As fun-loving and carefree as New Orleans can be, when it comes to sandwiches, we tend to get serious. Muffulettas are nothing to laugh at. We argue for hours about who makes the best roast beef po-boy. And anyone who has ever visited the counter at Stein's Market & Deli knows the Rachel is no joking matter.
Enter Turkey and the Wolf, a sandwich and cocktail hub from chef Mason Hereford and Lauren Holton, where the lunchtime staple is ushered in with a wink, a poke and a side of humor. There is a refreshing break from tradition here — and a loosening of the tie that's mirrored in the kitschy dinette decor and mismatched dinnerware.
Hereford has impressive fine dining credentials — he was the chef de cuisine at Coquette for years — but this casual spot is a far cry from that style of dining, and his unorthodox sandwiches meet their match in Holton's creative, tongue-in-cheek cocktails.
Your inner child will be wooed by the towering fried bologna medley, in which crunchy, greasy potato chips are folded into a sandwich with thick, warm strips of fried bologna (made by local butcher Leighann Smith). Slices of white bread barely hold together its oozing American cheese and shredded lettuce, and hot English mustard imbues the slightest burn and sweetness. One cannot eat this sandwich without grinning like a silly teenager. Most sandwiches are executed with an unapologetic lack of restraint, and it's an accomplishment to tackle one without making a mess.
There's a kind of mad genius to the side dishes (labeled "not sandwiches"), which range from eclectic stoner food to off-the-wall creations that combine house-made and locally sourced ingredients with all-American grocery store staples. Tacos "inauthenticos" are piled high with rich and porky hogshead cheese, jalapenos, sour cream and American cheese. The soft and heavy house-made corn tortillas are about the only thing tying the dish to its traditional Latin namesake. In the blood sausage "lunchables" combo, club crackers spill out like dominos from their plastic packaging and an Andes mint is thrown in for good measure. And although the concept is kid-friendly, the burgundy blood sausage terrine is a grown-up affair, full of warm spice that pairs well with the caramelized applesauce and sweet mustard on the plate.
Playfulness aside, Hereford's culinary chops are evident, and the kitchen uses unexpected texture and flavor combinations that play together in surprising and delightful ways. Deviled eggs topped with crispy fried chicken skins and drizzled with hot sauce put other versions to shame. A towering salad of chopped cabbage is interspersed with bright sprigs of mint and cilantro, sunflower seeds, fried garlic chips and greasy, crunchy pig ear cracklings and dressed in fiery chili vinaigrette. It's a decadent and hearty salad full of sass and crunch — punctuated by bursts of lime so the lingering effect is one of refreshing layers, rather than heft.
Keeping with the lighthearted, and at times nostalgic, theme, the lone dessert option here is creamy soft-serve ice cream. The choose-your-own-topping selection includes everything from graham crackers and sprinkles to tahini and date molasses. It's a good example of what to expect from this fun, lighthearted restaurant.