What is an Open Face Sandwich?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

The traditional sandwich calls for meat, cheese, and other condiments to be arranged between two slices of bread. This works well for most cold cuts, sliced cheeses and heartier meats such as hamburgers or meatloaf. It does not work so well with softer cuts of meat, stuffing mixes or gravies. These sandwich items are often served over a single slice of bread, an arrangement known as an open face sandwich.

Bread for sandwiches.
Bread for sandwiches.

Open face sandwiches differ from traditional sandwiches in a number of ways. They are often eaten with a knife and fork, for instance, instead of being held in the consumer's hand. The contents generally include copious amounts of gravy, soft condiments, and roasted meats such as chicken and beef. A good open face sandwich is often built on the serving plate, which allows the preparer to cover the meat and bread with a significant amount of gravy or other sauces.

Gravy is generally included on an open face sandwich.
Gravy is generally included on an open face sandwich.

An open face sandwich does not have to be served hot, however. Some sandwich recipes call for cold ingredients to be stacked on top of each other and served without a top bread slice. A traditional cold cut sandwich may be served this way if the amount of condiments would make it difficult to close.

There are quite a few recipes available for open face sandwiches. Some people use leftover Thanksgiving day dressing, turkey slices, and gravy to create a heated sandwich the next day. Leftover pieces of pot roast may also be placed over sliced bread and served this way, with the addition of hot beef gravy. Thick slices of meatloaf also make popular toppings.

When looking at a restaurant's sandwich menu, it often helps to see how the finished sandwich is served. Some menus specifically designate which sandwiches are served on buns or sliced bread and which are served open faced. Generally speaking, if the sandwich ingredients include gravy or other sauces, it will most likely be served open face.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


I like the Kentucky Hot Brown. It's an open face sandwich that's always popular during Derby Week.

A Hot Brown is toast, topped with turkey, tomato slices, a Mornay sauce and crispy bacon. I have heard of people using mashed potatoes on the sandwich too, but that's not really an authentic Hot Brown. Now, mashed potatoes on the side is all right -- just not on the sandwich itself.

I'm also a fan of an open face Reuben. I like it with enough corned beef and cheese that you really can't eat it as a regular sandwich, but have to cut it with a knife and fork.


My favorite open faced sandwich is roast beef and gravy. Some places even put mashed potatoes on top of the roast beef and bread and pour gravy over all of it. Yum.

I realize it's not the healthiest alternative in the world, but it is a darn tasty one.

I was at a restaurant that offered an open-face turkey sandwich billed as the "Thanksgiving" sandwich. I tried it and it was wonderful. It had the bread, with turkey breast, then dressing and gravy, with mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce on the side. Oh gosh, was it ever good! That may be a feature of my Thanksgiving leftovers this year. It was a great meal.

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