There Are 2 Divisive Ways To Make A Tuna Melt

When Pete Seeger sang "Which side are you on?" he wasn't talking about the tuna melt debate, but he could have been. There are two divisive ways to make a tuna melt: open-faced or closed. No matter what camp you happen to fall into, the point is that these sides are very real. At the longstanding Fanelli Cafe in SoHo, the tuna melt is served open-face (and it's killer). Golden Diner in Chinatown serves it closed (and it's also killer). Bon Appétit speculates that the tuna melt might be "the world's most polarizing sandwich," and it has a point.

However you like it, Southern Living says the key ingredients to any tuna melt are universal: tuna salad, bread, and cheese. The amount of tuna you'll need is the same across the board too. Serious Eats says every five-ounce can of tuna makes two sandwiches with a proportionate bread-to-tuna-salad ratio, whether open-faced or closed. Plus, according to The New York Times, the culinary queen Julia Child didn't care if her tuna sandwich was served open-faced or closed as long as it was made with tuna packed in oil and Hellman's mayo.

These all seem like solid equalizers, right? Wrong. To fans, the tuna melt debate is a gastronomic warzone. As in, put your helmet on and buckle the chin strap. It's a gnarly scene out here.

Which one wins: open-faced or closed?

For as divisive as it seems to be, the tuna melt is a pretty formulaic dish. In an open-faced tuna melt, warm tuna salad is spooned onto a single piece of (typically toasted) bread and topped with a generous slice of cheese. A closed melt follows the same steps, except another slice of bread is added on top. But, to fans, this single, seemingly small distinction is a hugely important one.

For one thing, in a closed sammy, the tuna salad physically cannot be heaped into the fishy mountain that an open-faced melt allows. So, if you favor a tuna-salad-heavy bite, open-faced might be your avenue. The Guardian's food series "How to Eat" vehemently agrees. Topping the open-faced tuna melt with another slice of bread, says the outlet, makes for a sandwich so messy that it's nearly impossible to eat. Tuna salad will be spilling out the sides like a tinned fish tidal wave. Plus, it argues, the bready mouthfeel of two slices smothers the tuna salad flavor — unless you use ultra-thin bread, in which case the sandwich's structural integrity will be compromised beyond repair. 

Yet, not everybody seems to share this sentiment. In a Twitter poll by Food 52, 46.2% of voters said they're making closed tuna melts, compared to 33.7% who said they're open-faced fans. The remaining 20.1% of responders said they like it both ways — but diehard tuna melt fans know better. To them, there can only be one.