Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Central Grocery in NOLA

One fourth of a Central Grocery muffuletta
A treat on our recent overnight trip to New Orleans was a muffuletta lunch at Central Grocery in the heart of the French Quarter. The round muffuletta’s tasty, crusty bread is filled with Italian cold cuts and cheeses. But what really makes a Central Grocery muffuletta a hit with me is the olive salad. Besides olives and olive oil, the salty salad also includes other finely chopped and colorful veggies. I am not much of an olive fan. Let me rephrase that. I do not like olives. But I love this sandwich.

Before this latest trip, it had been years since we had indulged in a muffuletta from Central Grocery. We used to walk into the Italian market , order one, take it to a park along the Mississippi River and split it--a fourth each for our two boys, husband Walter and me.

The day came, however, when I had to get serious about cutting down on salt in the diet. About the same time, the days of walking into the grocery and ordering our sandwich ended. The lines waiting to order were always extending out the door when we would check. Okay, I admit it. After several years without a Central Grocery muffuletta, I would have ignored the dietary restrictions about salt and gone for it. In fact, we would have even waited in line, but not out in the heat.

This time, however, the line was just inside the door. Translated, that means just inside the air-conditioning. Even though it was November, by 11:30 a.m. the temperatures had risen to high 70s or low 80s, well above hubby’s comfort level. We squeezed inside, and I shopped while Walter stood in line between the narrow aisles. 
Destination . . . ordering and pickup
Most people were there for the muffulettas only, but I saw a few buying other items. I did buy a souvenir--seeds for mixed salad greens.

The seeds were packaged in Italy with instructions in . . . ta dah! . . .  Italian. The package did have that little zone map and chart of planting times that I am used to. I spent some happy moments figuring out planting times, comparing the package’s recommended planting seasons for Italian coastal zones with our Gulf of Mexico coastal zones, all the while savoring future salads.

In days gone by, it seems I remember watching the assembly of our muffuletta. The arrangement is different now, and no photos are allowed behind the head-high shelving that conceals the prep area. A review here gives a little history of the establishment and does mention reducing grocery space to make way for expanded seating. 
A fish-eye view of Central Grocery interior
The counter-style seating is nothing fancy. It was not crowded when we were there, and we enjoyed the cool temperatures as well as the locals and fellow-tourists who shared the space.
Counter-style seating serves locals and visitors.

As we were sitting down, a former colleague from pre-retirement days appeared. I had always enjoyed keeping up, via her photos, with her twin grandbabies, her son and his wife. I followed her back to where they were waiting in line and met them in person. Seeing these now not-so-little-ones in person was an extra treat.
A little Central Grocery lagniappe was seeing Marjie, left, and meeting her son, daughter-in-law and twin grandsons.

My search for the grocery’s history turned up a lot of reviews that included extremes both positive and negative. Some mentioned that the sandwiches were prepackaged. I don’t know if ours was or not. But it looked the same, wrapped in white butcher paper. I still give the whole experience a thumbs up!

3 comments:

Ginny said...

I've missed you, you haven't posted in nearly a week! Well, you got some really god pictures, even though they limited your snapping area. Funny, McDonalds won't let you take pictures of the counter area or behind it, either. Makes you wonder what they are afraid of in the cooking and assembly area! I had to click on some of your pictures, they got me so curious. I would love to go there. I especially like the old fashioned straw dispensers and napkin holders.

Jeremy said...

No way they could be prepackaged. Those sandwiches are the epitome of "fresh."

Sandra said...

I am a carboholic and bread is my number one Carb. i wanted to reach in the photo and grab it and start chomping. the twins are adorable.