When some people travel, they look forward to being able to eat certain foods that are specialties in the place they visit. For example, visitors to New Orleans often can’t wait to eat beignets for breakfast. Likewise, visitors to Maine might feast on lobster, while those in Chicago might sample some deep-dish pizza.

But what if you visit Louisville, Kentucky? If you come for the Kentucky Derby or visit on vacation, you’ll want to make sure you try the sandwich that was born in Louisville: the Hot Brown.

In the early 1920s, late-night diners often feasted on ham and eggs after dancing the night away at the Brown Hotel in Louisville. Looking for an alternative to tempt his diners, Fred K. Schmidt of the Brown Hotel created a new signature sandwich in 1926.

The Hot Brown is an open-faced sandwich (eaten on a plate with a fork rather than with the hands) that features turkey and bacon. It is smothered in Mornay sauce, which is a rich, creamy combination of milk, butter, flour and a mixture of cheeses.

A Hot Brown is served hot, after it is baked or broiled until the bread is crisp and the sauce begins to brown. There are many variations on the basic hot brown. Some chefs include ham with the turkey. Others sprinkle pimento peppers or tomatoes over the sauce after it has been browned.

Vegetarians can even have their own version of a Hot Brown by substituting avocado or soy burger for the meats. If you don’t know how to make Mornay sauce, you can also substitute Cheddar cheese or a store-bought cheese sauce instead.

In Louisville, the sandwich is usually referred to as a “Louisville Hot Brown.” Around other parts of Kentucky, you may see it called a “Kentucky Hot Brown.” In other areas of the country, it’s just a “Hot Brown.”

Another city famous for a signature sandwich is Philadelphia. In the 1930s, brothers Pat and Harry Olivieri began serving chopped steak sandwiches in hoagie rolls. The Philly cheesesteak sandwich became so popular that Pat opened his own restaurant — Pat’s King of Steaks — and it’s still open today!

Although the sandwich was originally served without cheese, “Cocky Joe” Lorenza began adding Provolone cheese, and melted cheese is now an essential part of the sandwich. Today, you can find variations of cheesesteaks in restaurants all around the country.

Variations on the traditional Philly cheesesteak include different types of cheese (mozzarella, Cheez Whiz®), sautéed onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, mayonnaise, hot sauce and ketchup. Some variations even involve changing the meat from beef to chicken or turkey.

What regional specialties are popular in your area? Do you have a favorite food you look forward to eating when you go somewhere special on vacation?


66 Join the Discussion

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars  (12 votes, avg. 3.50 out of 5)
  1. Mmm, this topic made me hungry. I have been to Louisville, Kentucky to see the boat races. We stayed there for a while, a month is about right. But, anyway I think I have had a hot brown before. It was delicious, I think. So, yeah I also wish I could have one of those Philly cheesesteaks. Oh, sorry got to go, I will be back. Bye.

    • Thanks for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder, Austin! We think it is so cool that you have actually been to Louisville and eaten a Hot Brown before! They look soooooo yummy! :-)

  2. Hey, I don’t think this one is very good. You people should make one about everyday, like today, it is not summer some do like a winter one.

  3. It was so great to read this article about hot browns and Louisville, Kentucky. We live in Kentucky, about 2 hours from Louisville, and it was interesting to learn these facts! Most of us have never seen or eaten a hot brown and now we want to try one soon!

    • That’s SO AWESOME that you guys live in Kentucky, Mrs. Newland’s Class! Please let us know if you get to try a Hot Brown! We think we will try to make one this weekend by watching the video for this Wonder again! :-)

  4. We have never tried a Hot Brown. In fact, most of us have never even heard of that! We think it sounds fantastic, though! It sounds very unique. We live in Ohio and we have a special food we like to make, a candy called the Buckeye. It is a peanut butter ball covered with chocolate. It is yummy!

    • We think Buckeyes sound WONDERful, Mrs. Morales’ second graders! Thank you for sharing a special food that is from Ohio! We think it is going to be AWESOME to hear from our Wonder Friends today about foods that originated in their part of the country! :-)

  5. Okay, I am back just telling you that I probably know what the next WONDER of the day is. It is probably someone digging into the Earth from the United States all the way to China. That is what I think tomorrow’s WONDER is.

    • WOW! That’s a really cool guess, Austin! We can’t wait to visit Wonderopolis tomorrow to see if you are right! Thanks for leaving us TWO comments today! :-)

  6. We loved learning about food today! Have you ever had fresh cheese curds? We think that this is a specialty in our home state of Wisconsin!

    • We HAVE heard of fresh cheese curds, Mrs. Russ’s Classroom, but now we want to TRY some….YUM! Thank you for sharing about a special Wisconsin treat with us today! You might have learned about cheddar cheese after exploring one of the links inside today’s Wonder, but have you visited Wonder #322 – Why Are Some Cheeses Stinky? Here is a link that will take you right to it: http://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-are-some-cheeses-stinky/. Happy WONDERing! :-)

  7. Yum, when I went to Kentucky, I tried a Hot Brown it was SO good. Well, I cant wait for lunch now, because I saw this and it made me really hungry!!! Do you have any wonders about dirt bike racing? GO WONDEROPOLIS!!!

    • It makes our day to know that you like visiting Wonderopolis and learning new things, Gloria! Thanks for being an AWESOME Wonder Friend! :-)

    • Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today and telling us what you think about the Kentucky Hot Brown, Tywer! We appreciate your comment! :-)

  8. As we discussed the wonder of the day, we thought about how different foods are connected to different states. This is important because their location/surrounding determines the type of food people eat. We live in Ohio, so Olivia and Haley thought about corn, because there are many farmers and the Native Americans relied on this crop for survival. Wyatt thought of Buckeyes, which are a type of chocolate peanut butter in the shape of the nut. It is important to OH because we are known as the buckeye state, as well as THE OHIO STATE Buckeyes. We predict that tomorrow’s wonder might be about mining/digging for oil, fossils, minerals, or non renewable resources. We wonder if we really could “Dig to China.”

    • WOW! What AWESOME Wondering you guys did today, Mrs. Caplin’s Class! You are the second group of Wonder Friends who have shared about Buckeyes today. We will have to make them for sure now, because chocolate and peanut butter are so delicious together and also because we want to try a special treat our Wonder Friends from Ohio told us about! We think corn is a GREAT regional food for so many people, too! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your comment with us today, Sarah! We think everyone should give a Kentucky Hot Brown a try at least once in their lives! What’s not to like? Toast, turkey, cheesy sauce, bacon…YUM! :-)

    • Hi, Johnathan! We’re glad you give them a good grade for taste! Maybe your recommendation will inspire other Wonder Friends to try a Hot Brown, too! Thanks for being so awesome! :-)

    • WOW, that’s a WONDERful question, Skyler! We have LOTS of favorite foods…it’s hard to pick just one! We like snacks and meals that give our bodies energy and nutrients. We like fresh fruits and vegetables, pasta, pizza, grilled meats, cheeses, but we like to enjoy special dishes and sandwiches like the Kentucky Hot Brown featured in today’s Wonder, too! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know you think Wonderopolis is amazing, Kaitlyn! We really appreciate hearing that! We were just telling another Wonder Friend, Skyler, that we have too many favorite foods to pick just one! Did you know there are LOTS of FOOD-related Wonders of the Day? It’s TRUE! You can visit them anytime by exploring the FOODS CATEGORY here in Wonderopolis. Here is a link that will take you to all the Wonders about FOOD: http://wonderopolis.org/category/food/. Happy WONDERing! :-)

    • Well, then we’re glad you stopped by today’s Wonder so you could learn all about Hot Browns and other regional foods, Blake! Thank you! :-)

  9. I don’t know what a hot brown tastes like. I think I would like one if I could try one. I think I will. It will taste really good. It looks yummy when I saw it I was hungry. I love bacon.

  10. The Hot Brown looked a bit strange for a sandwich. I never had one before. Have you ever had a Hot Brown before? If I was at the beach, I might have to eat coconuts. YaY! When I turn 8, we will be able to go to the beach. YaY! I think the next WONDER is about fossils.


    • That sounds like a really yummy trip you and your family took to Gatlinburg, Kymberly! The description of the dish you had while you were there makes us really hungry…it sounds GREAT! Thank you for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  12. Hello Wonderopolis! We love your website! We learned what a Hot Brown was here in North Carolina, some of us had never even heard of a hot brown before. We can’t wait to find out what tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day will be… We wonder what makes your bones crack when you crack your knuckles.

    • We REALLY like the WONDERing you guys did about why bones crack sometimes, Mrs. Ravestein’s Third Class! Thank you for giving us an idea for a future Wonder of the Day®! We’re sure glad you visited today’s Wonder and that you are excited to visit Wonderopolis again tomorrow! :-)

  13. Thank you for sharing about how to make a hot brown! It looks delicious! That is a funny name. Ha Ha Ha!!! LOL!

    Gabi and Ava

    • We hope we’ll have another OCEAN-related Wonder of the Day® in the near future, Paige! We know how much you like learning about the ocean (and penguins and snowflakes)! :-)

  14. Me and my mom enjoy making those. MAN, THEY ARE SO GGGGGGGGGGOOOOOOOOOODDDDDDDDDD!!!! I wonder if you guys ever tried it and if you remember my class, Mrs. Shoemaker’s class? By the way I lllooovvveee your website. Thank you so much.

    • It’s great to hear from you, Exenec! Of course, we remember Mrs. Shoemaker’s class! You guys are GREAT Wonder Friends! Thank you for the awesome things you said about Wonderopolis and today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • We think so too, Abbigail! Thank you so much for sharing how you feel about Hot Browns and for visiting this Wonder about them! :-)

  15. This was really cool. You should do a wonderopolis on mammals. Mmmm I am now craving one of those. I really wish I could magically make one appear. I have never tried one before. Although, I did not think this wonder was the most interesting. You should do one on if stars (in the sky) really have points. Bye!!!!

    • We like your ideas for future Wonders, Kate…THANKS for suggesting them! It would be so cool to be able to make the foods you crave appear right in front of you whenever you wanted! That’s some WONDERful thinking! :-)

  16. I’m back my WONDERful friend!!! :D I missed you!! Do you remember me? By the way, I loved today’s wonder!! :) Why do you think they call it a Hot Brown? I wonder what the WONDER will be tomorrow… I guess it’s going to be about another food because yesterday’s and today’s WONDER was about food! :) See you tomorrow my WONDERFUL AND AMAZING FRIEND!!!!!

    • Of course we remember you, Kayla! You are a GREAT Wonder Friend for leaving us another comment today! We think it’s called a Hot Brown because the cheese sauce that covers the top of the sandwich gets bubbly and BROWN when it gets broiled in the oven! YUM, YUM, YUM! :-)

  17. I finally made time to visit Wonderopolis! At first I was thinking what in the world is a hot brown? Then I watched the video, and I was like DUH! Well anyway, is tomorrow’s wonder something about digging for treasure?

    P.S sorry about the inconvenient time :)

    • Hello, Allison! We have Wonder Friends all over the world who visit Wonderopolis whenever they can, so don’t worry about the time! We’re just super glad you stopped by and explored this Wonder! :-)

  18. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about the layers of the earth. I wish that I could eat whatever I wanted for free and without worrying about calories.

    • We know LOTS of Wonder Friends and their parents who wish that, too, Molly! It’s fun to WONDER what it might be like to eat anything you wanted whenever you wanted, isn’t it? :-)

    • It would be AWESOME if there was a computer application that DID make it possible for us to smell things we see on the screen, wouldn’t it, Linda-Jane! We bet the Hot Brown would smell extra delicious! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How do you make a Hot Brown?
  • Where was the Hot Brown invented?
  • What regional specialties are popular in your area?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to make your own hot brown or Philadelphia cheesesteak? If today’s Wonder made you hungry, then grab a friend or family member and head to the kitchen! If you want to make your own hot brown, we recommend using The Brown Hotel’s own recipe:

If a Philly cheesesteak is what you’re hungry for, try one of these recipes:

Do you have your own regional favorite you’d like to share with your Wonder Friends? If so, post the recipe on Facebook, so we can all try it. If you can, include some history with your recipe. What makes this recipe a regional favorite? What is the history behind the recipe?


Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Regional Foods lesson, children explore the culture of different regions by learning about differences in foods and recipes.


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