Why is this man smiling? Well, he’s earned the right—that’s why. He makes some of the best Beef on Weck in Western New York.
What the heck is weck? "Weck" is short for kimmelweck or kümmelweck, a salt and caraway seed-encrusted roll that was brought to Western New York by German immigrants sometime in the late nineteenth century. "Beef" is short for roast beef. And Beef on Weck is a wonderfully primal sandwich consisting of a pile of rosy roast beef, stacked inside a split kimmelweck roll, slathered with fiery horseradish, and served au jus.
If you’ve been following “…an endless banquet” over the years, you know how I feel about that irresistible salt and caraway combo. You also know how I love slow-cooked roast beef. And you might even be familiar with my fondness for French Dip and other variations on the au jus sandwich. So you can imagine just how strongly I feel about the Beef on Weck.
Along with wings, the Beef on Weck is the iconic dish of Buffalo and environs. Obviously, Buffalo wings exploded into a national—even international—obsession in a way that Beef on Weck hasn’t quite (yet), but in Western New York passions run high when it comes to the Way of the Weck, and you can understand why. It's a truly great sandwich, and one that shouldn't be messed with (or, at least it should only be messed with carefully and with respect).
I haven’t completed my scientific survey of the Beef on Weck sandwiches of the greater Buffalo region, but I can tell you that Charlie the Butcher makes a great one. The kimmelweck roll was more pillowy than I imagined it, but it was fresh and delicious, and it was generously encrusted with salt and caraway. The roast beef was hot, it was expertly sliced to order, and it was rosy and juicy. The horseradish was serve-yourself, so I didn’t hold back.
Charlie had other condiments on offer, too, including a variety of mustards, relish, Worcestershire sauce, A-I steak sauce, and even some Frank’s Red Hot, but I kept things classic (straight horseradish) and I was happy I did. The only adornment came in the form of the dill pickle spear that graced the sandwich tray.
I took pause before I bit into that sandwich, so that I could fully appreciate the moment--I was hungry and I knew full-well it wouldn’t last long. I was right: that Charlie’s Beef on Weck was supremely tasty, supremely satisfying. The sandwich didn’t have a chance. It lasted all of about 30 seconds.
I seriously thought about going back for seconds, but that seemed a bit excessive. That first sandwich + cole slaw was definitely a full meal. So, instead, I bought a dozen kimmelweck rolls and hit the road. And the next day, back in Montreal, I whipped up a batch of off-oven roast beef, with that salt and caraway crust that I love so much. (Are you starting to get the picture?).
The rolls weren’t quite as fresh as they had been the day before, but I reheated them a bit, and they began to return to their former glory. Then I sliced that roast beef thin, in copious amounts, and I piled it into that warm kimmelweck roll. I applied the horseradish generously, and dipped the top half of my roll in a little of that roast beef nectar. And the next thing I knew I was reliving the magic of the day before in the comfort of my Montreal home.
A few hours later, I met Michelle after her shift and we went down to our local for a drink. I brought leftover roast beef, horseradish, mustard, and kimmelweck rolls along for the excursion, and I laid out a Beef on Weck service station right there on the bar. Talk about an amazing late-night snack! Perfect with beer, too. Most of the folks at the bar had never heard of a Beef on Weck, but that didn't stop them from going to town on those sandwiches.
If you're lucky enough to live somewhere that has a large population hailing from Southwestern Germany, find yourself a reputable bakery and pick yourself up some kimmelweck rolls. Then you can either use Charlie's recipe or my own to throw your own Beef on Weck-Fest. If you don't have access to kimmelweck rolls, find yourself the best kaiser rolls you can get your hands on, use my roast beef recipe (with that salt and caraway crust), and make do (or follow Charlie's directions for hacking them and turning them into kimmelweck rolls). You'll be smiling, too.
And if you find yourself in Buffalo, by all means, check out Charlie the Butcher’s Kitchen, which is conveniently located just one mile from the Buffalo Airport.
Charlie the Butcher's Kitchen, 1065 Wehrle Drive, Buffalo, NY 14221, (716) 633-8330