The Washington Post

Gourmet sloppy Joes for a second taste of childhood

The trio of sloppy Joe sliders at Harth: little packages, big heat. (Nevin Martell for The Washington Post)

The sloppy Joe is not a dish I’ve ever ordered in a restaurant, either. Why pay for something so simple that’s usually marked up so much? Lately though, several chefs have started to put their spin on the sloppy Joe. Would their versions be tasty and heartwarming reminders of my childhood or just creative ways to gouge a guy looking for a heartwarming reminder of his childhood?

The sloppy Joe at Ted's Bulletin: enough filling for two sandwiches? (Nevin Martell for The Washington Post)

For half the price, you can order a trio of Sloppy Bob sliders at Harth, which comes with freshly fried potato chips and a mini-Mason jar full of vinegary house-made diced pickles ($12). Heat seekers should take note: These small sandwiches get a big boost from executive chef Thomas Elder’s ghost chilies, which are grown in the onsite garden. If you can handle the level of capsaicin, you’ll be richly rewarded. The fiery peppers never overwhelm the sweetness of the house-made ketchup and caramelized onions mixed into the beefy blend.

If you prefer an option that’s sweet without having any heat whatsoever, stop by Ted’s Bulletin for the Sloppiest Joe ($12.29). One look at the plate underscores how it earned its name. The buttered challah bun overflows with an excess of filling, probably enough to make two sandwiches. The first bite is quite sugary, courtesy of the Kansas City-style barbecue sauce that forms the flavor backbone of this messy interpretation. The platter comes with a few bread-and-butter pickle chips, a thatch of french fries and some mayonnaise-heavy coleslaw, so it’s probably not your best bet if you’re on the Paleo diet. However, if you’re on the “I’m hungover and I don’t care what I eat” regimen, this could be a winner.

Down the street at Lola’s Barracks Bar & Grill, the Joe Joe’s Sliders (three for $9) are a highlight of the bar menu. A little aged cheddar cheese and some sweetly tangy pickle chips ensure that these aren’t your average Joes (sorry, couldn’t resist). These make for a nice snack when you’re watching presidential primary antics on the quartet of flat-screens behind the bar. Or if you’re just looking for a quick way of pretending you’re a kid again without digging out that big box of Legos squirreled away in the garage.

Martell is a Washington food and culture writer. You can find out more about him at


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