February 25th, 2012

California Roast Beef Sandwiches

California Roast Beef Sandwiches

When I was in high school, my very first job was at a Carl’s Jr fast food restaurant in Huntington Beach, California. The manager almost always had me work the drive-thru, and I was usually partnered-up with my friend Sheila. We had that station working like a fine-tuned machine. As a car pulled up, we’d greet them with “Welcome to Carl’s! May I take your order please.” And then while the cooks assembled the hamburgers and bagged the french fries, Sheila and I would make the drinks and collect the money. It was a fun place to work, and we frequently spent our off-hours sitting in the Carl’s Jr dining room talking with friends, and of course eating hamburgers.

Aside from their tasty hamburgers, Carl’s Jr also served a sandwich called California Roast Beef.  It had cheese and a mild green chile pepper on it. We called them “Cals” for short, and I thought they were delicious. I’m not sure why, but at some point, Carl’s Jr stopped making the Cals, and that’s when I decided I needed to start making them myself. I always use roast beef and cheddar cheese from the deli section of my grocery store to ensure that the sandwiches are every bit as good as the ones served at Carl’s. And I have to say that I think they might be better! To make these sandwiches, you’ll need shaved roast beef, cheddar cheese, canned whole green chiles, Au Jus gravy mix, and soft sandwich rolls. I like to use sandwich rolls with cheese and onions (or even jalapeno peppers) baked into the top.
Wash the chiles and remove the seeds. The easiest way to do this is to run your finger along one side of the chile to open it up, and then just wash the seeds away with the running water. Dry them on paper towels.
Combine the Au Jus gravy mix with the 2 cups of water in a large saucepan. Heat until the gravy begins to simmer.
Add the roast beef and heat through.
Meanwhile, slice the rolls.
Then assemble the sandwiches by placing some of the roast beef, a slice of cheese, and a chile pepper on each roll.
Now THAT’s a good-looking sandwich!
Posted under Main Dishes

30 Responses to “California Roast Beef Sandwiches”

  1. They are super yummy!!!

  2. One of my favorites!!

  3. These are on the list to definitely make! Thanks!

  4. I made these today after church! The family LOVED them! (Craig ate 3 of them) Thank you.

  5. I’m so glad everybody liked them!

  6. The original California Roast Beef sandwhiches were made with Swiss cheese. 🙂

  7. The California Roast Beef sandwich did not use cheddar or American cheese. I believe it was Swiss or some other white cheese.

  8. A couple of people have mentioned that the original Cals were made with Swiss cheese, and I believe that is right. If you think Swiss sounds better, use that. I like them with cheddar cheese.

  9. Thank you for this delicious recipe! It brings back a lot of happy memories for me. I worked at a Carl’s in OC. The Cals were my favorites! Yes, the originals used Swiss-but Cheddar is even better. 🙂

  10. Thanks for commenting, Bill! That’s cool that you also worked at a Carl’s Jr in Orange County. I still think Carl’s Jr makes the best hamburgers in the fast food business, and whenever I go, I always get their Famous Star with Cheese. It hasn’t changed a bit since I started working there in 1979.

  11. The California Roast Beef sandwiches used Monterey Jack cheese – never American or Cheddar and definitely NOT Swiss… my dad’s firm were the Karcher’s accountants for decades. I still have my Tacos del Carlos VIP card signed by Carl Karcher himself.

  12. Michael, you could be right about the cheese. I’m pretty sure it was a white cheese, but apparently there is some question about whether it was Swiss or not. Here is a link to a newspaper article that refers to the cheese on Carl’s California Roast Beef sandwiches as “swiss (?) cheese.”


    Either way, I still prefer mine with cheddar. By the way, I remember Taco de Carlos. I went there several times when I was a kid and loved their giant tacos. I was disappointed when they closed.

  13. I also worked at Carl’s Jr. …but in Torrance. I was The California Girl. My sister and I did the opening of the store every Saturday. She would do the front and I would make 100 “California’s” for the day. I NOW have my own cafe and make California’s but with the white American Swiss cheese. I live in Mississippi and this is SOOOOOOOOOOO different for my customers, but they love it and so do I!!!!
    Go Carl Karcher!!! RIP

  14. Honey, your comment made me smile and laugh. Thanks for sharing your connection with Carl’s Jr. I love it!

  15. The original sandwich from Carl’s had Swiss cheese not cheddar.

  16. I was just talking about California Roast Beef the other day with my husband. We both worked at Carls Jr in Huntington Beach also. Your recipe was the first one I brought up online. When I saw that you also worked at Carls in HB I couldnt believe it! And I think I worked with a Sheila. Was she the manager Carl’s girlfriend?? Which location did you work at and what year? I was at the one on Magnolia and Adams in probably 1977. Or so. Did I work with you?

  17. Roslyn, what a coincidence that you also worked at a Carl’s Jr in Huntington Beach back in the 1970’s! I worked at the one on Edinger and Bolsa Chica from June 1979 until August 1980 when I left to attend college in Utah. I loved working at Carl’s Jr. I still enjoy going there, and I honestly think their hamburgers beat all of the other fast food restaurants. Love that Famous Star with Cheese! But the California Roast Beef sandwiches were really good, too. Sometimes when I go to a Carl’s Jr, I will mention to the person who takes my order that I worked at Carl’s 35 years ago. It always blows them away because it was before they were even born! LOL. Thanks so much for your comment!

  18. Please elaborate on “rare” from the deli counter – cooked rare? Can I get it from the deli counter that way? Also, adding the roast beef and heat through.. how long is that? I am sorry, but I am a novice at cooking, and I just want to be sure. Thanks!

  19. Peter, the deli counter I use has a “rare” roast beef that you can purchase. Yes, that means that it has only been cooked to the rare stage, and it is still a little bit red. Because I have them slice it so thin, it cooks very quickly in the gravy. Within seconds, you can see it turn from red to brown. So as soon as it’s hot enough for you, it’s ready to go. Thanks for you comment! I hope you enjoy the sandwiches!

  20. I also worked at the HB store at Bolsa Chica and Edinger back in 1977,78,79 time frame. The manager’s name was Terry Allen and the District Manager I cannot remember her name to save my soul, but it was in the days when the District Managers all drove Monte Carlos and when you saw it drive up, panic could set in. After I left I got rid of my Toyota and bought a Monte Carlo, and when I would go back to visit, everyone thought it was her instead and just about had an attack. You are correct it was enjoyable working there, and the Cal’s were the best. I live in the Midwest now, Ohio, and have retired now. But I still enjoy the Cal’s now, homemade like you do, but have to be truthful, I enjoy the monetary jack to the cheddar. Thanks for the recipe post. Hope everyone can enjoy.

  21. Thanks for your comment, Dave. We must have just missed each other at Carl’s Jr. I started there in June of 1979, and the manager at that time was a lady named Betty. I can’t remember her last name. Did you know Karen or Sheila Rief? They both worked there for awhile before I started, and I am still friends with Sheila.

  22. No sorry, cannot say I do, too many years now. I remember a gal by the name of Sharon, and had a couple of buds that worked there with me I remember of course, but that’s about it. However the District Manager’s name was Anne, did not think I would ever remember her name, but it just came to me. My two buds were Paul and Andrew, who went by both Drew and Andy. I believe Paul left before me, but I think Drew stayed on a bit longer then I did before he left. Anyway, take care and thanks again.

  23. I believe the cheese was Monterey Jack and that’s why it was called “California”

  24. I’m glad you could duplicate this recipe. We live in Houston and Carl’s Jr. just opened up near us. I went in and asked for a California Roast Beef and, of course, got a “What’s that?” Don’t know why they dropped it, but I think it happened when they were bought out. Another signature sandwich lost! I tried your recipe using French Onion soup and white cheddar. Very close to the original, but I wondered about the cheese type, too. This simple recipe can easily be adjusted to taste.

  25. I remember sliced Monterey jack on the CJ CA. Roast Beef. We’re making them tomorrow 🙂

  26. I talk about the California Roast Beef Sandwich all the time to my husband, and I even tried to reach Carl’s Jr’s Corporate office to ask them why don’t they bring them back for an Anniversary. I think they would make a lot of money because everyone I know loved those sandwiches, and two fried burrito’s and hot dogs with two yellow chilies. Man, those were the days. They should never have taken those items off the menu!! Maybe if enough people ask about it, they’ll do something. Go California Roast Beef Sandwich!!!!

  27. Those were really good!. But of course that was the original Carl Karcher version of Carl’s Jr, not the corporation that took over. I bet part of it was cost, good roast beef is more costly than hamburgers.

  28. Grew up in Southern California in the 70’s and I loved the California Roast Beef Sandwich. The cheese was definitely white… maybe Monterrey Jack or a white cheddar? I don’t think it was Swiss, but I bet that would be good, too! I never really liked Ortega chiles on anything BUT a California Roast Beef! I’m surprised you omitted another important component: a thin slice of tomato!

  29. Love the story of working in the HB Carl’s. I’m going to make them tonight.

  30. Well, hello, Kim! Nice to hear from you. I hope you enjoyed the California Roast Beef Sandwiches!


Hi! I'm Laura. I enjoy sharing simple and delicious recipes that I serve my family and friends. To learn more about me, click here.

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