New Concepts Between the Slices
Artful sandwich options are on the rise, with several new shops that rethink both the bun and what’s between it. The days when poor boys were the default option, with the muffuletta standing out as the outlier alternative, are over; it’s refreshing to see the evolution of this most fundamental of lunch options keep pace with the ongoing restaurant boom in New Orleans.
Rebel Restaurant Group, the home base of chef Phillip Lopez’s growing clutch of forward-looking eateries, recently entered the sandwich game with his charcuterie-focused shop Part & Parcel located in the Paramount Building. Lopez tapped chef Michael Mericle, who has worked with him since his Rambla days and who also spent the last several years at Root, to take the reins at this progressive deli.
Lopez has a reputation for a modernist cooking style, which might seem out of sync with a deli restaurant concept. And while Part & Parcel employs some of these tricks, including sous vide and cold smoking techniques, they’re done in the service of a more accessible menu. Cured meats have always been a prominent part of Lopez’s menus, but here they figure in a central role. It is a shrewd move and one that’s likely to bring his style of cooking to a broader audience.
The buildout is contemporary, with more of an urban downtime vibe thanks to the dark palette and the striking mural by Tim Morgan and Jake Lebas. A galley kitchen and bar runs along one side of the space with a curing room toward the back, where you can view charcuterie-in-progress. For Mericle, a big part of the impetus for Part & Parcel came from a trip to New York where he cooked for a James Beard dinner. “I was impressed by a lot of charcuterie shops up there, in particular the classic Jewish delis,” Mericle recalls. “I love the style of those techniques and the flavors that could be brought out with curing and the seasoning.”
The menu pulls in Italian, Jewish and regional influences brought together with a composed, modernist twist. The T.A.S.T.E., fried turkey and avocado with sprouts, tomato and fried egg is punched up with chipotle aioli and served on ciabatta. “People can’t seem to get enough of that one,” Mericle says. “It’s been selling like crazy.” And the description “fried turkey” is somewhat misleading – the turkey is actually cooked sous vide to keep it juicy and tender, then splash-fried to order to crisp the exterior. The sandwich presents a mix of textures, techniques and flavors – a nice expression of the overall sensibility of Part & Parcel.
Other good bets include the Hot P on rye, where the in-house pastrami is sliced paper-thin and whose caraway-spiked sauerkraut gets a twist from juniper. Remoulade sauce is a creative stand-in for the traditional Russian dressing. Along with the sandwiches, charcuteire can be purchased deli-style by the pound. There is a full bar with craft cocktails and a marathon happy hour. “It runs from 3 to 8 p.m. – one of the longest in the city,” Mericle says.
Down in the Irish Channel Mason Hereford’s new sandwich shop Turkey and the Wolf has been generating buzz since its opening in late summer. The dazed and confused menu – think fried bologna with hot English mustard, potato chips, lettuce and American cheese on white bread – has proved divisive to some, but don’t let the slacker vibe throw you, Hereford was formerly Chef de Cuisine at Coquette and knows what he’s doing. Follow his bliss into items like the wedge salad, where the flavor gets turned up to 11 with the inclusion of seasonings such as Everything Bagel Crunchy Stuff, a slathering of addictive blue cheese dressing and fresh dill. The Crab Boil Roll is legit, loaded with lumps of claw meat on an open face roll with a tangy sauce redolent of celery and crab boil. The vibe is friendly and relaxed and a full bar is offered as well, staking out a comfortable nook in the space formerly occupied by Smokehouse BBQ.
In the Lower Garden District, Fat Boy Pantry is serving up belly-busting sandwiches with unique twists. The business, owned by Hillary Barq of the Barq’s Root Beer family, showcases a contemporary buildout that’s equal parts contemporary and relaxed. A communal table runs the length of the dining room, with cubbies for retail along the wall opposite the galley kitchen. Fixtures and furnishing are well-considered and top-notch, including a Slayer espresso machine, an eye-candy contraption from a highly regarded company out of Seattle.
Sandwiches here hew a bit closer to the New Orleans poor boy proportions but with more esoteric options. For example, the fried lobster poor boy comes dressed with remoulade and drawn butter. The Havana sandwich is a take on the Cuban, with Gruyère cheese and a black garlic mustard amping up its punch. But while the menu here is unique, Fat Boy sets itself apart with a full case of quirky homemade ice cream, including flavors such as buttermilk salted lime and Zapp’s potato chips, to name a few of the oft-rotating choices.
It isn’t exactly new, but it’s delicious: Cochon Butcher has been turning out excellent sandwiches for years now, but a recent renovation has greatly expanded the seating and lessened the wait time for this no-reservations offshoot of Cochon. Consider the Le Pig Mac, with its two all-pork patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onion on a sesame seed bun.
Shop a Sandwich
930 Tchoupitoulas St.
Fat Boy Pantry
1032 Magazine St.
Part & Parcel
611 O’Keefe Ave.
Turkey and the Wolf
739 Jackson Ave.