Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Central Grocery: Is It Worth It?

According to yarn, Central Grocery created the muffuletta as a way to feed truck and carriage drivers who made late night/early morning deliveries to the French Market. Now, in my fertile imagination, that means the muffuletta is a sandwich which actually improves with age. Allow a tangent or two to explain.

In the barbecue world, the most talked about mark of a good pitmaster is the "smoke ring." The smoke ring is a band of pink hued meat that sits right below the crust. A good smoke ring, which results from a chemical reaction, is a sign that the meat was held at a steady, low temperature for hours and hours. Now, the muffulettas at Central are pre-prepared, both for convenience and taste. They sit around at room temperature waiting to be ordered. What this does is cause a chemical reaction (or hydrodynamic, science not my Fortier) and helps develop what I call the Oil Slick.
    You see the greenish hued bread that starts above the olive salad and ends halfway up the top of the bun? That is the Oil Slick and in my opinion, it is what helps distinguishes a good muffaletta from a great one. You want the oil slick for how it softens the top half of the bread. The Oil Slick foreshadows to your taste buds that their is a rich, flavorful blend of god's greatest gifts inside. Circling back, imagine you are an early 20th century delivery driver. Would you attempt to eat a sandwich in the bumpy, crowded streets of the French Quarter. Or would you wait a few moments until you hit the wide open roads of say, Metairie, to indulge?  

Centeal Grocery is located smack dab in the middle of Decatur. It is surrounded by a conflagration of hot sauce shops, t-shirt shops, and Mardi Gras mask shops. Push back the weathered double doors and head left. The line forms naturally around a display holding tins of sardines, jars of olives, and cellophane bags of dried pasta. A half muffuletta and a beer will set you back about thirteen dollars. Have a seat at one of the counter stools and you can have lunch with Bob Hope and his wife or the cast from the Sopranos. Eavesdrop on the whispers of curious tourists. "What is a moof you letta?" is the call from Bev from Columbia, SC on a recent visit.    "Capicola, salami, ham, provolone, swiss, olive salad on a sesame seed bun," is this counterman's response.  

The muffuletta itself is a great muffuletta. The cheese layer in the middle of the sandwich helps create a buffer between the salty, spicy pig parts. One could eat the olive salad by the spoonful. In fact you can because Central Grocery sells jars of olive salad at a brisk pace.  But nothing sets this sandwich apart from other muffulettas quite like its Oil Slick.   Central Grgocery: Is It Worth It? Yes. 923 Decatur St. 523-1620


Kevin said...

Wow. I'm usually right there with you guys on your reviews, but on this I couldn't disagree more.

The last few muffulettas I've had from Central have tasted like they sat around premade for hours, were skimpy on every ingredient, overpriced, and the "oil slick" tasted like Wesson.

frog said...

Central hasn't used pure olive oil in over a decade. I understand they add a splash of EVO so they can say it is made with olive oil. Try Nor-Joe's, it is more like what Central was 30 years ago.

Libellula Jewelry said...

My husband loves muffulettas but won't touch the ones at Central because of the olive salad they use. I have to make them fresh with Boscoli's olive salad.

Anonymous said...

I have found that the best way to order a muffuletta from Central is to tell them you want a whole on a half bun. Basically double meat and double cheese on half size.

nikinik said...

I don't care for CG at all and apparently I'm not alone. I find the stuffing to be skimpy and the ingredients not that good. For a much better muff, so a couple of doors down to Frank's.

Wilson said...

I'll speak up and say spot on review. The bun is the perfect size, height, and airiness for a muff. I'm not sure I've had Frank's but I've been served smoked oysters from a can there, so will never go back. Nor-Joes, however, may trump CG.

Rene said...

Dagwood size sandwiches have never really been a sign of quality for me.

And yes, I know Nor-Joe's is a great muffuletta; it is where I traditionally get mine from, but that isnt the purpose of this series.

candice said...

Nor-Joe's is fine (but they toast them! heresy!), but Frank's is awful. Doughy dry awfulness.

I prefer Central as I grew up with them being brought across the river from earlier in the day, with the olive oil soak.

When my mom was a kid they would drive into New Orleans from Houma just to buy olive oil and cheeses and such.... often at Central.