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Jason Perlow

Central Grocery (NOLA, French Quarter)

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Central Grocery

923 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116

Phone: (504) 523-1620

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A bustling business

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Piles of fresh bread ready to be transformed into muffulettas

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They sell the muffulettas as fast as they can make them, so having a bunch pre-prepared keeps the lines moving.

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They are cut in quarters, here's a cross section. Bread, meat, cheese, meat, olive salad

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Speaking of olive salad, you can buy it separately by the quart

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You can enjoy your sandwich in the back of the store or take it to go, as we did for the plane ride home.

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Our counterman, one of the proprietors


Edited by Rachel Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Central Grocery is an institution in New Orleans. Their claim to fame is the muffaletta sandwich, which is a unique combination of a special muffaletta bread loaf specifically designed for the sandwich, choice Italian cold cuts, cheese, and a marinated olive/vegatable salad with a top secret recipe which nobody in town seems to be able to completely duplicate.

The place is pretty much always busy, so Central Grocery always has a huge-stack of pre-wrapped muffalettas ready. The sandwiches actually taste better after its an hour or two old as the olive salad has time to mingle with the meat and penetrate the olive oil into the bread. In fact, its still just as good a day later. We brought two of them on the plane and ate them for lunch the next day.

Although the muffaletta comprises most of Central Grocery's business, they also have a large selection of gourmet canned and jarred items as well as spice mixes as well as a lot of hot sauces to choose from. Their prices are also pretty good, at least when compared with the Farmers Market across the street and other tourist traps in the quarter.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Memories... When I worked for FDA in the Customs Building on Canal Street, we used to make a weekly run to Central Grocery. Those sandwiches are amazing. There are several places here in Houston trying, but they just don't get it right. Either the bread is all wrong or they use too much meat. Treebeard's here claims that they use olive salad from Central Grocery but the bread is too thick, no sesame seeds (heresy), and they use WAY too much meat. It is an ok sandwich but it is not a muffaletta. To me, the muffaletta is all about the bread and the olive salad. The meat and cheese should be in amounts that are like a condiment. Central Grocery has found that balance. Thanks for the picture. I may link to this thread to enlighten the benighted.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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Their prices are also pretty good, at least when compared with the Farmers Market across the street and other tourist traps in the quarter.

For example, I like this seasoning mix called Joe's Stuff. I noticed it at Central Grocery for $9 for the large bottle. Thinking that was expensive, I passed. Couldn't find it at Langenstein's grocery store (NO institution, recommended to me by Mayhaw Man, 1330 Arabella Street), and the French/Farmer's Market stands had it for several dollars more ($12-14). So when we returned to CG on Friday, I picked up a couple bottles of Joe's regular and Hot Stuff. Here's a link to where you can buy some Joe's Stuff for not an outrageous price: New Orleans School of Cooking catalog (click seasonings on the left)

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Does anyone know when or if Central Grocery will re-open? I'd like to order some muffaletta(s) and have them shipped up here to DC. I'm happy to order and re-order and re-order them until they get back on their feet again.

God, I miss that town.

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Progress Grocery in Metairie, which is said to have Muffalettas as good as Central's and has been in business nearly as long, is also currently closed.

http://www.progressgrocery.com

Our own Mayhaw Man works for the company that does their eCommerce site, he may have some insights as to what is going on.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Progress Grocery in Metairie, which is said to have Muffalettas as good as Central's and has been in business nearly as long, is also currently closed.

http://www.progressgrocery.com

Our own Mayhaw Man works for the company that does their eCommerce site, he may have some insights as to what is going on.

Perrone and Sons (The Perrone family has owned Progress Grocery for about a zillion years), a large wholesale grocery company that deals primarily in imported Italian goods is up and running, though like everyone else here, they are having employee issues and dealing with the fact that many, most, of their customers are not open now (or will be ever).

The problem with Progress Grocery online is that they can't get UPS to pick up even if they had someone to make the sandwiches (virtually no one can, there is a huge shortage of drivers-). They hope to be back online for the holiday season.

Nothing says happy holidays like a big italian loaf covered in meat and olive mix. MMM.

You know, muffelettas are a good question. I was right by Napoleon House last night and didn't go in (but I did have an excellent middle eastern repast at Mona's on Frenchman). I will go check this afternoon and see if they are even serving food.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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In the interim, one thing you might want to consider is making your own Muffaletta bread -- the actual meats used in a muffaletta are fairly easy to get -- genoa salami, cappicola ham, mortadella, prosciutto (my addition) , sliced mozzarella, and provolone cheese.

NOLAcuisine.com actually has a good recipe for muffaletta bread. I haven't tried it myself but it is something that looks like a fun project.

Muffaletta Bread Recipe

Of course, once you got the bread, you need the olive salad.

Olive Salad Recipe

And then you need to know how to put it together

Muffaletta Recipe


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Thanks for the recipes, Jason, but it still needs a little heat, humidity, and lagniappe to make it authentic ... :sad:


Melissa Goodman aka "Gifted Gourmet"

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Thanks for the recipes, Jason, but it still needs a little heat, humidity, and lagniappe to make it authentic ...  :sad:

Well, we have the heat and the humidity. It was 88 here yesterday with 85% humidity. It was kind of like late May or something. RIght now, it's so foggy I can' see the building next door to my office (which is probably a good thing because it fell down and I am tired of looking at ti).

But lagniappe still exists, just this morning as I was getting coffee on Frenchman St at the Rose Nicaud (only coffee shop open in the lower quarter/Marigny) the guy gave me a croissant (excellent, incidentally) just because he sees me every morning. Nice guys, those hippie coffee dudes.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Speaking of muffalettas, I've been meaning to spank someone at the deli in my neighborhood grocery. They sell prepped sandwiches of all different stripes, and in the last month or so have been offering muffalettas. The first few times I saw it the ingredients seemed to change up a bit, but it still sort of looked like the muffaletta I knew.

Then came the sun-dried tomatoes.

What is with that? Like the olive salad needed competition?

The sdt's have stayed. I must find out who is responsible.

The Nawlins originals must come back so we don't forget that muffalettas don't have silly things like sun-dried tomatoes!


Bridget Avila

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In the interim, one thing you might want to consider is making your own Muffaletta bread -- the actual meats used in a muffaletta are fairly easy to get -- genoa salami, cappicola ham, mortadella, prosciutto (my addition) , sliced mozzarella, and provolone cheese.

NOLAcuisine.com actually has a good recipe for muffaletta bread. I haven't tried it myself but it is something that looks like a fun project.

Muffaletta Bread Recipe

Of course, once you got the bread, you need the olive salad.

Olive Salad Recipe

And then you need to know how to put it together

Muffaletta Recipe

Love ya, mean it, but I agree with the others. It just ain't the same as eating it in the Quarter. Plus, I want to do what I can to help support local area businesses from afar to help them get back on their feet again until I can get down there again.

p.s. - did you see Anthony and Gail Uglesich's website? They say the restaurant suffered minor damage, no flooding, and that they haven't ruled out re-opening. God, to have a muffaletta for breakfast and some Shrimp Uggie for lunch. That's heaven. Or maybe better than heaven.

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I hate to disagree, but there can be no substitutions(prosciutto) in a Muffaletta. To me it is what it is, anything else is, well, something else. If someone did that there, it would be 2nd rate.

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Speaking of muffalettas, I've been meaning to spank someone at the deli in my neighborhood grocery.  They sell prepped sandwiches of all different stripes, and in the last month or so have been offering muffalettas.  The first few times I saw it the ingredients seemed to change up a bit, but it still sort of looked like the muffaletta I knew. 

Then came the sun-dried tomatoes.

What is with that?  Like the olive salad needed competition?

The sdt's have stayed.  I must find out who is responsible.

The Nawlins originals must come back so we don't forget that muffalettas don't have silly things like sun-dried tomatoes!

They put those things on the sandwich because they don't know any better, poor things might never of had a real Muffaletta.


It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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They put those things on the sandwich because they don't know any better, poor things might never of had a real Muffaletta.

An update: the deli manager told me that "That's how they taught me to do it in New York." New York? "Boar's Head trained me to do it that way, so that's how I have to do it."

Hmph. A call to Boar's Head may be in order. Yesterday the muffs even had lettuce on them. Ech.


Bridget Avila

My Blog

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Love ya, mean it, but I agree with the others.  It just ain't the same as eating it in the Quarter.  Plus, I want to do what I can to help support local area businesses from afar to help them get back on their feet again until I can get down there again.

I agree with you wholeheartedly and if and when these places open again, we need to throw them our business, dollars and our love. However I think it is equally important that we, as the consumers and lovers of these New Orleans food traditions, remember and learn how to prepare them ourselves, because its theoretically possible that we might not see them again for a long time -- and there may be newcomers into this arena to try to fill the void who need to know how to replicate them or add their distinctiveness to them. If they have the resources to do so, we should welcome into the rebuilding of the city and its food culture.

And as a food culture in diaspora, its also entirely possible we may see things like the Muffaletta, beignets, pralines and chickory coffee that are signatures of the city adopted elsewhere that pockets of displaced New Orleanians have chosen to hang their hat, temporarily or even permanently. Which is not a bad thing at all. If there is to be ANY silver lining as a result of this horrible disaster it will be that perhaps there might be a finer appreciation for New Orleans cuisine throughout the US.


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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. . . . .

And as a food culture in diaspora, its also entirely possible we may see things like the Muffaletta, beignets, pralines and chickory coffee that are signatures of the city adopted elsewhere. Which is not a bad thing at all.

One can only hope. I have yet to find a decent muffaletta in Houston . . . anywhere. They always get one of the essential parts all wrong. Even if the real deal showed up, one of the first places I intend to go as soon as I can visit New Orleans is Central Grocery.


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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... I think it is equally important that we, as the consumers and lovers of these New Orleans food traditions, remember and learn how to prepare them ourselves, because its theoretically possible that we might not see them again for a long time -- and there may be newcomers into this arena to try to fill the void who need to know how to replicate them or add their distinctiveness to them. ... And as a food culture in diaspora, its also entirely possible we may see things like the Muffaletta, beignets, pralines and chickory coffee that are signatures of the city adopted elsewhere that pockets of displaced New Orleanians have chosen to hang their hat, temporarily or even permanently.

Very thoughtful point! (Though the New Orleans beignet, the everyday French word for fritter, common in French cookbooks and understood elsewhere to have something inside it as fritters do in the US too, might cause confusion outside its native turf).

Shortly before Katrina I posted something on rec.food.cooking about Muffulettas made at the Napoleon House. In checking the inconsistent spelling I ran into a supplemental entry in the AHD about food Americana under "muffuletta," excerpted at the end of the RFC note, below.

--

[Napoleon House's] is a model New Orleans muffuletta: Round Italian loaf (or large roll) about 25cm (10 inches) diameter, split and filled with sliced cold salami and ham, a little sliced cheese, warm spiced olive salad, and the aforementioned psittacine Pickled Peppers. Normally quartered and sold in quarters, one full sandwich feeds four moderate or two hearty appetites. The American Heritage Dictionary (fullsize 3rd ed. anyway; many of these supplemental notes are gone in the 4th) characterizes the Muffuletta, unlike its local cousin the Po'boy, as "one of the few large American sandwiches not made with a long crusty roll." The Central Grocery is another respected source, credited with the sandwich's invention there in 1910.

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I walked by Central Grocery on my way to Envie (excellent coffee shop-in the old school sense-you can get a very well made cocktail or an interesting beer there, as well-and they have free wireless) last night and there is now a sign on the door claiming that they are "opening soon"

Right now that can mean just about anything, as soon is relative, much in the sense of the Jamaican phrase "soon come", but the place looked as good as ever (relative statement again) and I don't see much holding them up physically.

I'll keep you posted.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I walked by Central Grocery on my way to Envie (excellent coffee shop-in the old school sense-you can get a very well made cocktail or an interesting beer there, as well-and they have free wireless) last night and there is now a sign on the door claiming that they are "opening soon"

Right now that can mean just about anything, as soon is relative, much in the sense of the Jamaican phrase "soon come", but the place looked as good as ever (relative statement again) and I don't see much holding them up physically.

I'll keep you posted.

OOoooooooooo, I'm salivating. I"ll keep calling there once a day to see if I can get someone on the line. Thanks for the update. And, glad you found another decent coffee shop that's open. There's one you might want to look into for great atmosphere -- Fair Grinds Cafe (near the Fairgrounds) just off Esplanade on Ponce deLeon. Great little place and really nice owners. I think they're re-opening soon.

Thanks again for the Central Grocery update!

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Progress Grocery

is now up and running for all of your muffeletta needs. They make a great one. I highly reccomend them.

Nothing says Thanksgiving like a big old New Orleans Muffeletta! ( I just made this up, of course, but it's nonetheless true)

Look, you may not care and it may not be part of your sphere of thinking here, but there are so many places that won't ever be back-ever-that small, family run businesses like this need all of our support if at all possible. Save your money if you are still thinking about making relief donations and just buy something from someone who is truly local. Buy some food, buy some art, whatever. That's what we would all like to see, as the money goes directly to someone who is staying here and trying to be a part of the solution.

Thanks


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Look, you may not care and it may not be part of your sphere of thinking here, but there are so many places that won't ever be back-ever-that small, family run businesses  like this need all of our support if at all possible. Save your money if you are still thinking about making relief donations and just buy something from someone who is truly local. Buy some food, buy some art, whatever. That's what we would all like to see, as the money goes directly to someone who is staying here and trying to be a part of the solution.

Excellent advice. I can't get away to drive over there, but I made a big order to the French Market company that showed up last week. They are still getting back on their feet, but it was good to taste it again. (I like the "City Roast" that I haven't found here in Austin.) http://www.frenchmarketcoffee.com/

Personally, I would rather see the city rebuilt by the locals. I doubt that selfish, short-sighted politicians in Washington, DC (no matter which party affiliation) can direct the rebuilding and have the city maintain its "flavor".

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Progress Grocery

is now up and running for all of your muffeletta needs. They make a great one. I highly reccomend them.

Nothing says Thanksgiving like a big old New Orleans Muffeletta! ( I just made this up, of course, but it's nonetheless true)

Look, you may not care and it may not be part of your sphere of thinking here, but there are so many places that won't ever be back-ever-that small, family run businesses  like this need all of our support if at all possible. Save your money if you are still thinking about making relief donations and just buy something from someone who is truly local. Buy some food, buy some art, whatever. That's what we would all like to see, as the money goes directly to someone who is staying here and trying to be a part of the solution.

Thanks

I hear you man... but 66 bucks for -two- Muffalettas? That shipping is a killer. Are they shipping them in dry ice or something?

I happen to think that 60 bucks for the 40lbs of Satsumas from Simon Citrus Farm is a hue bargain by comparison...


Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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