You say "sloppy joe" in Lunch Lady Land, and only one thing comes to mind. Say it in South Orange, New Jersey, and you're talking about a whole different sandwich—no ground beef, no hamburger bun, and no worry that today's sandwich was yesterday's meatloaf.
In South Orange, the sloppy joe is a much more serious concoction. Three slices of bread, any two meats, Swiss cheese, and my two favorite sandwich condiments of all time: coleslaw and Russian dressing. And there's no better place to get one than the Town Hall Deli.
Opened in 1927, the deli has been serving up sloppy joes since the 1930s, when the mayor at the time came back from Cuba wanting a sandwich he had enjoyed at Sloppy Joe's Bar in Havana. The original sloppy joe was made with tongue, and although they still serve a tongue and ham version at Town Hall, the most popular version is "The Favorite," which made with roast beef and turkey.
The sandwich starts off with three slices of light rye cut from a Pullman loaf the long way. This makes the sandwich pretty long—enough to feed two to three people. The roast beef and turkey are both roasted on-premises, and each layer of meat is topped with Swiss and a mayo-free coleslaw, which is made at the deli from fresh cabbage that has been brined for two days.
But the thing that puts this sandwich over the top is the Russian dressing. Created with a special house-made mayo, it's a closely guarded family recipe that they've been using since the place opened. All they would tell me is that it doesn't have ketchup (or preservatives).
So grab a few friends and head to the Town Hall Deli for one of their sloppy joes. After a few bites, the Manwich will be a distant memory.
Town Hall Deli
Address: 60 Valley Street, South Orange NJ