My lunch was served on a melamine Ronald McDonald plate and I still thought, “Bon Appetit Magazine got it right.” Their award for Best Restaurant in America for 2017 went to an unassuming hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop that beat out fancier, older places with starched white tablecloths, fine china and hefty price tags. Before being handed my clown plate, I had to stand in line in the parking lot for 25 minutes and sit at a rickety-wobbly table with mismatched chairs, but it all led to the most amazing sandwich I’ve ever had.
Turkey and the Wolf in New Orleans is the unassuming sneaky winner that beat out the upper crust restaurants around the country and literally, overnight, went from being a small sandwich joint full of loyal customers, to the superstar of the culinary scene with crowds spilling into the streets and television crews and reporters swarming the place.
Mainly a young millennial crowd favorite, my husband and I stood in line with a group of nice people in their early 20’s who were talking about their recent weddings. ‘She didn’t even bother to show up at mine,” said one. “Well, when it came time for her to get married, she had a Harry Potter theme,” replied the redhead. “That could have been either amazing or weird.” — ‘Humph. I’m pretty sure it was weird.”
This young crowd seemed to have been to Turkey and the Wolf before and kindly passed us paper menus to read while we were secretly entertained by their stories and waiting to be seated.
A collard green melt topped with pickled cherry pepper dressing and a chicken salad torta with peanuts and “shrettuce” were other favorites and almost every table ordered an appetizer of deviled eggs with fried chicken skins – which is exactly what it sounded like. Since I have great memories of coming home from school and making fried bologna sandwiches, then toasting them in the little toaster oven and topping them with French’s mustard, I ordered the fried bologna sandwich. Believe me, it was nothing like my high school creation.
Towering at least 4 inches tall, this buttery, toasty sandwich had the best of everything a childhood memory could offer. Locally farmed thick-cut bologna, “mom’s hot mustard” . . . and potato chips to add the perfect salty crunch. “I’ll never be able to finish all of this.” I told Bob, but somehow, I didn’t need a to-go box at the end of the meal.
We met the owner, Mason Hereford, in the parking lot. Although he had every right to act like a hot-shot celebrity chef, he was slinging ice bags out of his pick-up truck and laughed and told me he had a hangover. He thanked us for stopping in to eat, sincerely as if we were the only customers of the day. When I asked if things had changed over the last year, Mason laughed and said business exploded after Bon Appetit’s award and hasn’t slowed down a bit.
The newer young crowd flocking to restaurants likes simple, funky, locally produced food at good prices. Food preferences for millennials are as unique as their weddings (the Denver Bronco’s wedding they mentioned nearly caused me to swoon). Their fondness for my old-fashioned after school snack of a fried bologna sandwich on my 1980’s McDonald’s plate has been updated beyond recognition, and Turkey and the Wolf did it just right.
This story first appeared in Mobile, Birmingham, Huntsville Advance Publication newspapers.