Bierocks And Runzas: What's The Difference?

Throughout the United States, there are sandwiches that regional residents will proudly call their own. Philadelphia has its cheesesteaks on famed Amoroso's rolls, New Orleans has its enormous muffalettas and po'boys, and Florida is the original home of the Cuban. But what about the Midwest?

One of the most well-known sandwiches in the Midwestern United States may be Chicago's Italian Beef, partially thanks to the recent hit series "The Bear." However, a lesser-known sandwich has stolen the hearts of some in America's heartland: the bierock, also known as a runza.

Primarily made in Kansas and Nebraska (though it can be found in some other Midwestern states as well), the sandwich is basically a pouch of bread stuffed with spiced ground beef, onions, and cabbage or sauerkraut. While it may not be traditional, cheese can be included inside the bread with the beef mixture as well. Some liken it to an American Hot Pocket. But while some will staunchly say the sandwich is called a bierock, others will refer to it as a runza. Is there a difference?

How are bierocks and runzas different?

The sandwich's roots are believed to be Eastern European. Made by the immigrants who settled in the region in the late 1800's, the bierock (or runza) is similar to a pirozhki, and the name "bierock" potentially originated from the way "pirozhki" was pronounced by the immigrants at the time.

The name Runza (which translates in German to "bun shape") was trademarked by Sarah "Sally" Everett after opening a food stand of the same name with her brother In Lincoln, Nebraska in the late 1940s. It was a shortened version of the name her family used for the handheld delicacy. The restaurant spread throughout Nebraska (now with 85 locations, mostly in Nebraska), and the name did as well.

Some say that bierocks and runzas are shaped differently (with bierocks being more round and runzas tending to be rectangular), but many say the main difference is the name. Nebraskans nosh on runzas, while the remainder of the Midwest makes bierocks. It's akin to the regional sub vs. hero debate

Modern bierocks and runzas

The sandwich is fairly simple in its original form which makes it a perfect canvas for creativity. From various cheeses to the addition of sauces, there are tons of contemporary takes on it.

At Runza, you can get your sandwich stuffed with a variety of cheeses in addition to the meat, or add on bacon and bbq sauce. You can also turn it into a close cousin of a taco with a Southwestern version that has taco seasoning, salsa, shredded cheddar, a spiced-up ranch, and tortilla chips.

Meanwhile, at Bierock in Madison, Wisconsin, you can find anything from an authentic classic version and another that incorporates white cheddar to a bierock stuffed with rosemary lamb or buffalo chicken. They even offer a meat-free version with tofu and kimchi, and breakfast bierocks with eggs and meat stuffed inside.

If you're not in the Midwest, you may not have an abundance of restaurants serving these sandwiches nearby. You can always make your own at home, or pack your bags and plan a trip because this simple sandwich is apparently so delicious it's actually been highlighted as a food worth traveling for.