Are you stuck in a rut? Do you find yourself going to the same restaurants week after week, ordering the same dish you always order because you’re afraid to try something new? C’mon people! We only live once! It’s past time to break out of your shell, make reservations at that new restaurant in your neighborhood, taste an ingredient you’ve never tasted before, try an open mind or, better yet, an open-faced sandwich, and you’ll discover a new realm filled with endless possibilities.
Okay, so perhaps we’re jumping the shark here a little. An open-faced sandwich may not be a culinary revelation or as daring as swallowing an “oyster crab” raw and wriggling from the shell, but the overall rarity of these unique lunchtime options should entice a person to pick up their fork and try something that’s just a little bit different. Although they’ve been around for an awfully long time (think Welsch Rabbit and Kentucky Hot Browns), it’s somewhat rare to find an open-faced sandwich on the menu these days, though New Orleans offers more open-faced options than one might typically expect.
Naturally, there are Eggs Benedicts a-go-go, but what about an open-faced po-boy? Jump on the bright red streetcar and get off when you see the famous, Pepto-pink building on the corner of Canal and N. Cortez that could only be Mandina’s. For over 75 years New Orleanians have flocked to this iconic, neighborhood restaurant for classic Creole and Creole-Italian dishes and it is right here where one can score an open-faced roast beef sandwich. Rich, brown gravy and tender roast beef is smothered over two slices of toasted white bread and a pile of French fries. Maybe you can also order it dressed? Regardless, it’s only $12.95 leaving just enough room (and money) for their amazing bread pudding.
Shall we step away from the po-boy and into something that has more of a Latin beat? Mambo your way to Carmo Cafe located on Julia Street smack in the middle of the CBD. Capitulated for its unswerving sustainability and “green” achievements, Carmo offers dishes made with local ingredients for all diet types from super-vegan to carnivore. One popular dish that’s described as a “breadless fork sandwich” called the Rico consists of a grilled plantain patty that is topped with smoky pulled pork, melted cheese, avocado, salsa fresca and their tangy “Rico” sauce. Yeah, we can call that an open-faced sandwich, can’t we?
If we’re talking vegetable-based open-face, then one should point their vehicle towards Harahan for something simply delicious at the Hickory Cafe & Grill. This homey spot offers simple, American-style cuisine like club sandwiches and Cobb salads, but it’d be a shame not to give their roasted vegetable open-faced sandwich a try. Fresh, herbed veggies like eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes and squash are roasted and served atop thick focaccia bread spread with garlic-basil mayo and pepper jack cheese. Plus, at only $8.95 for this sandwich that comes with French fries, you can buy one for your friend and still walk out under budget.
Everyone just loves a good B.L.T., right? Well, how about one made with incredible thick-sliced, house-smoked bacon and house-made mozzarella, fresh garden tomatoes, peppery arugula and topped with an amazingly creamy circulated egg all resting on a toasted slice of Leidenheimer French Bread? Well, you can get all that plus a huge pile of garlicky fries at Chef Nathanial Zimet’s most excellent Carrollton-area restaurant Boucherie for only $16! Or you could skip the fries and opt for a slice of Thai Chili Chocolate Chess Pie or their ever-popular Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding instead. The choice is yours.
Head way down to the north side of Carrollton Avenue for another slice of bliss at Toups’ Meatery. Sure, you could opt for their righteous burger or those damn near irresistible chicken confit thighs, but why not keep your options open (-faced)? Though the lunch menu often changes, Chef Isaac Toups is currently offering a veritable mouth-gasm in the form of an open-faced country ham sandwich made with Acadian miche (a type of country bread) topped with Toups own house-made country ham made from a Chappapeela Farms’ hog, melted gruyere, beer-braised onions and pickles. This kind of quality preparation simply cannot be topped, especially for only $14.
Finally, at what could be construed as one of the most popular, casual, Uptown breakfast spots in the entire city, you can find all kinds of open-faced goodies at a jaw-droppingly inexpensive price. The brilliant baker Cara Benson offers an array of breakfast choices at her Laurel Street restaurant dubbed, most appropriately, Toast. Aside from luscious quiches and sinful crepes, Toast features … well … toast! Or, more specifically, thick slices of house-baked, whole grain bread topped with gooey, melted cheese, egg and avocado or honey, ricotta and prosciutto, but possibly the best would have to be the one slathered in cream cheese and topped with cured salmon, scrambled egg and capers. At only $3.50 to $6 each, you could easily try all three!
*Article originally published in the October 2015 Voodoo issue of Where Y’at Magazine