Food & Drink

The Crazy & Controversial History Behind the Beloved Chopped Cheese Sandwich

Published On 11/17/2016 Published On 11/17/2016
chopped cheese
Courtesy of First We Feast/Andy Hur

If you hear the words "chopped cheese" and think of Ted Allen introducing a challenge on a Food Network show, we've got news for you: It's actually a delicious sandwich made in NYC that you might have never heard of but definitely want in your life. And now First We Feast has just released a new documentary about this legendary sandwich.

First, let's define what the sandwich is. First We Feast noted in January that a chopped cheese is "ground beef is grilled on a flat-top with peppers, onions, and seasoning, chopped with a metal spatula, covered with cheese slices, and dressed with standard-issue condiments like lettuce, tomato, hot sauce, and mayo." While you can't buy one in every NYC bodega, it's a Harlem favorite that's inexpensive and delicious.

After the article dropped earlier this year, its legend spread way beyond its Harlem roots, with a video from Business Insider calling it NYC's answer to the Philly cheesesteak, and a $15 version of the sandwich that hotshot chef April Bloomfield debuted in her new restaurant White Gold. Both the video and Bloomfield were called out for appropriating the sandwich.

So First We Feast decided to give the sandwich the documentary treatment it deserves. The film (below), which was released yesterday, takes a look at the history of the sandwich, the neighborhoods in NYC you can find it in (and the ones you can't), and how it became intertwined with the hip-hop scene. This is more than just a doc about a sandwich, it's about the people who prepare it and eat it, and why it became so damn popular.

You'll likely learn something about it you never knew. But more importantly, it will make you extremely hungry.

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Lee Breslouer is a senior writer for Thrillist, and has never met a sandwich he didn't like. Follow him to bread and meat: @LeeBreslouer.



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