This past summer, I was lucky enough to attend a friend's bachelor party in New Orleans. It’s a breath-taking city, with centuries of history just dripping off of every inch of its tiered balconies and hanging gardens and pooling together in its cobblestone streets.
I partied (too) hard on Bourbon St, ate (very) well on Decatur St, and bounced around the best live music buffet I’ve ever experienced on Frenchmen St. At every opportunity, the city and its people blew me away with unbelievable sights, sounds, and friendliness.
But most importantly, I had some unbelievable sandwiches, thanks to some well-informed and passionate recommendations. Firstly — thank you to everyone who recommended a place to check out! Secondly, you guys, New Orleans has some of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.
I'm not even kidding. Look at me, I'm still using italics!
Ostensibly, I went to New Orleans in the first place for a bachelor party, and as such, the very first thing we had to do upon arrival was put as much meat and beer into our faces as possible. Naturally, we went to one of the most highly recommended burger joints in NOLA, Port Of Call.
After a 45 minute wait (spent exercising the hell out of our newfound right to drink beer outside), we stepped into Port Of Call’s cozy, beach-hut-aesthetic interior. Bamboo lined the walls, tropical drinks came in kitschy styrofoam cups, and the local Abita beer flowed. I ordered the cheeseburger with cheddar, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and cole slaw, with a side baked potato topped with butter and chives.
The burger wasn’t pretty, but god damn was it good. After downing our burgers, potatoes, and beers, we headed off for a bit stupid night of Bourbon St debauchery, followed by crashing headfirst into our beds.
Saturday was spent milling about the city, browsing record shops and voodoo museums, and getting lightly buzzed. Before we dove headlong into Bourbon St once again, however, we wanted to fill up on some scrimps and poboys, so we stopped off at Acme Oyster to try their fare.
I got The Fried Peacemaker, a dish their menu said was voted #4 in Top Ten Sandwiches. They didn’t say whose Top Ten Sandwiches it was, but hey — it was number FOUR. So, y’know. I got it.
Was it delicious? Sure. Did it blow my mind? Well, no. It’s definitely my #2 poboy in New Orleans, but I only had two poboys in New Orleans. If I’m including Sugarfreak’s poboy in Astoria, Queens, well… it gets bumped down to #3.
It wasn’t a bad poboy, for sure, but a themed restaurant in Queens should not be able to make a better version of your own city’s signature dish. End of story. Acme's OK, but it's not something I'll be going out of my way to hit next time I'm down there.
On Sunday morning the boozy, barfing bachelor and the rest of his bleary-eyed entourage bounced out of New Orleans, but I planned an extra day to explore the city by myself. And due to some excellent local suggestions, I knew just where to find New Orleans’ other signature sandwich. I went to the place where the muffuleta started: Central Grocery.
Coming from New York, the land of a thousand Original Ray's Pizzas, I have to admit that I initially rolled my eyes at "Home of the Original Muffuletta". It was only instinct — that word is thrown around New York's restaurant scene like a delivery guy. But after sinking my teeth into the sandwich's thick, soft bread, layers of meat and cheese, and tangy olive salad, I realized I couldn't be more wrong.
Maybe NOLA has more respect for an actual originator than NYC does, or maybe no one else dares try to step to Central Grocery's game. Whatever the reason, I didn't see anyone else in New Orleans even pretending they could make a muffuletta to rival Central Grocery's.
It was incredible: greasy, cheesy, tangy. I only got the half (one can get a quarter, half, or a whole), and next time I'll probably get the quarter — these things are HUGE. Strangely, though, I felt perfectly fine. I've eaten things this big before and felt horribly stuffed, but this just felt like the right amount of food.
If you're in NOLA on vacation, go to Central Grocery. You're just missing out if you don't
I was turned on to Killer Poboys by the insanely friendly baristas at Addiction Coffee around the corner, who told me simply to walk down Conti St and I couldn't miss it. While they had failed to mention that this poboy shop in particular didn't have any signage out in front of it whatsoever, and was in fact located inside an Irish punk dive bar, I still managed to find the place.
And Sweet Cheesus, am I glad I did.
Killer Poboys was, hands down, the best piece of food I had during my entire time in New Orleans. Beyond that, it is easily on of the top three sandwiches I've had in 2015. I had the pork belly poboy with an IPA while perched on a broken bar stool listening to celtic punk in a city I had never been to and knew no one in. Beyond this being one of the top three sandwiches of 2015, this was one of the top five experiences of my entire life.
Go to New Orleans for whatever reason you need to justify the trip, then go home. Then turn around and go back to New Orleans for Killer Poboys.
What do you think? Did I miss anywhere I need to go next time? Is there one stop you want to hear more about? Are muffulettas a delicious crime against God and man?
Sound off in the comments below!