Searching the world for it’s best common sandwiches is an endless quest. Often overlooked, the world of variety and innovation in everyday sandwiches around the world is very impressive. Among the endless contenders, many stand out. One of the best common sandwiches that U.S.A. has to offer can be found in Western New-York State, in Buffalo, New-York: the BEEF ON WECK.
Beef on Weck is a unique sandwich, gastronomically emblematic of Western New-York State. It has German and English influences, however is resolutely a local product. This great simple dish was, according to very plausible legend, first created by a riverside bar owner in the mid to late 19th century. The host created the sandwich while hoping it would end up making his bar patrons thirsty, thus buying more alcohol.
The recipe caught on and became popular. Over time, establishments began a certain rivalry, each either claiming, or truly striving to create the most delicious beef on weck. While we do not know whom created the first beef on weck sandwich, it is quite reasonable to confirm the information about the first to bake the first kimmelweck roll, the one used for the beef on weck. It was William Wahr, from Germany, who started a bakery in Buffalo, New-York. As a baker he made a kimmelweck roll, topped with caraway seeds (cumin), as well as coarse kosher salt. There exist similar rolls in Germany as well as Austria. However, the kimmelweck roll used in beef on weck is of softer texture and has more air in the bread.
A true family tradition
In 1915, Charlie Roesch founded a butcher shop in Buffalo. His business quickly earned a good reputation, serving quality meats to the local population. He went on to become mayor of the city in 1930. Today, Charlie Roesch is still serving quality meats to Williamsville and Buffalo. He is the 4th generation to do so. His first kitchen to specialize in carving beeef on weck was opened in the nineties, in Williamsville, right next to the Buffalo International Airport. This is ground zero for the Charlie the Butcher beef on weck’s great reputation.
Charlie the Butcher has become a known personality in Buffalo, easily recognized by his signature butcher’s white hard hat and apron. People come from all over for a bite of his beef on weck. The Roesch family name has become a trusted name in the Buffalo area, for quality meats and their catering potential. What is it that makes Charlie the Butcher’s beef on weck so savory?
Charlie the Butcher’s secret for his beef on weck
All is in the roast. First of all, the quality of the beef used is of prime importance. The standard is quite high at Charlie the Butcher’s in that respect. Following that, there is the cooking process. Sure there are some undisclosed ingredients used in the process, but the truly crucial point is slow roasting. The roast beef will be prepared slowly. There is no pressure to produce quickly at high volumes. Each roast beef is cooked extremely slowly. This allows for a different blood pattern in the piece of meat. The texture will thus be influenced and be very rich, flavorful and, last but not least: tender. It is as if it must melt in your mouth, so to speak.
The carver is also a critical factor. The beef must be cut into very thin slices and properly stacked atop thhe kimmelweck roll. To do so is a skill acquired and perfected through time. It looks much easier than it is. There even exists a rivalry among beef on weck carvers in relation to the quality of their slices.
The thin beef slices are stacked atop the kimmelweck roll, which will be splashed with “au jus” sauce. “Au jus” being french for “”of juice” refering to the cooking meat juices used for making the sauce. Some may also enjoy putting grated horseradish on their sandwich, as it delivers a bit of a spicy punch to the experience.
The result is a delicious experience; a sandwich that actually fits the legend. The kimmelweck roll is like a vessel that delivers the perfect beef with a unique direction. This unique culinary direction that the sandwich takes is actually subtly tracked by the caraway seeds atop the roll. The kosher salt also has some sort of relationship with the beef once it has been bitten off, that can only be described as “made to be together”. Aficionados all are unanimous: there is something absolutely beautiful about the first bite taken of a beef on weck sandwich.
As a Montrealer, I am fond of our own fantastic common sandwich: Schwartz’s smoked meat. It is world renowned delight, so the bar is high. Arriving in the Charlie the Butcher kitchen in Williamsville, I thus remained quite sceptical. After having tasted this beef on weck for the first time, I was actually moved by it’s taste. This is what great sandwiches are made of. A simple recipe, but made with care, with a time tested result. Charlie the butcher’s beef on weck is so good, it deserves a special trip. Do not go for imitations, follow the authentic beef on weck trail.
Today, Charlie the Butcher’s is expanding, opening new locations. The patrons keep coming back, because of the quality. Today Charlie’s son Andy is part of the business, picking up the trade where previous generations brought it to. He is therefore the 5th generation of the Roesch family, to continue the tradition of providing quality meats to the city of no illusions. It is a comforting thought to see family businesses passing on the trade to the next generation. Let us wish all the best to Charlie the Butcher and family, hoping for many more tasty times ahead.Please follow us here and subscribe: