Do you want a sandwich? Something open faced?
February 19, 2011 3:39 PM   Subscribe

How are you supposed to eat an open faced sandwich?

I usually partially reconstruct the sandwich by putting the lettuce or other accompaniments on top of the usual filling and then pick it up like a pizza slice, but this is kind of messy and in-elegant (I felt like people are staring at how messy I was being). Are you supposed to cut it up and eat it with a fork? What happens if it's on a baguette that's impervious to a standard dinner knife (as is often the case at French cafes)?
posted by bluefly to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Knife and fork, I believe.
Because even after you close the open face, it's still too messy for fingers.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 3:47 PM on February 19, 2011 [12 favorites]

Definitely knife and fork.
posted by two lights above the sea at 3:49 PM on February 19, 2011

It depends on whether the open-faced-ness is how it is meant to be, or just as a convenience to the eater. Like a hamburger that comes openfaced with the lettuce, tomato and onions on the side, that should be eaten like a hamburger.

But if it is something with a sauce or a big blanket of melted cheese on top, it is meant to be eaten separately.

(Wager: "sandwiches" meant to be eaten with a knife and fork are going to be the same on both sides. The ones meant to be put together are going to have different ingredients on either side.)
posted by gjc at 3:53 PM on February 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

if it's made so that it's impossible to eat with your hands, it's poorly made. an open-faced sandwich should have some sort of bread platform that will hold the toppings and that you can bite into without it going everywhere.
posted by entropone at 3:53 PM on February 19, 2011

If it's a Scandinavian-style open faced sandwich then you just eat it with your hands much as you would eat toast.
posted by pravit at 3:56 PM on February 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

What kind of bread are we talking about here? Soft American bread is not generally a good vehicle for the load of an open-faced sandwich.
posted by ellenaim at 3:57 PM on February 19, 2011

Depends on the country + tradition + occasion. German open faced sandwiches with salami slices and/or cheese etc. are sometimes just bitten off, messy or not. Come come. Eating a big pile of hamburger can go wild as well.
That said, with a bit of an international background, if I get a semi-unwieldable sandwich and no knife and fork, I fold it over and voilà. CHOMP.
posted by Namlit at 4:00 PM on February 19, 2011

I just pick it up and eat it. . .like a pizza slice. .

"mmm . . . open face club, sand wedge" -Homer Simpson
posted by patrad at 4:01 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I was horribly confused the first time I ordered one, and I wasn't sure what to do. The waitress told me "Knife and fork." And it was good.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:09 PM on February 19, 2011

Response by poster: What kind of bread are we talking about here?

Well, in the instance that inspired this question, we're talking baguette and a sandwich of the french cafe variety. But, I'm interested in all responses.

I don't think you're supposed to put both halves together (because the same filling is on both sides, as stated above), but fingers or knife and fork?
posted by bluefly at 4:11 PM on February 19, 2011

I would hold the baguette with one hand, from underneath, with my fingers on the sides of the baguette.

How would you eat a French bread pizza, staple of the American school cafeteria?
posted by ellenaim at 4:25 PM on February 19, 2011

Le Pain Quotidien cafes often have a charming little cartoon drawing on the wall that demonstrates the proper method of consuming a "tartine," their open faced sandwich. It's of the pick up each half and eat ilk, as ellenaim describes. (I Googled for this image to no avail).

That said, very few open faced sandwiches in America are delicate little affairs like an LPQ tartine. Usually it is knife and fork.
posted by telegraph at 4:48 PM on February 19, 2011

If it's covered in gravy or other light sauce that will drip everywhere, or it's so impossibly tall that it won't fit in your mouth without a huge mess, use utensils.

In all other cases, cowboy/gal up and use your hands.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:53 PM on February 19, 2011

Depends. If it is going to get messy I would use a knife and fork.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:54 PM on February 19, 2011

A tartine or a smørrebrød or a bruschetta kind of thing: eat with hands, like unto ye olde French-bread pizza.

Anything with gravy, like an open-faced hot turkey sandwich, fork and knife.

If someone serves you a hamburger with no top bun, never go to that restaurant again.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:06 PM on February 19, 2011 [5 favorites]

And nobody was staring at you because you were Doing It Wrong; they were staring at you thinking "Ah! So that's how you do it!"
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:07 PM on February 19, 2011 [6 favorites]

Nthing that if it's not so messy that picking it up and eating it is silly or awkward, then do that. The same way you'd eat a piece of bread that had butter or jam or something on it. I often use a finger on top (ideally on a piece of lettuce or something) to stabilize everything, but I have no idea if I'm being gauche when I do so.

If it's not meant to be eaten by picking it up by the bread, I don't usually think of it as a “sandwich” in the first place, come to think of it. Sloppy joes are a borderline case.
posted by hattifattener at 5:43 PM on February 19, 2011

The torta ahogada, "drowned" in sauce, is meant to be eaten with the hands, though knife and fork would be much more practical.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:56 PM on February 19, 2011

MrMoonPie, thank you for that! I had one of those at the local Mexican grocery/cafe, and was utterly confused since it was so sloppy.
posted by cabingirl at 6:18 PM on February 19, 2011

I've always done it knife and fork, but that doesn't help, because I also prefer to eat french fries with a fork like hash browns.

Still, I can't say I've ever in my life seen anyone else pick up an open-faced sandwich half with their hands. I'm used to "open-faced sandwich" being "not a sandwich at all, but something on a slice of bread, drowned in some sort of sauce or gravy such that the bread becomes soggy and not useful as a deliver device." I would definitely remember seeing someone attempt to pick it up.
posted by ctmf at 7:17 PM on February 19, 2011

i.e., (open faced sandwich) is not equal to (a sandwich, not put together yet). I would say something on a stiff french baguette slice with lettuce and tomato and assorted "sandwich" toppings is the second thing. So hands.

But I think the category rules are trumped by practical ones. Even if I'm eating a cheeseburger or big floppy pizza slice that keeps coming apart in my hands (or I know it will,) I'll switch to a fork to keep from splattering stuff all over the table and my/my friends' clothes.
posted by ctmf at 7:24 PM on February 19, 2011

my mental hierarchy of sandwiches

by hattifattener, age 5
  1. real sandwich, with two sices of bread and stuff in the middle. or a hamburger.
  2. real sandwich, served unassembled so you can mess with the innards or the lettuce doesn't wilt early or whatever. Assemble, then treat as case 1.
  3. real sandwich containing only one slice of bread, with stuff piled on top. example, example. pick up and eat, like a slice of pizza.
  4. sandwich that is too messy to pick up and eat like pizza. Either do it anyway and be messy, or use knife and fork.
  5. Goop-on-bread dishes that aren't remotely intended to be picked up. Example, example.

posted by hattifattener at 7:54 PM on February 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Slight derail from an ignorant Australian: Hattifattener, what on earth was your first example under your category 5?
posted by Logophiliac at 12:30 AM on February 20, 2011

It's a "horseshoe". I'd never heard of them either, they seem to be pretty regional.
posted by hattifattener at 1:40 AM on February 20, 2011

(the image in its original context)
posted by hattifattener at 1:42 AM on February 20, 2011

My god, cholesterol central! But thanks.
posted by Logophiliac at 9:30 AM on February 20, 2011

If you want to be Continental: knife and fork. In France, even pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches (croque madame or croque monsieur) are eaten with a knife and fork.
posted by Paris Elk at 10:22 AM on February 20, 2011

Paris Elk: I'm curious, are any single-slice sandwiches eaten in hand in that context? What about the examples in my case 3?

also, you know what ELSE is quite Continental?

that's right, a kiss on the hand

posted by hattifattener at 5:45 PM on February 20, 2011

Hot open face = knife and fork
Cold open face = like a pizza
posted by like_neon at 4:56 AM on February 21, 2011

I've always eaten them like toast. I say toast rather than pizza because where *I* come from we don't fold pizza, but they fold pizza elsewhere. I do not fold open faced sandwiches. I just hold them by the bottom and bite!
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:01 PM on February 21, 2011

@ hattifattener : I'm hardly a food expert, but from what I can see, a sandwich always has two slices of bread, whether it be baguette, pain de mie or pain poilane, and sandwiches are eaten with the hands. Anything open-faced is called a tartine or a croque, and these are usually eaten with knife and fork. One exception I can think of is canapés, which are basically open-faced sandwiches cut into small pieces for cocktail time; these are considered "finger food."
posted by Paris Elk at 11:19 AM on February 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

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