Thinking Beyond Burgers

Published in FSD Update

Beef sandwiches’ menu appeal doesn’t rely on a patty.

While hamburgers appear on most menus, they’re only one in a wide variety of beef sandwiches.

Jason Koprivich, executive chef and director at Westminster-Thurber, a community within Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services, in Columbus, describes his shaved prime rib sandwich as a casual but top-quality, upscale item. The prime rib is shaved thin, topped with balsamic marinated Roma tomatoes, a mix of mesclun lettuce, Boursin cheese and spicy grilled red onions. The signature sandwich is served with either warm German dill potato salad, a fresh fruit parfait or housemade pub chips.

Chef Tony Black, the manager of food services at Oklahoma State University, in Stillwater, says his students love a wrap that includes two types of beef: sliced brisket circling a smoked sausage, with shredded cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce, rolled in a jalapeño wrap. “We use Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce, and our brisket is fresh, not frozen,” says Black, who smokes meats from scratch for 14 to 21 hours. “We have a secret seasoning mix, and we also inject the meat to keep it tender and moist.”

Bill Whitcomb Jr., of Whitsons Culinary Group, says, “Our steak sandwiches are very big sellers in our B&I division. The Caribbean Grilled Steak is great because it has all that spice you want and it’s not overpowered by smoke or excess sauce. The New York Garlic Pretzel Steak Delight, with fresh mushrooms, shallots and mozzarella, is just awesome on garlic pretzel bread. Both use a cheese to blend flavors.” 

Whitcomb says that both sandwiches use inexpensive cuts of meat. “Flank is known for making good grilled steak, and hanger is just like skirt, very tender.” To compete with local food trucks and carts, he says, “We market these as package deals. Sandwiches are paired with drinks, potato salad or coleslaw and desserts.

“We try to source as local as possible for us and for the farmers,” Whitcomb adds. “Many of the cuts that come in need to be trimmed down. We choose to use those cuts because they are cheaper per pound and the excess trim can be utilized in stocks and soups. We want to get the most bang per dollar.”

Signature sandwiches

The Denver Broncos, who have used the University of Northern Colorado, in Greeley, as a training camp, inspired a student favorite, the Southwest Grilled Beef Sandwich. “It’s hearty and sort of like a grilled cheese sandwich on overdrive,” says Hal Brown, director of dining services. The sandwich is made of sliced roast beef and roasted red peppers and green chilies, flavored with puréed chipotle peppers in adobo and mayonnaise, topped with slices of pepper jack cheese and served hot and golden brown on Texas toast. 

“We do a carved flank steak sandwich, which is promoted as a special on Saturday nights,” says Jason Kearns, university chef. “We marinate the meat overnight in an Italian vinaigrette and grill it medium to medium-well. It smells amazing, and people can watch us slicing it, so that sells it. We add red onion, tomato and lettuce, on a hoagie bun, and [students] have a choice of a barbecue sauce or creamy horseradish.” 

James Richard, associate director of residential dining at Penn State, in University Park, Pa., says that his retail clientele love the cheese steak for which his state is famous. “And in our residential cycle menu, our French dip sandwich is very popular,” Richard says. “It’s a top round that we roast and then slice in front of the guests and chip it off, giving that appealing appearance of deli fresh roast beef. We bake our rolls fresh in house and offer the sandwich with fresh horseradish, flavored mustards and a cheddar beer spread. On the side, we offer onion straws—we marinate strips of red onion in horseradish, flour and fry them.”