New Jersey Sloppy Joe

You gotta take a look at the north Jersey Sloppy Joe wars. The sloppy joe with the coleslaw and pastrami… My dad was nuts about those. i like the turkey version.
the NJ sloppy joe has no resemblance at all to the tomato/meat style. It is a regular deli sandwich with coleslaw on it. The North Jersey delis all lay claim to them. My take on them is fresh sliced roast turkey on rye with swiss, russian dressing, and lots of coleslaw. my o my
Jim S

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THE SKINNY ON THE JOE AS TOLD BY JAMES F:

You probably know the background of the NJ Sloppy Joe and how it differs from what the rest of the country calls the sandwich of the same name. The NJ version is not ground beef in a sauce on a bun. It’s a double decker on rye with a combination of deli meats, cole slaw, Russian dressing and, sometimes, cheese. It’s always cut into multiple sections, not just into 2 halves. Usually you see them on a big platter at parties, carved into squares about 3″ X 3″ X 3″ with a toothpick holding each section together.

The Millburn Deli makes a gourmet version of the sandwich. The 3 slices of rye are thinly sliced fresh to order, meats are of super high quality (fresh turkey, rare and lean roast beef), there is one slice of Swiss cheese, and the homemade slaw and Russian are kind of sweet and thick, gluing the sandwich together. The sandwich could be described as creamy. You order the sandwich by the (single) type of meat you want, for examples, a Turkey Joe or a Roast Beef Joe. The ham Joe, which I believe is the most popular version, is simply called the Sloppy Joe. One unique feature of the Millburn Deli Joe is that it is sliced into 3! sections – picture an oval rye slice divided this way with 2 opposing D shaped sections surrounding the center Wedge. Just as people have various ways they might approach eating an Oreo cookie, there are different schools of thought on whether to eat from L to R or R to L, start with the Wedge, or save the Wedge for last. (There is no toothpick, as the sandwich is only about 1.5 ” tall.) The sandwich has remained essentially the same since I first had one around 1970, even though the ownership of the deli has changed. They used to butter each slice of bread – now, that’s only done on request (by some old timers).

Here is their website, which doesn’t give too much info and provides no pictures.

You should order one (or some) and see what you think.

The MD SJ was recently featured in a NY Times Article:

I’ll try to remember to take a picture next time I eat one.

Millburn is an upscale suburban NJ town whose poshest area is called Short Hills.

JAF
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49 responses to “New Jersey Sloppy Joe

  1. Pingback: What the heck is a New Jersey Sloppy Joe? « LUNCH ENCOUNTER

  2. Town Hall Deli in South Orange, NJ. Incredible sloppy joe. http://www.seriouseats.com/required_eating/2007/08/serious-sandwich-sloppy-joe-to.html
    Possibly the originators of the sandwich. Their style of sandwich in general is very cool.

  3. I grew up in Summit and Chatham Township NJ and occasionally crave a “real” sloppy joe sandwich. Been living in California for twenty years and unless you’re from a relativly small area in NJ, you do think a sloppy joe is of the meat and sauce variety.

    Found this blog since we are hosting a small party in a couple of weeks and am thinking of serving sloppy joes, the real kind. Thanks for the wonderful and delicious reminder!

  4. Pingback: Why Is Business Writing So Bad? : “The Business”

  5. Another Pamela

    I grew up in (then tiny) Chatham Township NJ also, and will bet I knew the Pamela from above – (last name “S”? It was a very small town!) Sloppy Joes were a mainstay and it wasn’t until we grew up and all moved away that we found out the rest of the world thought we were ordering Hamburger Helper. Thirty years later, there are whole Facebook threads devoted to ‘The Joe’, the top four contenders are Chatham Deli, Hickory Tree Deli (CT), Millburn Deli and Short Hills Deli. Town Hall Deli (SO) and Towne Deli (Summit) runners up. Recipe/idea supposedly brought back in the ’30’s from Havana by then Mayor of Maplewood. Still reigns as Iconic Food of The Century (I vote Turkey but would never turn down Ham!)

  6. Come visit our restaurant in beautiful Orleans, Mass and you can enjoy a NJ Sloppy Joe. It is amazing what a conversation starter it is for our visitors from the South Orange area. And it’s tasty!

  7. I grew up in New Providence and just went to NJ on business. Being now from Virginia, no one knows about this marvelous taste treat. I had to stop by the Avenue Deli and pick some up to bring back to my family in VA. They traveled well in platic wrap on ice.

  8. Shlomo Glickstein

    Ita a poor man’s reuben you bunch of shmendriks

  9. I loved the old Chatham Deli sloppy joes. They had the most amazing cole slaw. I believe the deli was sold 15 years ago or longer and while there is still a deli in this location, the cole slaw and best sloppy joes disappeared. Does anyone have any idea how the original Chatham Deli made the cole slaw?

  10. I grew up in Summit and as a “tween” walked to the New Providence deli from Clearwater almost every summer day to get a delicious sloppy joe. Haven’t lived in NJ for many years but would love to have a REAL NJ sloppy joe again!

  11. Growing up in Madison (50’s-60’s) the best Sloppy Joe was at Scharmanns Deli on Main Street. Lowell Tyler made the best, toothpicks behind each ear and sweat poring off his forehead. Later it was CJ’s then MainStreet Subs. I always stop and pick some up on the way back to CT.

  12. I am a Jersey Girl. I have lived in Jersey for 46yrs and have moved out to the midwest. Nobody out here knows what a real sloppy joe is. I can’t wait to get back to Jersey to have a real one again! YUM!

  13. I grew up making these at a fancy deli in Bernardsville, NJ. The above picture does not do this sandwich justice.

    While I agree the deli meat ingrediants may vary to the customers’ taste, one thing for sure, it has to be very tall ! At best it needs to be cut in fours becasue otherwize it is too big to bite without falling apart. It must have the larger size of frilly toothpicks holding it together. ( The average size one would be swallowed by the sandwich. ) Slightly drain the coleslaw so that the bread doesn’t get too soggy too quickly. Use a wooden handled sandwich spreader to apply coleslaw to the entire slice of bread. It should leave a mess on your prep board.

    Double wrap in sandwich paper if to go, or line platter with 2-3 doillies due to coleslaw juice .

    This is best eaten 1/2 hour to two hours after being made.

    Here in San Diego, sadly this could not compete with fish tacos.

  14. I am from South Orange, NJ where the Sloppy-Joe sandwich was born, back in the 1950’s. I owned the Chicken Nest, originally from South Orange and sold thousands of the Sloppy-Joes over our several years in operation. People ask me all the time where they can get a good sloppy-joe in the South Florida area. Does anybody make an original, delicious NJ Sloppy-Joe in South Florida. Maybe I should!!!!

    • I am from South Orange and worked for Jimmy at the Chicken Nest and proudly assembled thousands upon thousands of the famous Sloppy Joe sandwich. No one can do it like we did it, its definitely a Jersey thing. Jimmy insisted on the finestest top round store cooked roast beef and turkey off the frame, fresh made russian dressing and cole slaw and real corned beef brisket pickled the correct way. Hey Jimmy lets do it!

    • Jimmy, I know this post is 4 years old, but I just found it. My name is Alicia Ruddy and I just wanted to tell you that our family loved the Chicken Nest! Best fried chicken ever! Side too! I feel like we had Chicken Nest at least once a week after school or for dinner. I wish I had your Chicken Nest while I was raising my own 3 boys! Thanks for the memories!

  15. Yes, Jimmy, you absolutely should. Does the Chicken Nest still exist. Love the name. Did you name it?
    Snack

  16. I grew up in New Providence NJ, the avenue deli
    has the best sloppy Joe, (reg joe) every summer when I visit, I go to the Avenue Deli for my Joe, Chatham Deli at one time had the best, but they changed the cole slaw and it is just not the same anymore

  17. I love coleslaw since I was a kid. Anything with coleslaw, I just love it. Now I’m craving for sloppy joe… it’s so yummy!

  18. Fill-a-Belly Deli in morristown had really great joes…

  19. Thank you. I will put Fill-a-Belly on the directory right now!

  20. Years ago there was, maybe still is, a deli in New Milford, NJ that made a Sloppy Joe that had to be ordered at least 24 hours in advance, usually reserved for special occasions.
    A ten inch round loaf of rye was sliced very thin, top two or three slices discarded. Roast beef, turkey, ham, corned beef, swiss cheese, cole slaw and russian dressing were generously ‘dealt’ between the layers. It was a good 7 to 8 inches tall, cut into 6 wedges, secured with long frill topped skewers, wrapped in colored cellophane. Its very presence announced – Celebration!

  21. Main St. Subs in Madison, NJ is the #1 Joe. Called “Ralphs” for those in the know ;)

    I make the second best though!!!

  22. Just went back to NJ for Thanksgiving — and the best part was going to Hickory Tree Deli in Chatham for Sloppy Joes! Living in Midwest now — nobody knows what I am talking about. I ask for a Sloppy Joe in a deli, and I always handed a some kind of chili sandwich. Nothing like a NJ Joe.

  23. The Sloppy Joe was invented at Town Hall Deli in S. Orange back in the 30’s, they still make a decent one….but my favorite is still Millburn Deli. I get mine extra sloppy! Can’t live without ‘em!
    Stacey

  24. Some of my fondest memories of Millburn/Short Hills is going to the Millburn Deli on Sundays after church with my parents and getting a Sloppy Joe and their Ice Tea for lunch. I have tried to duplicate the sandwich over the years but nothing that i have done comes close to theirs….eating one is pure heaven on earth!

    I have friends that frequently stop at the Millburn Deli on their way from Washington to Boston to pick these up for their unfortunate friends in Boston that have never experienced one of these sandwiches.

  25. O.M.G.!!! When I first walked into the Milburn Deli a few months ago, and saw all the signage for various sloppy joes, I thought I was in the wrong place, as I can’t stand those tomato sauce and ground meat versions I’ve loathed since my schooldays.

    Then I saw them being made, and was very much relieved!! Now THAT is what a sandwich should be! I ordered a roast beef joe, scurried back to Starbucks with my smuggled treat and spent the next half hour in sandwich nirvana with a side of coleslaw heaven!!!

    The roast beef joe is now firmly on my list of guilty pleasures, right alongside the Godiva Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake at the Cheesecake factory!

    I’ve tried making them myself at home, but it’s hard finding the right roast beef and coleslaw, hard to find ‘em as good as at the Milburn Deli!

  26. I also grew up in Chatham Twp. My first “Joe” was from CJs in Madison, and they still make one of the best. These days I usually go to Hickory tree for my fixes. I recently turned a co worker onto the joys of the sandwich, and he is now addicted to this almost pornographic feat of the sandwich art. He grew up in Boonton, and had never even heard of them. They are a highly regional delight to be sure. Probably the only reason to be glad to be living in Jersey these days.

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  28. Does anyone remember the Short Hills Deli on Millburn Ave near the High School? Not some fake-o Short Hills Deli in Cherry Hill — I mean, get your own deli South Jersey! Go watch the Eagles game and throw batteries at Santa!

    When I was in growing up in the 80s (Millburn High ’88) I went there all the time. The Millburn Deli wasn’t considered that good back then, before the remodel and before the Short Hills Deli closed. It was a tiny place, just a counter. They had the best sloppy joe around, and the triangle piece in the middle was the perfect sandwich bite.

  29. Since I was a kid I have been on a mission to try sloppy joes at every deli I visited in NJ (since this is the only place they are made). I have something of a passion/addiction to NJ sloppy joes. Let’s just say I have been to a LOT of delis in north and central NJ over the past 25ish years, and here is my ranking:

    C&Js (Madison) – I have never found a better joe. This deli puts the “sloppy” in sloppy joe. Russian dressing is oozing from every corner, and you can’t help but get messy while eating it. The dressing and coleslaw are great. One of the few places that cuts sloppys in 2 halves instead of 3 pieces, but as far as I know there is no rule about how many times the sandwich is sliced.

    Hickory Tree (Chatham Twp) – Runner up for sure. Sometimes could use a bit more Russian/coleslaw, but that is just my preference. The slaw and dressing are very good. Tasty joe.

    Mendham Deli (Mendham) – Not sure if that is the name of the place, it is the deli in the Kings shopping center. Good meats and dressing, very tasty sandwich cut into 4 pieces. Only drawback is that it too small and you may still be hungry after finishing it.

    Honorable mention:

    Genes II (Morris Plains) – this deli was made famous recently for selling a big time winning lottery ticket. Small place you wouldn’t otherwise notice. Decent joe, and they make a wrap variant which I liked a lot.

    ShopRite – Not many supermarkets make a good joe (Kings, you shouldn’t even try, let alone charge $8 for them) but ShopRite delivers.

    Caveat – I have not (yet) been to Town Hall Deli which is widely regarded as the home of the joe. When I do get there I will be ordering the tongue joe, sounds intruiging.

    Thumbs down:

    Kings – Hey Kings, you need to put some slaw and dressing on a sloppy joe, mm k?

    Millburn Deli – Now it has been a while (many years) since I was there, but back in the 80’s I was not impressed. Something about the dressing turned me off.

    Summit (not sure which deli) – Again this was years ago but whatever deli it was didn’t make a very tasty joe. But since there are probably a dozen delis in Summit this doesn’t mean much.

    One last note – in one of north NJ’s nicest towns, Morristown, I was never able to find a really good sloppy joe. Even at the great Longfellows. Surprising given how many nice eateries Morristown has. Oh, and Fill-A-Belly deli has been gone for years (thankfully). I used to live a block from that place and it was dirty, the meats were bad and everything looked like it had been sitting out for days. Now there is a Quick Mart there, and they make an average sloppy joe.

  30. Quick update – I tried the Avenue Deli (New Providence) sloppy joe yesterday. It was decent – not great but decent. Certainly no match for C&J’s or Hickory Tree.

  31. I am from Millburn and just had my fill,
    Another good SJ we used to get in the ’70’s was from a Florham Park Liquor store a few blocks off Rt 24 by going strait instead of taking the left bend under the Railroad Tracks up to Drew U.

  32. Hickory Tree Deli used to be the Old Hickory in the 60’s and early 70’s and was bought by someone in late 70’s–they had fantastic joes and the new owner carried them on. Last I had one from them was in late 80s and was still great, but if they have changed the slaw recipe since then that is too bad, because that is what made theirs stand out (that and the fact they made them early in the morning and they had a couple hours to “set up” in the cold case for lunch).

    CJ’s came close, but their slaw was not as fine a shred as Hickory’s and was a bit too vinegary to my taste. Town Hall and Milburn also pretty good. Was a good one in Denville, and another in Hibernia/Lake Telemark area of all places, for a while as well (since sold).

    I finally found a decent one in Dallas (Addison, actually)! Place called Jersey Joes. Yes, the owner’s name is Joe and he runs the counter, and yes, he is from Jersey. He loves it when someone orders a joe, but he calls it a Jersey Joe to get around the problem with folks thinking it is a loose meat sandwich. He’s more of a Jersey Shore Italian style sandwich deli, but his joe is more than good enough to bring back great memories.

  33. Everyone is making my mouth water. I grew up in Fanwood/Scotch Plains and I got my first Sloppy Joe at the Hershey’s deli in Scotch Plains. I worked in Livingston for a while so I frequented the Chatham Deli (not sure if this is the same place as the Hickory Tree Deli I see mentioned here). This is my personal favorite but I now regret not trying all the other delis that rank higher on everyone’s list.

    I live in Lancaster PA now and nobody knows what a true Jersey Sloppy Joe is. I had a deli make one for me a couple of times but they stopped because it took too much time. Word of caution: if you’re ever in this area, DO NOT stop at an Isaac’s and expect a Jersey style deli, they only make sandwiches that are listed on the menu.

    Every now and then I will buy all the ingredients to make a SJ myself but nothing beats walking into a NJ deli and ordering one. My personal favorite was Roast Beef, Turkey and Swiss. I still complain that there are no true delis in this area of PA. My other lament is that I can’t walk into an Italian deli and order a “Number 4″. If anyone knows what I mean we may have to start another thread.

  34. My opinion… Towne Deli across from New Providence Train Station (not Murray Hill). They have, for years, been the measuring stick for my “Joe” experience. They used to pre-package Ham Joes, Turkey Joes, and Roast Beef Joes in the morning due to demand. I don’t know if this is still practice, but to me, a fresh Joe is the way to go. Whatever you do, it would be a disservice to get anything but a freshly, homemade Iced Tea when you order one. It’s the perfect lunch (and usually snack later on for piece #3).

    Side note: I have had Millburn Deli’s Joe, but I wasn’t overly impressed. They also make their own iced tea, but it’s too sweet. I’ll tell you what though, it’s a solid deli with wonderful selections. Overall, the Millburn Deli is one of the best I’ve ever been to.

  35. Robert J Zeigler

    I’m amazed that no one mentioned the Hill City Deli in Summit as The Source for the best Joe ….. they’re the ones that use beef tongue instead of roast beef (hey … it’s an acquired and upscale taste), the best seeded Jewish Rye, as well as extraordinary ham and primo swiss ….. and their slaw and dressing are without peer. (Oh, you poor uninformed latter-day implants).

    It’s always a trip coming back to Summit from Harrisburg, PA., but it’s on my schedule.

  36. I’m not sure if I have had a Joe from Hill City deli, but I’m quite certain that I am not a poor uninformed implant. Born and raised in northern New Jersey, and as stated above I’ve made it a mission to try Joes from every deli I visit. I doubt Hill City would leave Hickory Tree, C&Js or some other delis mentioned in the dust. But I will try to sample it if I find myself in Summit.

  37. Robert J Zeigler

    Daniel, I didn’t intend to leave an insult …..it’s just that Jersey Joes get me so carried away ….. and I am sure there are a million permutations around North NJ that are extraordinary …. my apologies again for sounding too intense.

  38. Met my first husband getting a Sloppy Joe at Chippy’s in Madison, NJ. Now that I’m in South Jersey, I still crave them. One deli on Long Beach Island makes a turkey joe, but it’s not half as good. They looked at me like I was crazy asking for a ham joe.

  39. I read all these reviews and my mouth is watering. I lived in Livingston, NJ and went to Millburn Deli for sloppy joes. I am now in Tucson, AZ and everyone thinks a sloppy joe is chopped meat in barbi sauce. (ugh). I think at my next party I will try to serve these..

  40. I have read all of these and tried most of these places having grown up in Madison in the 70’s. Hickory tree was always great until 2008 or 2009 when two owners Anthony and Lou had some sort of falling out. So Anthony and his brother Gino (also from Hickory) open Pascarella Brother’s Deli on the “Summit side” of Chatham near Dreyer’s lumber yard and holy cow- they knocked it out of the park!! The bread is always fresh and the russian dressing and homemade coleslaw is sooo good it reminds me of the old days…hands down winner! A Visit to Pascarella’s is a MUST! Thankfully I now live thirty minutes away or I would eat one daily. Millburn deli and CJ’s deli were always good..but growing up it was Park Avenue Market in Madison. In the 70’s and 80’s there was no place better. Their joes were so huge and delicious you couldn’t stop licking your fingers! Also very convenient when cutting English class! Thanks for taking me back in time.

  41. Ronny Ferraiuolo Jr

    new jersey sloppy joes i found this place in south florida prob the closest around they will make em for you http://www.laspadashoagies.com

  42. We were buying these sloppy joes since 1957 or 1958 at Chippy’s in Madison NJ (on Main Street).

  43. The milburn deli is great, but the original and best IS Townhall Deli in South Orange….period. There can be no other opinion about the subject. It just is what it is.

  44. I’m from NJ. I now live in AZ.I made NJ Sloppy Joes for them.They loved them but still don’t make them right.They want to put dumb things on them that ruin the best sandwich ever invented.They still ask me to make them.I give them a list of things to buy and they get something different.I GIVE UP!

  45. I am from NJ I want a real SLOPPY JOE! Not warm dog food on a burger roll!

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