Ballpark Tailgate Food: the Diablo Sandwich. The Original Recipe
My uncle in South Dakota was a truck driver for many years in the 70s and 80s. Many of his routes took him from Sioux Falls to a lot of southern destinations. He would tell stories about being on the road. This was before modern truck stops and he could tell you the bests places to eat in small towns all over the Midwest and the American south.
One of his favorites was the Diablo sandwich. He would always make it a point to stop at an Old Hickory House restaurant and get one. After eating Diablos for a few years, he finally asked a waitress for the recipe. She scribbled it down on her order pad and gave him a copy.
He pinned it on the bulletin board in his garage workshop and there it hung for decades, next to pheasant hunting Polaroids and machine shop calendars of sexy women. I remember this quite well because as a kid, I liked the pictures of the pretty women and admired the hunting photos of my uncles out in the field. And there was the Diablo recipe in her girlish handwriting.
I remember eating them as a kid and they were a mainstay at family reunions and on the Fourth of July. He would have heaps of it kept warm in a Nesco cooker. You stroll up to the picnic table and serve yourself.
The Diablo sandwich is famous for being in the 1977 film, Smokey and the Bandit. Sheriff Buford T. Justice stops at the Old Hickory House while in pursuit of the Bandit.
"Give me a Diablo sandwich and a Dr. Pepper, and make it quick. I'm in a Goddamn hurry!" he said.
He scarfs it down at the counter.
The Old Hickory House never had these sandwiches on their menu and this has left film buffs and foodies wondering what exactly is a Diablo sandwich. It's a mystery.
It turns out, the sandwich was always on the menu: Barbecue Pork.
The original Diablo sandwich is nothing more than a barbecued pulled pork sandwich. But what makes it a Diablo is the sauce. You had to know about it and ask for it. It was never on the menu.
I'm guessing the sauce wasn't a secret sauce or anything like that. Just some slop they threw together back in the kitchen for customers that wanted an extra zing for their pork sandwich.
These are the exact words that the waitress wrote down on the slip of paper she passed to my uncle:
We always assumed that the W-- sauce was Worcestershire sauce and she did not know how to spell it.
She didn't list any measurements or proportions. Just the ingredients. But if you have half a brain you can estimate how much to mix up and experiment from there.
In fact, if you have ever made barbecued pulled pork sandwiches before and dressed them with a homemade barbecue sauce that has some tangy zip, you have been eating your own version of a Diablo sandwich all along.
I still make these from time to time. I don't even really think about them as a Diablo sandwich. When I make them, I mostly just have fond memories of spending time with my uncle when growing up.
The recipes on the internet put out by food bloggers are laughable. They are clowns making up bullshit recipes. There is no ground beef in the recipe. A diablo is not a burger. It never was.