Beef Manhattan, sans Bronx and Staten

My friend C and I were indulging in a late-morning sushi fest the other day. As were ooohed and aaahed about how good our rolls were, we reminisced about our childhood days back in the ’70s and shook our heads at how unhealthfully we ate back then. We were good Midwestern girls, and naturally, were raised on standard nightly feasts of “meat and potatoes”  – pot roasts, pork chops, steaks, (and my parents’ particular favorite, kielbasa). That’s when C mentioned casually that her mother frequently made her favorite dish, manhattans.

For a crazy split second I thought C was talking about the cocktail Manhattan (which is silly – what the heck were they doing in central Indiana?); but then she explained to me that “manhattan sandwich” was a regional specialty that they indulged in quite often. I’d never heard the term ever, even having lived in Ohio, so I was intrigued.

It’s basically known everywhere else as an open-face sandwich – this one in particular consisting of bread, roast beef, mashed

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The mysterious Beef Manhattan. Photo courtesy Crafts & Creations with Kathy

potatoes and gravy. C’s mom took it one grandiose step further: she would begin with white bread, then add store-bought boil-in-bags of Banquet roast beef, mashed potatoes, and then another slice of bread, then beef, and keep layering it for that terrine effect. C remembers it fondly as one of her favorite dishes ever and she misses it – and her mom – greatly.

Poking  around on the web, I found that a smattering of Indianians (and a scant few Illinoisians) still wax fondly about the “Beef Manhattan,” which apparently is in danger of becoming as extinct as the passenger pigeon.

PS: Manhattans have nothing whatsoever to do with New York City!

PPS: Confession: I used to love the boil-in-bags of Chicken a la King. Yeah, I know. I’ve since made a vegan version which is much, much better!

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