons, but such a simple sandwich demands quantity.
3) If the restaurant is adding horseradish for you, make sure it’s well-spread across the sandwich. No one wants a bite of just horseradish.

While this is by no means an all-encompassing list—the topic of the best local beef on weck is heavily debated—we’ve listed a few Western New York spots that are well-known for their roast beef.

1) Schwabl’s
2) Bar Bill Tavern
3) Charlie the Butcher’s
4) Gene McCarthy’s
5) Anderson’s Frozen Custard

Good dialogue about Buffalo’s best beef on weck can be found here via Serious Eats.

(H/T Twitter aficionado, Hello Hertel blogger and Visit Buffalo Niagara’s Karen Fashana).

(Photos courtesy of Charlie the Butcher’s Restaurants Facebook page).


TAGGED: anderson's, bar bill tavern, beef on weck, charlie the butcher, restaurants, sandwiches, schwabl's, zagat

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  1. Rachel Cash Harrington September 10, 2013 @ 1:36pm

    Canalside Inn in Gasport, NY has one of the best Beef on Weck sandwiches I have ever had! Take a trip to the country and have one. You can’t miss their sign, it says “Beef and Beer”!

    Rachel Cash Harrington's avatar
  2. Frank Calieri September 14, 2013 @ 5:47pm

    A 175 Year History in Buffalo is all you need to know for the oldest and best recipe for a hometown comfort sandwich; Schwabl’s Roast Beef on Weck. The people have voted and got it correct! Schwabl’s in West Seneca is the best!

    Frank Calieri's avatar