Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Streetcar Named Pastrami: Cochon Butcher, Central Grocery, Evelyn's Place

Hello pastrami lovers! I spent my 27th birthday weekend in New Orleans, which is a very charming city. I made it to a few pastrami spots as well as a muffuletta sandwich from Central Grocery.

The muffuletta sandwich is a large, Italian sandwich said to have originated at this small deli by Jackson Square in New Orleans. I just happened to be walking by here on the only day they were open during my trip. Hey - they must call it Central Grocery for a reason, it's right in the middle of the French Quarter across from Cafe Du Monde (the beignet and coffee place).

The store itself is just like every other Italian deli you've been to. There are pastas, spices, fresh tomato sauce and all other specialty items synonymous with a place kinda like Genova's in Oakland or Guerra's in SF. I ordered one muffuletta to split with my dad from this counter. I noticed on the side of him there were half assembled muffulettas with the meat and cheese on the bread without the signature Olive spread. When you order he goes over and finishes the sandwich off with the famous spread and hands it to you. There is a small dining are towards the back, but honestly I wanted to eat outside in the nice, warm weather so we went to Jackson Square.

Jackson square is an interesting and significant place for many reasons. Andrew Jackson, our 9th president and face of the twenty dollar bill, was credited with saving New Orleans from the British during the War of 1812 and the city dedicated the square to him. During the day, it's a perfect place to bring a sandwich. I found a place on a bench and unwrapped the sandwich.

The muffuletta is a very tasty sandwich. The bread is super soft - a sesame roll. The Italian ham and mortadella are complimented well by the cheese and oil. The olive spread wasn't too overpowering and actually made the sandwich, in my opinion. It isn't a muffuletta without the proper olive spread. As I was sitting there with my dad another fellow from Seattle came along and ate a half-one next to us and some other ladies from Memphis and Brooklyn came with a sandwich as well. It seems this would be the muffuletta bench. I'd wager that at least a few thousand muffulettas have been eaten on that bench and everyone from everywhere seems to pass through Jackson Square.

Photo Credit -  Nicollette "Lawdy Lawdy Miss Clawdy" H. of Yelp!

At night Jackson square is an eerie place, with a much different energy than the day. I took a ghost tour while in New Orleans and I learned they used to hang people here. Many people lost their lives in the park and some people say spirits are still there. They lock the gates so drunk people don't sleep in there - but what's odd is a bunch of feral cats come out and roam the park and stare at people. They literally people watch. You will not see the cats at day, ever and they survived the hurricane. Also at night, the whole park is encircled with palm readers, fortune tellers, and mystics trying to sell you on a reading. Behind the square is one of the original churches in New Orleans and Pirate Alley where Faulkner set up shop in town and sipped on absinthe. The place has it's own energy - go at both night and day for the full experience.

The next place I went was kinda meh, but is very worth talking about. Evelyn's Place is located on Chartes street about a block away from Canal Street (The Market street of NO, essentially). The old guy sits on the outside and talks people up as they come by promising hot sandwiches and cold brew. He had pastrami, corned beef and brisket - so I was intrigued.

I ordered the corned beef because he was out of pastrami. It was served on a french roll, which I will forgive if it's good bread - but it was just ordinary. The corned beef was warm and that's about all I can say past that.  Not an overly salty flavor, but just not as flavorful as many corned beefs I have tried. I'd rather have Chick n' Coop corned beef, which is a hof-brau in Daly City not known for their corned beef. The gentleman who owned the restaurant, Frank, was a character though. I told him I was the pastrami king from San Francisco and he told me to move to NYC. That's all good and well, but I can get waygu pastrami here in SF. Then he proceeded to tell me that Evelyn's place was for workers, not necessarily the employed. He said to me "Look at that guy." I looked over to a guy dressed up like he worked in a business office "That guy is employed, but isn't a worker - big difference." Wow!!! OK. My dad hated his gumbo. Moving on...

Cochon Butcher or simply Butcher is my favorite restaurant in New Orleans and perhaps one of my favorite lunch spots in the country. It's essentially smoked meat heaven. They their own meat and Butcher is a lunch spot only while the restaurant next door that owns it and shares it's kitchen serves brunch, lunch, dinner. I'd like to go to Cochon itself another time, but Butcher was a real treat!

They had so many great things on the menu and in the deli counter to oogle at. They had whole hogs for sale if you wanted along with sausages, rib eyes, salamis.

 Duck Pastrami Sliders

Pastrami Sandwich

muenster was not like turkey pastrami as it was richer and noticeably smoky without a coriander spice layer on the outside that is normally synonymous with bird pastrami. It was very tasty, excellent. My regular pastrami sandwich was the best thing of the whole meal though. The pastrami here is some of the best I had because it's smoked in house by a guy that learned from his father how to smoke meat. He obviously was taught well and knows what he's doing because it had a certain smoky quality that was unparalleled to other pastrami I have had...not as sweet, but more smoky than others. I told the guy I liked it better than Carnegie Deli's pastrami and he was touched by that compliment. New York has some great pastrami, but this is just as good if not better than any pastrami in the United States. I say so, and I've tried it coast to coast - winner of the best pastrami in New Orleans. Who dat!? I made sure to grab a shirt from the friendly staff and I plan on sporting it with pride.

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JMP said...

Hi, PK - You need to come on over to Martinez and check out the new Compass Star Cafe on Main Street. The soft opening was this week, and the grand opening is next week. House cured meats, beignets, pressed coffees,pastries, yum! I just had a fab pastrami sandwich with house-made mustard on marbled rye for lunch. Just a suggestion for you!

Ted said...

Thanks for the suggestion JMP