Where did the club sandwich come from?

Classic lunchtime staple savoured around the world may have originated in New York

The club sandwich is a staple classic found in menus all over Ireland, and around the world, yet the sandwiches themselves can vary from place to place. Do they have to be made with three layers of toasted bread? Can you make a vegetarian version and still call it a club? Where did this sandwich come from and is there a right way to do it? It seems that the first rule of Fight Club is that the club sandwich is open for interpretation.

A club is typically a sandwich of toasted white bread layered with cooked poultry (chicken, turkey, or both are popular) paired with lettuce, often served with bacon and always slathered in mayo. Personally, I have a grá for a club sandwich that is made with toasted double-decked white bread cut into triangles and held together with toothpicks – two layers of filling between three layers of bread.

As with all great classic food dishes, furious debate rages on – or at least tip-toes along politely – about where the club sandwich came from. A clue might be in the name. There is the wonderfully anti-climatic claim that the name is actually an acronym that stands for Chicken and Lettuce Under Bacon. As life-affirmingly dull of an idea that is, it’s probably more likely that the name comes from the various club houses that this sandwich is associated with. The truth is that it’s difficult to find the truth behind this sandwich story.


The Saratoga Clubhouse in Saratoga Springs, New York, claims it invented the club sandwich in the kitchen of this high-class gambling venue in 1894. However, as food writer Jelisa Castrodale points out in an article for The Kitchn (www.thekitchn.com), this assertion "ignores the references to club sandwiches that had been previously printed [before 1894]. The Union Club, then located on Fifth Avenue and 21st Street in New York City, was being celebrated for its sandwich five years before its upstate counterparts even thought to put one on a plate." Castrodale includes a mention of the Union Club sandwich from the New York Evening World printed in November 1889. "Two toasted slices of Graham bread," was the write up in the Evening World, "with a layer of turkey or chicken and ham between them, served warm".



So where are some of the best club sandwiches in Ireland? I took to Twitter to get some recommendations. Shout-outs were given to Poffs in Kenmare who makes its club with locally baked Harringtons sliced pan. In Foyle Hotel in Donegal has made a classic a local classic by using locally reared chicken, Grants ham, lettuce grown by service users in a nearby rehabilitation centre, all sandwiched in Daniel Doherty Bakery bread just 100m from the hotel.

The Cellar Bar in Galway is said to know its way around a club, as is the team at Renvyle House in Connemara. The InterContinental Hotel in Dublin is rumoured to have an excellent club sandwich, as is Canal Bank Cafe and Er Buchetto Caffe in Dublin. The club sandwich at Eddie Rockets seems to be revered as a hangover cure, particularly when served with chips. Where are your favourite clubs?