Unlike the sloppy joe, you won’t find a cultural movement behind the sloppy otto. The sandwich is a more niche variant that lacks the same storied history as the original. While the sloppy otto is a German twist on the classic American sandwich, it doesn’t have the same cultural relevance in Germany. So don’t go to Berlin and try to order the sandwich, or you might receive some confused glances. Instead, it appears to derive from an old family recipe passed down through generations.
Both the sloppy otto and sloppy joe share a historical murkiness. While the origins of the sloppy otto are unknown, sloppy joes have several competing stories. For instance, one tale suggests a chef named Joe invented the sandwich in Sioux City, Iowa, in the 1930s. He added tomato sauce to a loose meat sandwich, and thus, the sloppy joe was born. Other stories suggest that the sandwich originates from Sloppy Joe’s bar, either in Havana or Key West, Florida. Whatever the truth, sloppy joes and sloppy ottos arose from the prevalence of loose meat sandwiches, which became increasingly popular in the 1800s.