Duck Sliders, to Le Pig Mac, Butcher has it all
New Orleans is known for a few signature items, from the southern staples of shrimp and grits to Cajun specialties like gumbo and jambalaya. They say you would be hard pressed to find a restaurant in New Orleans that was actually bad, and at this point in my travels to the city this claim has held true. I have eaten one of my favorite local sandwiches, the muffuletta, at least a handful of times in the city at various venues. The muffulettas all had a few things in common: All have been HUGE, shareable portions and all have the signature combination of meats and olive salad on some type of round sesame bread.
Chef Donald Link is the mastermind behind a few great New Orleans eateries, including Herbsaint, Peche, Cochon, and Butcher. The first three are upscale eats, while Butcher is a smaller venue with an open seating policy, no reservations, and an order-at-the-counter approach. Needless to say when you are out and about on Tchoupitoulas Street and need some tasty lunch or dinner grub, look no further than the Butcher.
This butcher shop is much more than a wide selection of house-cured meats and sausages, although those are the highlight of the shop. At closer to 2:30 pm on a Sunday, the small, rustic haven, with a bar lining the far right wall of the dining area and a large open kitchen window spanning the back wall, was filled to the brim with hungry patrons sitting at high-tops. Adjacent to the dining room was the meat/check-out counter with a lengthy list of sandwiches, small plates and sides, and alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and cocktails, which set us up for a well-rounded meal experience. You'd be hard pressed to find a restaurant without this style of drink menu in the city.
And if you were looking to take home some of the stellar meat or sausage options, including andouille sausage, boudin, duck pastrami(!), and karobuta bacon, those were available at a range of $7.50 per pound for boudin to $19 per pound for the duck.
Getting back to lunch, I have never seen such a delicious-sounding, meat-lovers' sandwich menu. I knew Thomas, my bestfriend and traveling companion, had his mind set on the Cochon Muffuletta, $12, as it is one of his favorite New Orleans meal options. I was torn between the Buckboard Bacon Melt with collards or the Smoked Turkey with avocado, tomato, sprouts, and basil aioli. I'm guessing Le Pig Mac, image right, is the Butcher's two-patty rendition of the McD's classic, but boy did it look WAY better, albeit slightly intimidating. In the end, with a recommendation from behind the counter, I ordered the Gambino, image at top of this story, $12, without raw onions and with a Mexican Coke libation.
I could sit here and rave about these sandwiches til day's end. Not only were the sandwiches brought out to us in about 5 minutes, but I was so pleased to see that, for once, the portion sizes were not unrealistically large. Thankfully Thomas was feeling generous and shared his muffulatta with me; it was still large, but one bite of the toasted sesame bread stuffed with house-cured meats and that olive salad made me want it to never end. I was sold, however on my Gambino: The perfectly toasted, fresh ciabatta bread housed decadent house-cured meats, a milder version of banana pepper, and arugula giving a refreshing bite against the creamy cheese and rich meats while an herb vinaigrette perfectly set off the protein/veggie combo. In short, this was the best sandwich experience that my taste buds have had the pleasure of enjoying in New Orleans. Both sandwiches were so mouth-wateringly juicy and fresh, I could not and still cannot get over it.
Needless to say, if, after strollling through the New Orleans National World War II Museum, which is fascinating by the way, or one of the other attractions in the centrally-located area where Butcher is located, you feel hungry and need a quick bite, look no further than the laid back, insanely delicious Butcher. I know I will find any excuse to come back, not only for those sandwiches but to try some of the small plates and sides, like the Head Cheese with Chow-Chow and Mustard, the Duck Pastrami Slider, image right, or a Charcuterie Plate, image above. Not to mention that the daily selection of desserts, including the very sweet bacon pralines that I tried or the daily cakes and pies (the option that day being a white chocolate berry flavor), are enough to swoon over. Seriously, make this place a priority! The other of Chef Link's restaurants are now high on my list, as well. FOLLOW THIS LINk for a photo gallery of Butcher products.