Sandwich of the Week: NOLA Between Two Pieces of Bread
I recently wrote two pieces about my bachelor party in New Orleans: one, a breathless recap of the great restaurants I visited in the Big Easy, and the other, a magisterial ode to the food at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Reading both, I became insatiably hungry all over again. Drool welled in the corners of my mouth. My eyes glazed over. My belt labored under the load of my expanding gut. I awoke from the daydream with my teeth-marked forearm in my mouth. After a moment, it hit me: the daydream was really about po' boys, which in New Orleans are normally the size of a grown man’s lower arm. So I decided to squeeze one last piece out of that glorious trip. Enjoy this guide to the sandwiches of the Crescent City.
Buckboard Bacon Melt with Swiss, Collards, Pepper Aioli
(Cochon Butcher — 930 Tchoupitoulas)
I don’t know what “Buckboard” stands for, but it must loosely translate to “grilled cheese hewn by the hand of God.” The smoky bacon on this sandwich, cut lean from the shoulder with a tender texture, is a perfect representation of what this outstanding, Donald Link-owned sandwich, butcher, and charcuterie shop is capable of. It matches perfectly with melty Swiss cheese and slightly firm collards. The BBQ pork 'Carolina-style' and duck pastrami sliders are also delicious.
(Central Grocery — 923 Decatur Street)
Created by Central Grocery in 1906, the muffuletta is New Orleans’ signature sandwich: a round semolina loaf piled with layers of capicola, salami, pepperoni, ham, and provolone. If this sounds like your average Italian hero, then the piquant and delicious marinated olive salad will change your mind.
Famous Ferdi Special
(Mother's Restaurant — 401 Poydras)
A New Orleans institution since 1938, Mother’s may be best known for its debris, a gravy-like mash of meat bits that is dredged from the bottom of a pan after a roast beef has been slow-cooked for hours. Piled on a sub roll and topped with the restaurant’s famous baked ham, the debris soaks the bread and the faces of all who challenge it with salty goodness.
Oyster and Bacon Sandwich
(Cochon — 930 Tchoupitoulas)
There are so many things to love about Cochon, the pearl of Chef Donald Link’s New Orleans food empire, but oyster and bacon sandwich is at the top of the list. Plump fried oysters are matched with house made smoked bacon in this other-worldly marriage of salty, sweet, and rich. The sandwich is five inches tall, what more needs to be said?
Cochon de Lait Sandwich, Soft-Shell Crab Roll, Crawfish Sausage, Roast Beef Sandwich
(New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival — New Orleans Fairgrounds)
Jazz Fest is a magical wonderland of food, easily one of the best culinary experiences I’ve ever had, and sandwiches undoubtedly steal the show. The cochon de lait sandwich by Love at First Bite (the side sandwich offshoot of Walkers) is impossibly good, and why wouldn’t it be? It is a monstrosity of a sandwich with pulled pork from a wood-roasted suckling pig, tender as it sounds and even better with shots of pepper sauce. The soft-shell crab roll from Galley Seafood Restaurant is another standout, crispy and greasy with a delicious funk of crab guts mixed with Louisiana Pure Crystal Hot Sauce. And if that’s not enough, try the delicious hot crawfish sausage po' boy from Vaucresson Sausage Co. or the roast beef po' boy from Dimartino’s Famous Muffulettas.
Fried Shrimp Po' Boy, Roast Beef Po' Boy
(Parkway Bakery and Tavern — 538 Hagan Ave)
Off the beaten path by New Orleans standards, Parkway Bakery and Tavern received increased notoriety after a recent visit by President and First Lady Obama. I visited under less noble circumstances, on the final hung-over morning of my trip. The fried shrimp po' boy and roast beef po' boy are outlandishly large, so much so that it’s worth powering up with a plate of cheese fries before attacking them.