Diablo Sandwich / "Diablo
& Doc" From Smokey & the Bandit,
This is a re-print of a forum post I wrote for roadfood.com. See the
original post and follow-up discussion HERE!
Smokey and the Bandit has been one of my favorite movies for quite some
time but there is something that always intrigues me every time I watch
it and I know it has been a question on a lot of peoples minds that
have seen the movie. There is a scene where Jackie Gleason's character
enters a small diner ("choke and puke") and orders "a diablo sandwich
and a Dr Pepper (and make it fast, I'm in a god damn hurry)". You can
see the scene here: .
The question that pops up from time to time (including this message
board) is, just what the heck is a diablo sandwich?
Upon entering the term in a google search, you are presented with
numerous results of people's takes on this infamous sandwich. The one
that appears to be the most "accepted" and widespread is the recipe
from food.com which includes ground beef, taco seasoning, lettuce,
tomato and sour cream. Other variations include red hots (bright red
colored spicy hot dogs) on a bun smothered in hot sauce, and even eggs
and sausage in a bun.
I did a little breakdown of the scene in hopes of once and for all
finding out what this sandwich actually is.
First off, it should be noted, that Jackie Gleason's "Sheriff Buford T.
Justice" character was given a lot of room for improvisation in his
lines and most of the movies funniest quotes from him are straight out
of his own head. The problem with this specific scene however, is that
when the waitress delivers his sandwich, she says "Diablo and Doc" as
if it were in the script. Though it could also have just been a quick
witted waitress slinging diner-lingo back at Sheriff Justice and going
along with his improv.
If you look at the sign that the Trans Am drives past after Burt and
Sally pull away from the diner / bus stop, you can make out the words
"Old Hickory House".
This was a chain of BBQ joints in the south that were pretty big back
then and a couple still exist today I believe (sadly, not the one that
this scene was filmed in). Rewind a little bit and when Sheriff Justice
exits the bathroom, you can clearly see an Old Hickory House menu
hanging on the wall to his right.
Upon closer examination with the blu-ray version of the movie, you can
barely make out that the bottom section says "sandwiches" and has at
least 20 different options under it.
I managed to find a few old vintage menus from other Old Hickory Houses
of the time. This movie was filmed in 1976 so the time-span of these
menus are period corerct.
As you can see, none of them have a diablo sandwich listed anywhere.
The specific restaurant in the film, being that it had much more
sandwich selections than these menus do, could have possibly had an
actual diablo sandwich listed. But until someone comes forward with an
original menu from that year (1976) and location (Forest Park, GA), we
may never know if it was an actual menu item specific to that
The real menus combined with the movie screenshots pretty much cancel
out any of the random ideas people have thrown out there, especially
the food.com "taco style sloppy joe" crap. There are no tomatoes,
lettuce or sour cream anywhere on that sandwich. Also, as Sheriff
Justice eats, he is moving the sandwich all over the place and whatever
is inside of it stays in place pretty good. If it was sloppy joe, it
would have all spilled out the moment he took that first big sloppy
When the sandwich first appears, the contents almost look to be one
solid rounded mass with a layer of sauce on it, almost like a hamburger
coated with sauce. However, the menus shown above do not have such an
item, so a "BBQ hamburger" can be cancelled out.
Bandit does assist Sheriff Justice in getting out a stain of something
from his uniform at one point which could only be assumed to be BBQ
After sheriff Justice takes a bite, you can see a "string" of something
hanging from the corner of his mouth.
The next bite scene gets in much closer and you can see that there is
some stringiness to whatever is in there, just like pulled or shredded
After this scene, you can see the mess of meat in sheriff Justice's
hand. It appears to be a lighter colored meat, so with the two options
of pork or beef on the menu, pork would fit the description better.
Later on as he makes a gesture with the hand that the sandwich was
previously in, you can clearly see BBQ sauce all over it.
Final analysis: Lighter colored pulled meat with darker BBQ sauce on a
For the sake of artistic license, and this sandwich being called a
"diablo", I would say that in order to have a true "diablo sandwich",
something in it has to be spicy. So I would think it would be safe to
say that the only acceptable official "Buford T. Justice Diablo
Sandwich" would be a pulled pork sandwich in a bun, with some form of
spicy BBQ sauce or hot sauce. For the purist, one must use Trappey's
hot sauce, "Mexi-Pep" variant, as it was the brand sitting next to the
ketchup on the counter in the scene.
The hot sauce was originally thought to be Trappey's Indi-Pep variant
as the background design on the bottle in the movie matches the design
on today's Indi-Pep variant, but a 1974 Trappey's ad for Mexi-Pep shows
the actual bottle in all of it's glory, even suggesting that it goes
perfectly with BBQ.
Other hot sauces that existed in 1976 would also be somewhat
appropriate, most likely Tabasco as it was a nationwide thing back
then, or possibly Texas Pete, Crystal or Louisana. The million-scoville
sauces didnt exist back then so Blairs and Daves Insanity would just be
blaspheming this sandwich.
The ketchup sitting next to the hot sauce was Hunts but I would urge
you not to use ketchup on a pulled pork sandwich!
I have never personally tasted the Old Hickory House made BBQ sauce,
but I have seen it described as very sweet and sticky, with a strong
tangy tomato flavor. Others have described it as being close to
"ketchup and Tabasco". The current reviews state that the sauce does
have bits of onion or garlic in there and being that the recipe has
down for three generations", it is safe to assume that the sauce on
sheriff Buford's sandwich did too. I did manage to find a clone recipe
of the original Brunswick stew, which the website's author claimed
tasted EXACTLY like the Brunswick stew at the Old Hickory House.
Brunswick stew uses barbecue sauce as one of its ingredients, so if you
take the stew recipe and narrow it down to just the barbecue sauce, you
have a pretty good clone of the Old Hickory House barbecue sauce! It is
indeed very tangy. The sauce recipe is as follows:
In a 2 1/2 quart sauce pan, over low heat, melt:
1/4 cup of butter
ADD AND BLEND UNTIL SMOOTH:
3 1/2 cups Catsup
1/4 cups French’s Yellow Mustard
1/2 cup white vinegar
THEN ADD AND BLEND UNTIL SMOOTHER:
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 teaspoons coarse grind black pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 oz. Liquid Smoke
2 oz. Worcestershire sauce
2 oz. Crystal hot sauce or 1 oz. Tabasco
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
TO THIS MIXTURE ADD:
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Stir constantly, increase heat to simmer (DO NOT BOIL) for
approximately 10 minutes.
With regards to the drink, Dr Pepper in 1977 was still made with real
cane sugar as the whole high fructose corn syrup wave only hit sodas
hard in the 80s. If you look hard enough you can still find Dr Pepper
bottled by a few small town bottlers, using real imperial cane sugar.
It should be poured into and served out of a lid-less wax fountain cup
with crushed ice, no straw.