Mt. Airy’s famous pork chop sandwich

I ate this sandwich on my wedding day 23 years ago. Now I can make it at home.

Read Time: 11 minutes

This week I’m sharing recipes and strategies for a pan-fried pork chop sandwich that originated in the state where I grew up but more specifically, the town where my wife grew up.

I’m talking about a famous sandwich from a restaurant named Snappy Lunch in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.

The suggestion for this sandwich came from one of Bounded by Buns Patreon members. It was suggested by my father-in-law, Bob Chilton. Read on for comments from Bob about the restaurant that created it.

I have shared an Instagram reel/video of this sandwich you can watch as well.

What is Snappy Lunch?

Snappy Lunch is a small restaurant—originally founded 101 years ago in 1923—located in a town known as Mt. Airy, North Carolina. In 1943 a young person known as Charles Dowell started working at the restaurant when he was around 14 years old.

8 years later, with a $7,000 investment from his father, Dowell became a partial owner of Snappy Lunch, and a bit later in 1960, he transitioned to sole owner of the restaurant. Members of the Dowell family have owned and operated the lunch counter ever since.

Mt. Airy is about 100 miles North of Charlotte, NC in the northwestern part of the state, right on the Virginia/North Carolina border.

Snappy Lunch in Mt. Airy and in Mayberry

Mt. Airy was also the childhood home of an actor named Andy Griffith who went on to star as Andy Taylor in the Andy Griffith Show, a sitcom that aired on CBS from 1960 to 1968. In this show, Sheriff Andy Taylor and his family and friends live in the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina.

I’m assuming that even if you haven’t watched a single minute of The Andy Griffith Show that you’ve heard of Mayberry because it’s had quite an impact on American culture.

In the episode “Andy the Matchmaker,” Andy’s character—also named Andy—mentions getting a bite to eat at Snappy Lunch.

Many people think that Mayberry is based on the real town of Mt. Airy, but Griffith himself has claimed on at least one occasion that it wasn’t. Griffith said that a show producer came up with the name Mayberry and originally it wasn’t even nailed down in the show script as to which southern state the town was located in. As the first season progressed a few real-life town/city names started getting mentioned in the show like Mount Pilot (aka Pilot Mountain in the real world), Raleigh, Siler City, and Asheville—all located in North Carolina.

I asked my father-in-law whether people in Mt. Airy talked about The Andy Griffith Show when it originally aired in the 1960s.

I know we watched the show all the time, and I truly believe a lot of people here watched it, too. People didn’t really talk about the show or Andy much. We were always proud that we had a famous person from Mt. Airy.  I don’t think people really started talking about him and the show until the “Mayberry Days” started (note: the Mayberry Days Festival started in 1990). Then Mt. Airy started getting a lot of positive publicity. Now there is hardly a week goes by when there is not a tour bus stopping on Main Street.

Bob Chilton – my father-in-law

Snappy Lunch is the only real Mt. Airy business Andy Griffith mentioned during the whole run of the show. In an early 1960 episode of The Andy Griffith Show (see above YouTube clip) Sherriff Andy Taylor mentions to his Deputy Barney that they could take their dates to Snappy Lunch after the picture show. The show’s cast would end up mentioning a few businesses in other episodes like Floyd’s Barber Shop, Wally’s Filling Station, and The Bluebird Diner but these were fictional and didn’t exist in Mt. Airy until after the show aired (Bluebird Diner closed at some point in the mid-2010s and Wally’s Service Station doesn’t actually sell gas).

Whether or not Andy Griffith’s fictional Mayberry was or wasn’t based on Mt. Airy, it sure feels like the whole town has embraced the Mayberry name. Unlike many small southern towns, the downtown stretch of Main Street in Mt. Airy seems to be active and the shops and restaurants are heavily influenced by the name Mayberry and the names of characters in The Andy Griffith Show. Just a few stores down from Snappy Lunch you’ll find Opie’s Candy Store, Barney’s Cafe, and about 10 different stores with Mayberry in their name.

We caught Snappy Lunch on a Thursday before noon when it wasn’t so crowded. You should probably expect a line out the door on a Saturday.
Is this the one sandwich every North Carolinian must eat? You can read this Snappy Lunch article at Our State.

I would go to town with my Dad a lot on Saturdays. He would go to pay some bills and we would usually go by Snappy Lunch and get a sandwich. … there were no seats. Only a shelf along the wall, and something like a bar with maybe a few stools. It was that way until the Andy Griffith Show finally made Mt. Airy more famous. Probably, around the time Mayberry Days Festival was started, if not just before. That’s when Snappy Lunch was remodeled and the tables were added.

Bob Chilton – my father-in-law

This is the third sandwich that I’ve written about with some sort of origin from Mt. Airy.

Order it Charlie’s way

Charles Dowell passed away in 2012 at the age of 84, leaving his wife and daughter as owners of Snappy Lunch. Dowell’s daughter’s husband has taken up the spatula and he now ends up doing a lot of the pork chop cooking these days.

If you check out the menu that they hand you in the restaurant, the pork chop sandwich says that you can order it “all the way” but I’ve learned that you can also say “Charlie’s Way” which means the same thing: mustard, chili, slaw, onions, and tomato.

If you want the true famous pork chop sandwich experience, you should order your pork chop sandwich all the way.
Charles Dowell cooked fried pork chops inside the front window of Snappy Lunch for around 60 years. Note that the pork chops aren’t submerged in oil, they’re being pan-fried in shallow oil. Click the image to read the article from a local NC Fox channel.

Why did this sandwich come about?

Charles Dowell has been quoted as saying that he wanted a pork chop sandwich on the menu at Snappy Lunch that was like the bone-in pork chop sandwiches he had seen on menus in the past. But he wanted to make his boneless and instead started using pork tenderloin. The other ingredients on the sandwich like slaw, chili, diced onions, and mustard are very common components in North Carolina-style hot dogs and cheeseburgers.

It just makes sense to me that Dowell figured out a good process for a fried pork chop (or piece of boneless pork tenderloin in this instance) and dressed it with his favorite cheeseburger toppings which his restaurant already made in-house. Everything fit together, history was made, and the famous Snappy Lunch pork chop sandwich was invented.

I visited Snappy Lunch with my father-in-law last week during a short vacation and we ordered a couple of pork chop sandwiches all the way. I took two or three photos and they weren’t very pretty but luckily I found the Instagram photos above that give the sandwich more justice in the beauty department.

The sandwiches are wrapped and flipped upside down when served so the top bun ends up getting a bit flattened. Each sandwich is served with a fork and a few napkins so they are fully aware that things will be getting messy.

My father-in-law’s pork chop sandwich in the back and mine is in the foreground.
This almost seems like the photo has been squished to make the sandwich flatter but trust me it isn’t.

Behind the scenes with the pork chop sandwich

Here are a couple of videos that I found helpful when working out how to make my own Snappy Lunch pork chop sandwich. They’re especially helpful when trying to guess the consistency of the batter that coats the outside of the pork and the amount of oil used in the frying process.

This Southern Living video from 10 years ago captures the pork tenderloin cooking process and sandwich assembly.
There’s a lot of talk about Snappy Lunch and history in this video but skip to around the 17-minute mark for examples of pork chop sandwiches being cooked and made.

Let’s cook some pork and turn it into sandwiches

This was the first time I’ve had this sandwich since my wedding day, just a month more than 23 years ago. I’ve visited Mt. Airy a bunch of times during the 23+ years that I’ve been visiting my wife’s family, but as you can imagine, when you’re visiting family, time is limited and you always think, oh I’ll get to that next trip, and it just keeps getting postponed. This time I made a specific trip and I got to spend a short bit of time with my father-in-law while my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and wife had lunch at the winery down the street. Yes, Mayberry has a winery. Aunt Bee would be so upset.

To begin with this sandwich, first we either need to buy some buns or we need to make some buns. I chose to make them from scratch.

Soft white bread buns

When you order this sandwich at Snappy Lunch, they will serve it on a simple white bread bun. If you want to recreate the sandwich in your own house and keep things as authentic as possible, I suggest buying fairly inexpensive white bread buns from your grocery store.

Instead, because I am who I am, I made somewhat complicated potato buns for my sandwiches. This is a recipe I have shared quite a few times, and I’ve probably made it 20 or 30 times over the last 2 or 3 years. It’s dialed in for me but this time I did something slightly different. I pushed the shaped dough balls closer together to get them to touch as they were cooked. This is how commercial buns are baked and I wanted to try to achieve some of that appearance in my finished buns.

I started the shaped dough balls about an inch away from each other and they slowly rose and expanded to touch before baking (please ignore the ugly, lumpy dough ball on the left side in the center—we can’t all be beautiful).
The rolls here have just been painted with melted butter and are cooling off. If you look carefully, they’re 180 degrees flipped from the picture before.
This recipe generates some very soft and beautiful burger buns.
When they’re allowed to proof and rise together they end up looking a bit more like commercially baked buns.
When the buns bake while touching you get these pale sides that have indications that the buns were pulled apart from another bun. This is how a lot of commercially purchased buns appear, so I wanted this look for this particular sandwich.

This is a great bun recipe but buy your favorite inexpensive option if you don’t want to bake your own.

2 hours and 45 minutes
Super soft potato buns v2

Here's my updated, soft and squishy bun recipe that's perfect for your next burger night. This updated version that uses potato flour and dry milk powder for a lighter bun with longer shelf life.

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Pork loin

A Snappy Lunch sandwich contains a 3.5 to 4-ounce (114 grams) piece of pork tenderloin that has been pounded flat and then tenderized. At Snappy Lunch they have a whole lot of experience portioning out 3.5 ounces from a whole tenderloin, but you and I are just going to have to guess.

First, you figure out how much the whole tenderloin weighs and then you must do a little division and guesstimate a portion that’s between 3 and 4 ounces.

I purchased a Smithfield brand, pre-marinated/brined pork loin. This is not the same as a pork tenderloin but it’s what my store had, and it will cook similarly.

Butterfly the pork

To make the pork a bit wider and more sandwich sized, I would butterfly each piece and open it up like a book. This is a pretty easy process but one tip I found was to cut through any fat cap that might be on the outside. This puts all the fat on the outside of the piece of pork and makes it much easier to trim the fat after butterflying. It also gives the fat a bit more chance to render during the frying process when it’s at the edges of the piece of pork.

Size up your piece of pork to decide where to cut.
I typically cut through any visible fat cap so that all the fat ends up on the outside of the piece of pork.
Flatten the pork and open it up like a book or a butterfly’s wings.
Now you have a piece of pork that is thinner and shaped a bit more like your bun. Trim any fat that you’d like at this point.

Once the pork is butterflied, I pound it out flat and the next step is tenderizing.

Tenderizing the pork

In the past Snappy Lunch used a machine to tenderize their pork tenderloin pieces for sandwiching. One version of the machine that they used for years was called the Tenderator and it’s in the window of Snappy Lunch’s expansion into a neighboring storefront. I know from the videos I have watched that they still tenderize the meat, but it’s not clear how they do it now.

I don’t expect anyone reading this to go out and purchase a Tenderizer machine for their home kitchen, but you can buy what I use which is the business end of a meat mallet and you can also buy Meat Tenderizers that use a bunch of blades which penetrate the meat.

A retired Tenderizer called the Tenderator in the window of the Snappy Lunch annex.

Snappy Lunch thinks this step is important so I think you should attempt to do some tenderizing when making this sandwich.

After the pork has been pounded flat, it’s time to tenderize. It’s also a good time to trim off some of the extra fat if there is any on your piece of pork.

Pork chop batter

Snappy Lunch batters each piece of pork tenderloin in what is very close to a thin pancake batter. In one of the videos I’ve watched, the cook states that the batter is made from flour, milk, eggs, sugar, and salt. Unlike a pancake batter, this contains no leavening agents.

The lack of leavening agents means that this batter will be just fine sitting in your refrigerator for a couple of days. I tested this and the batter on the second and third day worked just like the batter did when made fresh.

The batter needs to be thin pancake batter consistency.
While cooking, if you pay attention to the edges, you can see the browning right at the edges and tell when it’s time to flip.


Snappy Lunch started as a quick-serve lunch spot with burgers, hot dogs, and baloney sandwiches, and in North Carolina, it’s probably illegal to serve hot dogs without having a beef-focused chili available in the kitchen. For this sandwich, I used my tried and true hot dog chili recipe that I could eat for breakfast cold, straight from the refrigerator.

A mashed potato masher is a helpful tool to get the chili to the consistency that I like.
I bet I have more photos of hot dog chili on my phone than you do.

Here’s my hot dog chili recipe which I’ve also included in the full sandwich recipe below. It’s great on hot dogs, and burgers and it works great on a fried pork chop sandwich.

Recipe Card
40 minutes
Hot dog chili

No beans in this chili, but it's perfect for topping a hot dog or burger. This type of chili is also superb for chili cheese fries.

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The slaw that I tasted from a couple of very small samples of the Snappy Lunch sandwich made me think it was very similar to most North Carolina-based slaw that you might find on hot dogs or burgers in that region. Even though this sandwich is created west of Lexington, I decided to use the recipe for my Eastern NC slaw because this slaw is not a red slaw, and it does have a bit of sweetness in the flavor.

15 minutes
Eastern North Carolina coleslaw

A quick easy slaw that replicates the flavors you'd find in Eastern North Carolina coleslaw. Works great as a side dish or on top of a barbecue sandwich.

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Tomato and onion and mustard

These three ingredients are the easiest to come across and put together. For each sandwich, you’ll need a good slice of red tomato, a tablespoon or two of diced white onion, and a good spread of yellow mustard. I don’t have a whole lot to say about these ingredients, but I took a photo of two of them so that you’ll have something to look at. If you hate tomatoes or if it’s the middle of January, you can leave them out just like you can ask for it to be removed from your Snappy Lunch sandwich when you order.

Diced white onion and a slice of tomato are big side-kick flavors in the Snappy Lunch pork chop sandwich.

Snappy Lunch pork chop sandwich recipe

Here are a bunch of photos of the pork chop sandwiches that I made while refining my recipe. Keep scrolling and you’ll also find the full recipe.

The Snappy Lunch pork chop sandwich is pan-fried with a batter, so the edges of the meat look a bit like a pancake.
A lot is going on in this sandwich with a lot of components that work well together.
For 3.5 ounces of pork, it looks like a bigger sandwich than expected.
This sandwich isn’t quite as crispy as other fried pork chop sandwiches, but the edges do have a noticeable crunch.
Amazingly I was able to pick this one up without too much falling off.
I wrapped this one in sandwich paper and then took the photo. This is what the final sandwich should probably look like.
Obligatory sandwich cross-section photo. Also, you can see why you might need a fork for this sandwich.
The Snappy Lunch pork chop sandwich view printable page for this recipe

You can make the famous Snappy Lunch pork chop sandwich from scratch. This sandwich takes tender and battered, fried pork tenderloin and tops it with chili, slaw, mustard, tomato, and onion for the full fried pork chop experience.


  • 1 pound ground beef (80/20)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 12 cup water or beer or beef broth
  • 8 ounces canned tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 medium head of cabbage, grated
  • 34 cup mayonnaise
  • 14 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 12 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 14 teaspoon black pepper
Pork tenderloin and sandwich assembly
  • 1 cup flour
  • 23 to 1 cup milk
  • 1 whole large egg
  • 12 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3.5 ounce piece of pork tenderloin
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or neutral cooking oil
  • 1 soft white bread bun
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons chili (from above)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons diced white onion
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons slaw (from above)
  • 1 tomato slice


Chili: in a medium pan over medium-high heat, brown your ground beef. With your spoon or spatula try to break the meat up into small pieces while it browns. 

Once the meat is browned and cooked through, drain and remove all the grease and liquid from the pan. 

Add the tomato paste to the meat and return it to medium heat. Cook the tomato paste for a couple of minutes, stirring it into the meat. 

Add tomato sauce, water/beer/broth to the pan and stir everything to combine. 

Add Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt and pepper.

Bring chili to a simmer in the pan.

While chili is cooking and simmering, use a potato masher to mash the meat and chili. I like to twist the masher. You do this to get the texture and consistency that you need. Cook the chili until you get a somewhat thick consistency. It usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes of simmering. 

Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator until it's time to make sandwiches.

Slaw: add grated cabbage to a large bowl. If you have a food processor, don't forget that some of them have a grating feature. Use that to grate if you can. 

Add mayonnaise, sugar, apple cider vinegar, yellow mustard, salt, and black pepper to your bowl and mix with a spoon to combine everything thoroughly. 

You shouldn't need any extra salt, but you should taste the slaw to see if it needs anything else. 

Store in a container in the refrigerator for up to a week. 

Batter and pork chop frying: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, egg, and milk until it is fully combined and there are no dry flour spots visible. 

The batter should be a thin pancake consistency. 

Depending on your piece of pork, it might be best to butterfly it to make it sized a bit better for a sandwich. \"Butterfly

Once you have done that, place the pork in between two pieces of plastic wrap or in between a plastic zip-top bag and pound the pork to flatten it more and make it a bit larger. 

Using a meat tenderizer, tenderize the meat to make the final cooked meat easier to bite through. 

Place a large skillet over medium-high and allow it to preheat with 2 to 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once the oil starts shimmering, the pan should be warm enough to proceed with the cooking process.

Dip the tenderized pork into the batter and ensure that it's fully coated. Allow excess batter to drip off and then place the battered pork into the pan.

Cook the pork in the oil for 3 minutes on the first side, or until you start to see browning at the edges of the batter/pork. Flip and cook for an additional 3 minutes on the second side. Once the pork is browned on both sides remove it to a plate to rest while you build the sandwich.

Sandwich assembly: spread a little bit of mustard on the inside of the top bun. Microwave 3 or 4 tablespoons of chili or warm it up in a small pan.

Place the fried pork chop on the bottom of the bun and top the pork chop with warm chili, diced onion, slaw, and a tomato slice. Close the top of the bun to sandwich everything together.

If you want the true Snappy Lunch experience, wrap the sandwich in butcher paper or wax paper and place the wrapped sandwich upside down for 1 to 2 minutes before unwrapping and eating. 

Check back next week

Next week I’m making a new sandwich that is based on another sandwich but still its own thing. You’ll have to check back and see. I’m not even sure what it is.

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