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What is a Dagwood Sandwich?

By Alan Rankin
Updated May 16, 2024
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The Dagwood sandwich is a sandwich filled with so many ingredients that eating it would be impractical for anyone except a cartoon character. It was invented by, and named for, the cartoon character Dagwood Bumstead, star of Chic Young’s long-running comic strip Blondie. Some courageous fans have attempted to build, and eat, real Dagwood sandwiches, a feat comparable to wearing Wile E. Coyote’s rocket-powered roller skates: plausible, but ludicrous. A restaurant chain specializing in Dagwood sandwiches opened in 2006.

In 1930, Chic Young created the comic strip Blondie, about the amusing misadventures of the title character, a carefree flapper girl familiar to readers of the time. The strip’s focus soon shifted to Blondie’s husband, Dagwood. Dagwood was distinguished by the wings on his unique hairstyle, a thankless office job and a penchant for making and eating titanic sandwiches despite his rail-like build. The strip began being published in the United States but achieved worldwide popularity, inspiring a 1940s movie series, and still was syndicated internationally as of 2010.

The Dagwood sandwich first appeared in the strip in 1936. It generally includes several different meats, cheeses and vegetables, multiple slices of bread and various condiments, and it invariably is topped with an olive on a toothpick. Dagwood has employed various comical methods of devouring his gargantuan snack, such as opening his mouth with a tire jack, compressing the sandwich with a vice or securing the ingredients by using a hot dog as a dowel. Other cartoon characters known for their mammoth appetites have created similar meals over the years, but the towering sandwich is so synonymous with Dagwood that the phrase “Dagwood sandwich” appears in some dictionaries.

Chic Young died in 1973, and his son Dean Young took over the strip. In 2006, Dean launched a chain of sandwich shops, capitalizing on the cartoon character’s famous kitchen wizardry. The chain’s Dagwood sandwich included 14 ingredients, topped with an olive on a toothpick. Vices, jacks and frankfurter dowels were not included; the sandwich did not come close to the indigestible heights of Dagwood’s cartoon creations.

Very hungry daredevils who wish to create their own Dagwood sandwich should start with several slices of sturdy bread. According to the comic strip, a Dagwood sandwich always contains cold cuts, sliced cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles, along with mustard or mayonnaise. Optional ingredients include onions, fried or deviled eggs, sausages, chicken or tuna salad, sardines, radishes, bell peppers and pepperoni. The levels of ingredients should be interspersed with slices of bread; this might make it easier to break the sandwich into manageable chunks for eating. A long toothpick or skewer will hold the sandwich together, and — of course — the olive on top should never be forgotten.

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Discussion Comments
By Lostnfound — On Sep 12, 2014

I always got tickled watching Dagwood start to eat his sandwich. There was this little store in our town owned by an elderly gentleman. He had a deli in the back. He was Armenian and believed in giving people value for money. His sandwiches were nearly Dagwoods. You didn't always get exactly what you ordered, though. Sometimes you got what Ed thought you should have. You order turkey and swiss and get ham and cheddar. It was OK, though. It was kind of a zen experience. We miss him.

By Grivusangel — On Sep 11, 2014

I know I've seen some sandwiches that would rival the dagwood on "Man Vs. Food." The host has even tried to eat few in food challenges. He might have made it a couple of times.

There's a place in Nashville, Tennessee called Noshville. They used to have a sandwich called the Second Avenue Crawl. it was huge. It was on pumpernickel and had tuna salad, chicken salad, corned beef and liverwurst on it. My sister ordered it one time. I think she made it through about a fourth of the way and took the rest home. It was a huge sandwich, I remember that for sure.

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