The “Chop Cheese” Columbusing Controversy! Homage Or Misappropriation Of A Legendary Sandwich?


Behold The “Chop Cheese!”

It’s a sandwich that’s been sold in Harlem for decades, and it ended up at the center of a cultural battle!

Here is how the New York Times described it:

“The sandwich, also called a chop cheese — ground beef with onions, topped by melted cheese and served with lettuce, tomatoes and condiments on a hero roll — has long been a staple of bodegas in Harlem and the Bronx.”

And it was at the center of a cultural food battle!


It all started with a video that showed the sandwich, which led The Times to report this:

“It has started migrating from grill tops to restaurant menus, from the lyrics of rappers onto the pages of food blogs.”

And with that, the cultural food battle was on!


The “Columbusing” Of A “Chop Cheese!”

So what made this sandwich so controversial that it was accused of “Columbusing”, which is:

the act of discovering something that is new to you but familiar to another group, especially a minority group, and behaving as though it is new to everyone.”

According to the Times:

“As with many food dishes, the chopped cheese’s origin is obscured by rumor. Perhaps it was an attempt at a Philadelphia cheesesteak without the right ingredients, or the result of a creative flurry in the hands of an inebriated chef. Whatever it was, it seems to have been born at the intersection of taste and necessity.”


Welcome To Hajji’s, The “Ground Zero” Of A Food Fight!

This shop in Harlem, called “Hajji’s”, is where the sandwich is said to have originated decades ago.

This inexpensive sandwich ended up in the center of a gentrified food fight.

This simple “cheeseburger sub” suddenly became famous in 2016, and restaurants and shops all over New York started making their own version…and some got very angry that there was no credit being given for the origin of the sandwich.


It was when the Whole Foods on West 59th Street briefly sold a chopped cheese for $8 that the sandwich sparked a discussion of the “gentrifying of food.”


The issue isn’t the making of a sandwich – it’s the taking of something that has been part of a culture’s culinary history and suddenly “discovering” it without giving any credit!

One local Blogger had this to say at the time:

“It almost seemed like some sort of satire on hipsters ‘discovering’ food in estranged places and saying that ‘no one knew about it.’ Right. No one important.” 

As a food lover, I want to discover unique recipes that pay tribute to a culture – so it is important to acknowledge and give credit…what do you think?

Here’s another interesting story about food being “upscaled”:

The White House Sub Shop
White House Cheeseburger Sub

The White House “Cheeseburger Sub!”

I had the chance to eat a “cheeseburger sub” from The White House, a famous submarine sandwich shop in Atlantic City…here is a look at it, plus some of my favorite cheeseburgers from around the world – click here:

Oh, and if you need a big burger to bite down on, I’ve got you covered:

Meet the “Chompstack!”

Click here to find out where you can get it and what’s stacked between those buns:

As for my “52 Cookbooks 52 Recipes” challenge, I am sharing and storing all of these recipes here on “Bite! Eat! Repeat!” – it’s your site for all things food – if you like what you see, please click on my link and follow this blog as well!

If you like the story, share it with friends on social media! Thanks!

Let me know if you’ve had a “Chop Cheese!”


Categories: Bite Eat Swallow, Bite! Eat! Repeat!, Books / Media, Burgers, Cheeseburgers, Eat This!, Fast Food, Food, Food Pictures, Food Porn, Food Travel, Recipes, Restaurants, Sliders, Wacky Food, World's Wildest Food

1 reply


  1. East Harlem’s Iconic Chop Cheese Sandwich! The Recipe And The Wild Ordering Method! – Bite! Eat! Repeat!

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