A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 17, 2007
Western Sandwich (Denver Sandwich; Denver Omelet)

A “Western sandwich” (also called a “Denver sandwich” or “Denver omelet") usually consists of an omelet with ham, onions, and green pepper, served between two slices of (usually toasted) bread. Earlier versions of “ham toast” and “ham and egg on toast” were served in America (the East as well as the West) in the 19th century.

It is claimed (see below, in 1954) that Denver restaurateur Albert A. McVittie invented the “Denver sandwich” in Denver in 1907, but the “Denver sandwich” appears in print at least as early as 1903. McVittie (who also served as president of the National Restaurant Association) appears in many newspaper articles before the 1950s, but there is no mention of the “Denver sandwich” in those articles. M. D. Looney (see below, in 1950) is another Denver 1907 claimant. It is also claimed (see below, in 1973) that the “Denver sandwich” was invented at Denver’s Taber Hotel.

The sandwich was called a “Western Sandwich” as early as 1908, cited in a San Antonio newspaper.

The “Denver sandwich” (or “western sandwich") is often confused with the St. Paul sandwich. Wes Izzard (1900-1983), a columnist, editor and publisher of the Amarillo (TX) Daily News, wrote many columns in the 1950s about Denver and St. Paul sandwiches. Izzard summarized in 1977 that a “Denver sandwich consisted of scrambled eggs with diced ham and chopped green peppers, served on toast” and a “St. Paul sandwich was like unto it—except it also contained chopped onion or onion rings.”

The name “Manhattan sandwich” is identical to the “St. Paul sandwich,” and the Manhattan sandwich possibly was named after the Manhattan Cafe on California Street in Denver, Colorado, where a claim was made that the sandwich was invented in 1907.


Wikipedia: Omelette
An omelette or omlet is a preparation of beaten egg cooked with butter or oil in a frying pan, usually folded around a filling such as cheese, vegetables, meat, or some combination of the above. Gourmet cook Julia Child famously described an omelette as soft-cooked scrambled eggs wrapped in an envelope of firmly-cooked scrambled eggs. Many variations exist.
(...)
A Western omelette, also known as a Denver omelette, is an omelette sometimes filled with diced ham, onions, and green bell peppers, though there are many variations on fillings. Often served in the midwestern United States and sometimes has a topping of cheese and a sidedish of hashbrowns or fried potatoes. 

Food Timeline
“Western. A sandwich composed of an omelet with green pepper, chopped ham, and onions on white bread or toast. It is sometimes called a “western omelet” (which first appeared in print in 1935; “western” in 1951) or, in Utah, a “Denver omelet” or “Denver sandwich") (in print since 1925)
---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 345)

(Dictionary of American Regional English)
Denver omelet n Also Denver. Cf western sandwich
An omelet containing ham, onions, and freq green pepper; hence n Denver sandwich such an omelet served between sliced of bread.
1925 Lewis Arrowsmith 258 Upper MW, You might bring me a Denver sandwich from the Sunset Trail Lunch.
1932 (1946) Hibben Amer. Regional Cookery 193, Denver Sandwich...Fry..chopped ham with the onion...Add slightly beaten eggs, parsley;...Mix together and let brown lightly...Pile between slices of hot buttered toast.
1940 Brown Amer. Cooks 69, Denver Sandwich...This solid snack was born in covered wagon days, when eggs had to be hauled in over long, hot trails. They got so high in flavor that the kindest thing to do was smother them in onions...Early cowboys called the great-grandaddy of the Denver Sandwich “Ham Toast.”
1967 DARE FW Addit. cnNY, A western omelet or sandwich (egg, ham, pepper, onion) is called a Denver sandwich or omelet in the west.
1985 DARE File Denver CO, Th chef at the Brown Palace Hotel..says that out here a “denver” is an omelet made with ham, green peppers and onions. A “western” is a sandwich; it has the same ingredients as the “Denver,” but is prepared in such a way that it can be eaten between two pieces of toast...They don’t seem to use the “Denver” term back east.

16 April 1884, Perry (Iowa) Pilot, pg. 3, col. 2:
HAM AND EGGS ON TOAST.—Chop fine cold broiled or baked ham. Toast and butter slices of stale bread; crush the crust with a napkin to soften it. Spread with the ham and set in the oven for three or four minutes. Beat six eggs with a half cupful of milk, a little pepper and salt. Put this in a saucepan and stir over the fire until it begins to thicken. Take off, beat well for a moment, spread over the ham on toast; serve hot immediately.

7 April 1903, Semi Weekly Iowa State Reporter (Waterloo, Iowa), pg.  6, col. 1: 
In those days he would hop to a new book like a hungry hobo to a Denver sandwich, and, weather permitting, he would have put it away on a back shelf, or off to a neighbor’s before the mass of the people knew it was out of the printshop. 

Chronicling America
29 April 1905, The Appeal (St. Paul, MN), pg. 3, col. 2:
J. S. MILLS’ LUNCH AND SANDWICH ROOM.
New York Sandwich… .15
Denver Sandwich… .10
St. Paul Sandwich… .10

15 February 1908, Newark (OH) Advocate, pg. 6, col. 2:
The lunch consisted of Denver sandwiches, raisin and mince pie, pickles, cheese, cakes and coffee.

26 July 1908, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, “Practical Housekeeper’s Own Page,” pg. E3, col. 3:
Western Sandwiches.
Chop fine uncooked bacon, green peppers and onions; to twelve slices of bacon use two green peppers (seeds removed), six onions size of an egg; season with salt and a little pepper. Fry until bacon is done, then scramble in two eggs. Place between white or rye bread. This makes a delicious sandwich.
MRS. M. CHRISPELL.

3 December 1909, Janesville (WI) Daily Gazette, pg. 2, col. 6 ad: 
Ham Sandwich.
Fried Ham Sandwich.
Ham and Egg Sandwich.
Dried Beef Sandwich.
Egg Sandwich.
Egg Beef Sandwich.
Hamburg Sandwich.
Escanaba Sandwich.
Manhattan Sandwich.
Denver Sandwich.
(Razook’s Candy Palace—ed.)

12 September 1911, Syracuse (NY) Herald, pg. 5, col. 3:
Western Sandwich.
Blend 1 c. of chopped or finely minced ham with 1 well beaten egg, season with a very little grated onion; saute in hot dripping made from the fat of the ham; place between toasted bread that has been dipped in a little hot milk, then butter and set in a hot oven for a few minutes to dry out. Serve hot. The sauted ham may be placed between very thin slices of bread.

7 March 1912, Daily Northwestern (Oshkosh, WI), pg. 8, col. 3 ad:
1 cup of coffee and one Denver sandwich ... 20c
(South Side Restaurant and Lunch Room—ed.)

8 November 1912, Janesville (WI) Daily Gazette, pg. 6, col. 2 ad:
Egg Sandwich...10c
Hamburg Sandwich...10c
Escanaba Sandwich...10c
Manhattan Sandwich...10c
Denver Sandwich...10c
(Razook’s Candy Palace—ed.)

1 March 1913, Boston Cooking-School Magazine, “Queries & Answers,” pg. 630, col. 2:
Club House Sandwich
(...)
A Denver sandwich may possibly be composed of thin slices of crisp, mild onions, and bread, but we are not able to verify such a statement.

11 December 1914, Bridgetown (NJ) Evening News, pg. 8, col. 1:
Saturday evening will make a specialty of Western Sandwiches. 10c—They are something fine.

3 October 1915, Duluth (MN) News Tribune, section 3, pg. 1:
It has become a dispensary for “ham an,” sinkers, and coffee and the festive Denver sandwiches. 

Chronicling America
4 January 1917, Maintainair (NM) Independent, pg. 3, col. 3:
Western Sandwiches
One-half cup of ground ham; one onion ground; two eggs. Beat all together and fry, then turn; do not fry too dry. Place between buttered bread. Better served while warm. Miss L. F.

24 March 1917, Wilkes-Barre (PA) Times Leader, pg. 14 ad:
THE HAMPTON
(...)
Western Omelette...30c

June 1918, Hotel Monthly, “Lunch-Room Cafeteria in I.C.R.R.’s New 63d St. Station” (Chicago, IL), menu, pg. 62, col. 2:
Sandwiches...Denver 15c

8 April 1919, Syracuse (NY) Herald, pg. 10, col. 4:
Western Sandwiches.
To 3 T. of finely minced ham add 2 t. grated onion and 1 well beaten egg, blend well and saute in hot drippings on both sides or butter. Place between 1/3 inch slices of bread. Lettuce may be used.

May 1919, Hotel Monthly, pg. 75, col. 2:
Sandwiches...Hot...Denver...40c

9 June 1922, Davenport (Iowa) Democrat and Leader, pg. 20, col. 5:
Q. What is a Manhattan sandwich? A. W.
A. A New York chef says that a Manhattan sandwich has a filling of fried egg, minced ham and onion.

19 April 1924, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 5:
DENVER SANDWICH
It’s a food as well as a palatable, wholesome candy.  This delicious confection has become extremely popular...10c
(WALGREEN CO. ad—ed.)

6 September 1924, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. 6:
DENVER SANDWICH
Make twelve slices of toast and butter. Beat six eggs until light and beat into them two cupfuls of finely chopped boiled ham, two finely chopped small onions, and three finely chopped dill pickles. Heat three tablespoonfuls of butter in a sautepan, turn in the mixture and stir and cook five minutes; spread over six slices of the buttered toast, cover with six slices of toast, place one sandwich on a lettuce-covered plate, garnish with sliced dill pickle and serve.

Time magazine
New Pictures
Monday, Apr. 05, 1926
(...)
Desert Gold. Zane Grey has contributed another hair-raiser, in which a sand storm is a vast feature. It deals with the dangers surrounding a girl who lived on the edge of a Western desert, and how a brave lieutenant of cavalry (Neil Hamilton) preserved her from them. Western pictures, like Western sandwiches,— are much the same everywhere and good if you like them.
—A western sandwich is a ham and onion omelet with bread above and below.

26 June 1926, Dallas (TX) Morning News, part 1, pg. 12:
Denver sandwiches are appetizing and form a well-balanced meal if fruit is the dessert. For six persons use one pound of smoked ham, chopped, six onions and six eggs. Cook the onions and ham in a frying pan, add the eggs and stir until they are well scrambled. Put between rolls of slices of toast.

31 May 1929, San Antonio (TX) Light, pg.  10B, col. 3:
A Denver sandwich is made by scrambling eggs with cold boiled ham and onions which have been chopped and browned in butter in a frying pan on top of the wire grill. This may be served over slices of buttered bread or toast, and is delicious with sliced tomatoes or a potato salad. 

Time magazine
Western Sandwich
Monday, Mar. 29, 1937
A LAMP ON THE PLAINS—Paul Morgan —Harper ($2.50). 

24 January 1940, Waukesha (WI) Freeman, pg. 3?, col. 3:
“Western sandwich”—Denver sandwich.

Time magazine
The New Pictures
Monday, Nov. 06, 1944
(...)
Tall in the Saddle (RKO-Radio) is a western omelet made of the traditional ingredients and served up with a trifle more than the traditional style and fun. A hard young newcomer to town (John Wayne) renders a bruising account of himself in barroom, street and poker brawls, smokes out the skunk who killed his boss and, in the course of preventing a dove-soft eastern girl from being cheated of her inheritance, learns that he himself is the rightful heir to the K.C. Ranch.

9 June 1950, Amarillo (TX) Daily News, “From A to Izzard” by Wes Izzard, pg. 1, col. 1:
A sandwich made of scrambled eggs mixed with chopped-up ham and green peppers is known as a Denver or St. Paul sandwich. There’s a slight difference. You add onions to one. The question is, which one.

13 June 1950, Amarillo (TX) Daily News, “From A to Izzard” by Wes Izzard, pg. 1, col. 1:
Now that we are in Denver’s backyard, we are going to try to find out the difference between a Denver and a St. Paul sandwich. One has on-^s and the other hasn’t. We’ve never been able to learn which is which.

Mason says he thinks a Denver sandwich has only scrambled eggs and chopped ham, with neither green peppers nor onions.

We think a Denver sandwich has eggs, ham and pepper—but no onions.

Bart thinks a St. Paul has bacon instead of ham, along with green peppers, with the onions optional.

21 June 1950, Amarillo (TX) Daily News, “From A to Izzard” by Wes Izzard, pg. 1, col. 1:
We have been flooded with correspondence about the difference between a Denver and a St. Paul sandwich. But we’re still confused.

Here are a few examples:

A CHEF NAMED M. B. “SHORTY” GOSCHO, who works at the Rancho Cafe in Elk City, Okla., writes:

“...If you would like to know the right way to make them, they are in a dozen or more cook books. The Denver has minced onion, pepper, ham and egg. The St. Paul is the same only bacon instead of ham.”
(...)
Consider this letter from Jack Larson, another chef who has been around, and who works for Lynmarks Restaurant in Amarillo:

“I want to pass my authority on to you in identifying the two sandwich fillings, the Denver and the St. Paul.

“Denver Sandwich—Beaten egg, cooked chopped ham, chopped raw onion. Mix together and scramble.

“St. Paul Sandwich—Beaten egg, cooked chopped ham, minced sweet pepper. Mix together and scramble.”

28 June 1950, Amarillo (TX) Daily News, “From A to Izzard” by Wes Izzard, pg. 1, col. 1:
A local peace officer, who says he doesn’t want his name used under any circumstances, has entered the Denver vs. St. Paul sandwich battle.

This officer, who has cooked in civilian cafes and Army mess kitchens, insists that onions do not constitute the difference. They are optional with either sandwich. The difference lies, he says, in the meat. Chopped ham is used in Denver sandwiches and chopped bacon in St. Paul.

For the Denver sandwich, the ham is fried in butter, he says, and for the St. Paul sandwich, the bacon is fried in its own grease and the egg, tops of green shallots, chopped bell peppers and celery are added.

29 June 1950, Amarillo (TX) Daily News, “From A to Izzard” by Wes Izzard, pg. 1, col. 1:
Still another Denver-St. Paul sandwich recipe, and this, like the others, contradicts all the rest. It comes from Earl A. Reynolds in Clovis:

DENVER SANDWICH: Minced ham, pickle, green peppers, and green onions fried with beaten egg. Serve between toast.

To order a Denver sandwich without onions, say “Denver sandwich and hold the onions, please.”

ST. PAUL SANDWICH—Minced ham and scrambled egg served between buttered toast.

1 July 1950, Amarillo (TX) Daily News, “From A to Izzard” by Wes Izzard, pg. 1, col. 1:
More on the Denver-St. Paul sandwich controversy: John Scoggan. who runs the projector at the State Theater, says he used to serve Denver and St. Paul sandwiches 40 years ago at a little place in Bedford. Ind.

“It was run by a fellow named Johnny Cline, who was a long-distance bike racer,” says Mr. Scoggan. “In those days a St. Paul sandwich was made of chopped ham and scrambled eggs. But for a Denver sandwich we mixed hamburger meat with the egg.”

13 July 1950, Amarillo (TX) Daily News, “From A to Izzard” by Wes Izzard, pg. 1, col. 1:
Here’s from a fellow named Borger who says he invented the Denver sandwich! His name is M D, Looney, and here is his letter:

“I have read everything you have had to say about the Denver and St. Paul sandwich, and I must say that you have had some very screwy versions presented to you by some of your readers in regard to same.

“I feel that I have waited long enough, so now I come forward with the statement that I am the originator of the Denver sandwich, having made the first one in the Manhattan Cafe on California Street in Denver, Colo., in the year of 1907 --the very same year that Maude Adams was playing ‘Peter Pan’ in Denver. Her manager’s name was Fred Grant Young. I was presented with passes to see her play by Mr. Young. For verification contact Miss Adams at Stephens College, Columbia. Mo.

“I herewith present you with the ingredients of the original Denver sandwich:

Two light brown slices of thin toast lightly spread with melted butter; 2 lettuce leaves; 1 beaten egg; small portion of finely chopped ham; small portion of finely chopped sweet bell pepper. Mix the last three and season with pepper and salt and fry until firm. Place between the lettuce leaves and toast.

“Now you have it. For the St. Paul, same as above only add finely chopped onions.”

14 July 1950, Amarillo (TX) Daily News, “From A to Izzard” by Wes Izzard, pg. 1, col. 1:
IF YOU WILL bear with us a moment, we have a couple of footnotes to the Denver sandwich controversy. One tends to support the claim of M. D. Looney of Borger that he invented the Denver sandwich in 1907.

Charlie Pryor of Amarillo backs Mr. Looney’s thesis when he writes: “I was key clerk at $30 a month at the Brown Palace in Denver when Maude Adams was there. Sandwiches was all the food I could buy as the hotel did not furnish me with meals or room. The Manhattan (where Mr. Looney says he produced his first Denver sandwiches) was in the theatrical district and was famous for its KC steaks.”

On the other side, one R. A. Olatz of Portland, Me., called us by telephone. Said he was a tourist passing through. He can recall, he said, buying Denver sandwiches in Portland as long ago as 1898. Then, he said, they were made only with an egg and a slice of onion.

19 October 1952, Dallas (TX) Morning News, part VI, pg. 8:
Western Omelet
Add finely-diced onion, green pepper and ham to scrambled eggs and you have a Western omelet. Cook the onion and green pepper in a little butter or margarine first, if you like, until they are partly tender. 

10 October 1954, Dallas (TX) Morning News, part V, pg. 15:
Denver Sandwich Has Become
Big Coast-to-Coast Favorite
Sandwich tastes vary from place to place, and sometimes a regional favorite hits the spot nationally. So it is with the Denver or Western sandwich.

The Denver sandwich composed of braised diced onion, green pepper, ham, seasoned and fried with an egg is perhaps listed on more restaurant menus than any other “name” sandwich. It may be served open faced, or closed, on toast or plain bread and its price ranged from low to medium, depending on the restaurant where it is ordered, the garnishment and the number of other foods included. At any price the Denver sandwich is good eating.

The late Albert A. McVittie invented the Denver sandwich. Mr. McVittie was a native of Hamilton, Ont., was orphaned at an early age and grew up in Brooklyn. He followed a theatrical career for a short time, and finally in his theatrical wanderings, landed in Denver, in 1907, broke and hungry. He landed his first job in the Old Grand Central Restaurant near the Union Station. Travelers always in a hurry kept asking for some new kind of sandwich to tempt their appetites, and the Denver sandwich was Mr. McVitties inspired answer. It won its creator fame and fortune and a place for the city’s name on menus across the nation.

15 February 1962, Amarillo (TX) Daily News, “From A to Izzard” by Wes Izzard, pg. 1, col. 1:
Sid Johnson, chef at the Holiday Grill in Dalhart, learned his trade under one of Fred Harvey’s best men. He clears up our Denver sandwich dilemma with this explanation:

“We served a Denver sandwich with beaten egg, diced ham. green pepper, and onion. However, also on the menu was a St. Paul sandwich which was made with beaten egg, ham, and green pepper—no onion. That was the difference in the two sandwiches.

“All these years I have made a Denver sandwich I have put minced onion into it.”

21 October 1963, The Christian Science Monitor, “A Name Away From Home,” pg. 14, col. 2:
Or that which in the Middle West gave designation to what easterners know as a “western” sandwich. West of the Mississippi it is necessary to be more precise and it is sometimes called a St. Paul sandwich, sometimes a Denver. Very likely it is called a St. Paul in Denver and a Denver in St. Paul, but it’s a good sandwich nevertheless.

23 March 1973, Hayward (CA) Daily Review, “Little Known Tasty Trivia,” pg. 1H, col. 1:
The famous Denver Sandwich was originated at the Taber Hotel in Denver.

8 April 1977, Amarillo (TX) Daily News, “From A to Izzard” by Wes Izzard, pg. 1, col. 1:
And while we’re on the subject of food, what ever happened to the Denver sandwich?

A few years ago this column found itself refereeing a contest to determine the difference between a Denver and a St. Paul sandwich.

It finally turned out that the only difference was that the Denver sandwich consisted of scrambled eggs with diced ham and chopped green peppers, served on toast. No buns.

A St. Paul sandwich was like unto it—except it also contained chopped onion or onion rings.

Seattle (WA) Post-Intelligencer
DISHES COME WITH A LESSON IN HISTORY. (Life and Arts)
From: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Seattle, WA)
Date: June 19, 2002
Byline: JOHN OWEN Columnist

THE DENVER SANDWICH was invented by a buxom young beauty name Baby Doe in the kitchen of the Taber Hotel, which was owned by her husband, a Colorado silver mine millionaire.

Hollandaise sauce was introduced by a French woman, Desiree Clary, who became queen of Sweden.

Eggs Benedict was created in a Sicilian kitchen by the Franciscan saint of the same name.

John L. Rafferty, captain of a fishing ketch, invented ketchup in 1802 to ward off scurvy in his crew.

We have George Leonard Herter to thank for the above historical notes. ... 

Posted by Barry Popik
Texas (Lone Star State Dictionary) • Wednesday, October 17, 2007 • Permalink