The Hoosierist: Where’s The Beef

Our Indiana expert looks into why a dish originating in Indiana pays homage to NYC.
Illustration by Ryan Johnson

Q: IS IT TRUE THAT THE ROAST BEEF MANHATTAN WAS INVENTED HERE?

 A: It’s a strong possibility. The dish (a diagonally cut roast beef sandwich with mashed potatoes between its two halves and beef gravy over the whole works) has two Indiana origin stories. In one, the sammie came about during World War II, when Manhattan-trained workers were transferred to the Naval Ordnance Plant here. The factory’s cafeteria soon produced a sandwich similar to one the workers ate back East, dubbed the Beef Manhattan. Or it might have been born in an eatery whose name has been lost to time. “I’ve always heard that the roast beef Manhattan was created at an Indianapolis diner in the 1940s, but I’ve never been able to pin down the exact one,” says Indianapolis food writer Jolene Ketzenberger. It’s one of two Manhattan-named dishes with no ties to New York City. The other, Manhattan clam chowder, originated in Rhode Island.