PSA: Sloppy Joe is not barbecue

I love Fargo-Moorhead, the Minn-Dak region and the people here, but as a person from Tennessee, I feel that a grave culinary error is being made in this region on a consistent basis.

The nexus of this error is the confusion over the food to which the word “barbecue” refers … or, more to the point, to what food it does NOT refer. Below is a picture of actual barbecue in it’s natural habitat (a bun).

And here is a photo of what is sometimes called “barbecue” in the (much) greater Fargo-Moorhead region.

This is a Sloppy Joe (a.k.a. Manwich).

Barbecue is a made from a meat (often pork) that has been rubbed with spices, smoked for hours and hours, and (if you really want to make it soar) allowed to rest for some time after its cooking until it is pull-apart tender with a deep-smokey flavor. It is basically happiness in edible form. Sloppy Joe’s are browned ground beef and a ketchup-ish sauce. It is what you eat when there is nothing else around.

Honestly, I’m not sure if I should pity the people of this area or be angry at them. That they  have been fooled into confusing these two is is a moral travesty. Yet, that they continue to perpetuate this travesty makes them culpable.

I would just hope that people will educate themselves before another generation falls into this error of their forefathers.

14 thoughts on “PSA: Sloppy Joe is not barbecue

  1. I, too, am with you on this one. I grew up in the big city of Jamestown and always referred to the sandwich as a “sloppy joe”; then when I began teaching and living in the smaller, more rural communties, I heard the same-type sandwich referred to as a “bbq”. NOT the same thing!

  2. It is purely a “regional” thing. I live in Northern MN, and have always called it a barbeque. When we visited friends in Iowa – they called the same thing a Maid-Rite. So, it just depends on where you live!

  3. Checked my Pelican Rapids church cookbooks from 1983, 1989, and Grant County, MN cookbook from 1986 and all barbecue recipes use ground beef with ketchup-ish sauce. Have also called ground beef recipes “barbecues” for over 50 years!

  4. Sorry, but there is a difference between a sloppy joe and a bbq, even if both are made with ground beef. Note: I did not say “hamburger” meat.

    Seems to me, that your sandwich is a “pulled pork” sandwich

  5. I always love how people have to point out how us backwoods dumb North Dakotans are “wrong” on certain things.

  6. Agreed Shane! I grew up in Mpls. and it is sloppy joes. Reading the comments, I think we can isolate “BBQs” from at least Grant County, MN south and up, over to Pelican Rapids to the east but not as far west as Jamestown, ND. We should make a map, ha ha!

    As for the Maid-Rites, I thought they were known for simmering in beef broth, with ketchup being on the side/optional. No big deal, just poking fun at something stupid.

    Now, what about when people say “I ride horse” or “Do you ride snowmobile”. That drives me crazy!

  7. Johnny: Re: you’re comment: “I always love how people have to point out how us backwoods dumb North Dakotans are “wrong” on certain things.”

    The post is tongue-in-cheek. It’s humor and fun-poking. I love North Dakota and Fargo and have little-to-no desire to leave here and return to my roots in Tennessee. Shucks, I married a gal from this area!

  8. Southerners don’t know the meaning of the word “cold.”

    Northerners don’t know the meaning of the word “barbecue.”

  9. I’m a little late to the party, but I agree with it being a regional thing. I grew up in SW Wisconsin and they were called sloppy joes, but my mom and grandma called them barbecues. This now makes sense because my grandma grew up in ND.

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