So, What Exactly is a Sandwich, Anyway?

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

I wasn't able to spend Thanksgiving with my family this year, but my brother made sure I didn't miss out on the heated squabbling that always accompanies the Millers' post-dinner board game session.

"Mom wants to play 'hot dog' as a type of sandwich in Scattergories," he texted me on Thanksgiving night. "Ruling?"

My relatives apparently relented and awarded the point before I could commit my sandwich theories to text, but I come down on the non-sandwich side. A hot dog is an American classic and delicious at a ball game -- but it doesn't meet sandwich standards.

Strangely, Sharon Herbst's Food Lover's Companion, the authority on all matters of culinary terminology, doesn't have a sandwich entry. In American Sandwich, a compendium of sandwich recipes, Becky Mercuri doesn't bother to define the term either, although she lists the essential elements of a basic sandwich: "bread, spread, filling and garnish."

A well-dressed hot dog has all four components, but I'm not sure that's sufficient grounds for granting sandwich status. I feel (and, please note, I don't know, believe or insist) that a sandwich requires two slices of unhinged bread. A hamburger is a sandwich. A hot dog is not. A Massachusetts court in 2006 reached pretty much the same conclusion. Asked to decide whether Qdoba Mexican Grill could move into a shopping center where Panera Bread had signed a no-compete lease, the court ruled a sandwich must be made with two slices of bread. "Under this definition and as dictated by common sense, this court finds that the term 'sandwich' is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, which are typically made with a single tortilla," Judge Jeffrey A. Locke wrote.

Still, the two-slice approach isn't perfect. It takes turkey wraps, falafels tucked in pita pockets and open-faced roast beef out of the sandwich running. And, if we're being nitpicky, it excludes the subs served at Subway, since the fast-food chain doesn't clean cut its rolls. Sure, the rolls could be divided in two -- but so could hot dog buns.

What do you think? Is a hot dog a sandwich? Do you have a sandwich definition that makes better sense?

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.