Deli And Other American Sandwiches
Deli, Philly Cheese Steaks, Subs, And Other Non-Poor Boy Sandwiches
The home-grown poor boy, muffuletta, and seafood loaf, along with the all-American hamburger dominate the New Orleans sandwich kingdom. But there are enough fans of deli-style sandwiches for a few sandwicheries to make a decent living vending them.
In the time within memory, deli sandwiches were foreign to most New Orleans eaters. So much that when Martin Wine Cellar opened its deli in the late 1970s, the order-takers had to explain the concept to many of the customers.
By now, enough New Orleanians have visited New York City to recognize the distinctive deli style when they saw it. And we have a number of good, classic delis. Martin's remains at the top of the local deli market, but many other vendors have come on the scene. Deli-style sandwiches even appear in some poor boy shops now (although they're not the best places to look for good deli).
A great deli sandwich uses lean meats of the best provenance, sliced very thinly (this gives more flavor release, because of greater surface contact with your taste buds). The breads are very fresh, but naturally firm enough to hold together. This is a challenge in New Orleans, where no major bakers of rye, pumpernickel, onion rolls, and other deli-style breads exist. The best delis have their breads shipped in from New York or Chicago.
Finally, dressings on deli sandwich are distinctive. Mayonnaise--so essential on poor boys, is absent from most deli sandwiches, replaced by mustard or Russian dressing. Lettuce and tomatoes are rarely part of the program, either. Cole slaw, served right on the sandwich, is.
The kosher deli is a rare bird in New Orleans, but there are a couple of them--the Kosher Kajun and Casablanca, both rabbi-inspected, approved, and free of cheese and other dairy products. Outside those two places, few deli sandwiches these days are even close to being kosher. If you want cheese or ham or bacon on the sandwich in those, you get it.
Here is a list of restaurants specializing in deli. Also here are a few specialists in Philly cheese steaks, submarine sandwiches, panini, and other American sandwiches, all of which are as uncommon around town as deli is. And hot dogs, which for all their popularity are not served with much seriousness around New Orleans--although a few new places have taken on the challenge of providing a good dog.
At this writing, we're still missing an out-of-town sandwich that would be very welcome here: the New England lobster roll. (Maybe made with jumbo jump crabmeat. Or big crawfish? Hmm.)
Click on any of the restaurants listed below for a detailed, updated review.