open faced sandwiches

Open sandwich

An open sandwich, also known as an open face sandwich or open faced sandwich, consists of one slice of bread with one or more food items on top of it. Technically a half bagel with a topping is an open sandwich.

It is the common, traditional sandwich type in the Scandinavian countries, where it is typically eaten at lunch, but may also be eaten as part of breakfast and/or supper. It is also available in Vienna, as well as other parts of Europe, for lunch.

In the United States an open faced sandwich generally refers to a slice of bread topped with warm slices of roasted meat and gravy, or bread topped with Welsh rarebit.

The Scandinavian smørrebrød / smørbrød / smörgås consists of one piece of buttered bread, often rugbrød — a hard, whole-grain rye bread, topped with any of a variety of meats, including various cold cuts, bacon, herring, fish fillets, eggs and leverpostej (liver paté), and then usually some vegetable (for example, thinly sliced cucumber, tomato wedges or pickled beets) and then usually a condiment, such as mayonnaise, or toasted onion bits. A traditional replacement for butter on a piece of bread with herring is pig fat. There are many traditional variations associated with the smörgås / smørbrød / smørrebrød. There are special stores which specialize in these sandwiches.

The Dutch and Flemish Uitsmijter arrives on a large plate with 2 large slices of usually white bread, and a selection of meats, cheeses, vegetables and possibly an egg arranged between. The dish is often served as a hearty breakfast.


During the Middle Ages, thick slabs of coarse and usually stale bread, called "trenchers", were used as plates. After a meal, the food-soaked trencher was fed to a dog, less fortunate beggars, or eaten by the diner. Trenchers were as much the harbingers of open-face sandwiches as they were of disposable dishware. As such, open-face sandwiches have a unique origin and history, differing from that of the true (multi-slice) sandwich.


The term sandwich is occasionally used (informally) in reference to open-faced sandwiches. Strictly speaking, an open-faced "sandwich" is not technically a sandwich, as it consists of a single slice of bread instead of two, and has toppings instead of a filling. The open-faced "sandwich" also has a unique history (as more fully described above), originating between the 6th and 16th centuries, with stale slices of bread used as plates called "Trenchers" (whereas its relative, the modern sandwich traces its roots to the Earl of Sandwich instead).

Legally, In the United States the ruling in the case of Panera Bread Co. v. Qdoba Mexican Grill established that a true sandwich (from a legal perspective) must include at least two slices of bread. An open-faced sandwich does not satisfy this condition.


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