Diablo Sandwich / "Diablo & Doc" From Smokey & the Bandit, Identified!
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 Gleasons "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 timespan 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 restaurant.
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 bite.
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 sauce.
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 meat.
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 hamburger bun.
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 acceptible 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, "Indi-Pep" variant, as it was the brand sitting next to the ketchup on the counter in the scene:
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.
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 in there and being that the recipe has been "handed down for three generations", it is safe to assume that the sauce on sheriff Buford's sandwich did too.
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.
So there you have it.... Diablo and Doc.