It was just supposed to be a sandwich. I was on a break – 30 minutes to hustle down a few nutrients before returning to the New Orleans Convention Center for the next round of my public health conference. The food court at the convention center touted Big Easy favorites like po’boys, etoufee, and jambalaya, but I was seeking something a little less flashy.
Enter Yelp! and its dandy nearby search function. As much as I delight in researching cuisine in lands both far and near, I’d done very little preparation for my latest trip down south. My schedule has just been too dang crowded to get into obsessive and crazed Dianderthal mode. So I decided to trust Yelp! this time and happy was I to see the first listing had a 4.5 rating. And it was so close. And familiar – I recalled passing it the day before, thinking it a dapper place to unwind after a heavy conference day (they served wine!). Turns out it’s a pretty popular lunch spot too, the line out the door filled with ravenous and bleary-eyed conference goers. Some of them sipped on cocktails and idled about while they feasted (likely the attendees of the techie conference in the halls further down from my meeting – perhaps their firms didn’t frown on noontime drinking; or folks who just didn’t give a damn – why’d I have to be a responsible and professional public servant?). The sandwich, I had to remind myself.
But then I saw the menu, once inside. Quickly opting for the turkey sandwich, I let my eyes wander over the other selections, curious about their desserts, their side dishes; figured there might be a coleslaw or potato salad I’d quickly pass up. Instead, I found those magical words that spark my salivary glands so easily: mac-n-cheese. It was plain and simple. Not a four-cheese mac-n-cheese. Not a bacon or a truffle or a tomato mac-n-cheese. Just MNC, 8 bucks. Sign-me-up.
They might have been right to call it crack mac-n-cheese because after one taste, I was hooked. I’m an addict. A fiend. A mac ho. I might do illegal things to get that MNC again. Leave it to me to try this dish the afternoon before departing Louisiana, just hours before having to hop on a plane to head some 1,600 miles away, leaving me with a MNC jones that truly hurt. Unless I can find a version in LA that can rival, my taste buds, my belly, and the rest of me will have to suffer until my next trip down to Nawlins. It will prove challenging to find something as rich, creamy, savory, and zesty, or with a crackling crumb topping as melt-in-your-mouth gorgeous. If I had just an ounce less of pride, I’d have licked the plate clean. Thanks to Butcher, I’ll be daydreaming of cheesy macaroni for weeks.
Neither forgettable was my sandwich, although I didn’t have room to start in on it until later, finally finishing it on the plane (to the envy of my mile-high up neighbors within smelling distance). Packed with the most boldly smoked turkey I’ve ever tried, the sandwich was purely satisfying with avocado, sprouts, and a basil aioli. It may have just been a sandwich, but it made me breakdance mentally (to Slick Rick’s The Show).
Lastly, I was the easy target for counter merchandising efforts, the bourbon-soaked pumpkin cake begging me to buy two pieces – one for me, one for the husband since I was returning home on his birthday. Or one for me, another for me in case I liked the first so much that I might go into pumpkin withdrawals if I didn’t get a second piece soon.
With plate after plate of touristy food going in (and out) of me over my brief visit, I was thrilled finally to fnd the palatable, scrumptious dishes New Orleans is known for. Butcher gave me hope and high expectations for my next trip to Louisiana which, thanks to Butcher’s mac-n-cheese, will be sooner than later. And that time, I’ll have come for the mac-n-cheese, a slice of cake, a cocktail, a pretzel with cheese (spotted at the table next to me), and – yes – the sandwich.
930 Tchoupitoulas St. in New Orleans, LA