The LSU Tiger that is.
We were in the Central Business District of New Orleans for a holiday parade and wanted a quick lunch beforehand. We didn’t want fast food, although the parade route on Canal Street did offer the choice of McDonald’s or Popeye’s. So we took a walk on St. Charles and stumbled upon Serio’s Po-Boys & Deli.
“Serio's specializes in poor boys.... There's the most comprehensive list of potential fillings you're likely to find... and all of them are of good quality. The bread and the dressings are fresh and crisp.... Serio's opened a few feet from where it is now in the 1950s, when the downtown area was bustling and multiple lines formed in the dining room every day at lunchtime.
“The place is a total shrine to LSU sports. There are icons of that mania everywhere you look. The food comes from what looks like a cafeteria line in the rear. You place your order, pay for it, then wait to pick it up. You find a worn-out table in the worn-out room, unroll the paper wrapper from the sandwich, then go to town" (nomenu.com).
Brett Anderson writing for The Times-Picayune about seven New Orleans restaurants to try before or after a Saints game said: “Owner Mike Serio is not a casual sports fan. The football centric décor of his downtown po-boy joint is certainly the envy of more than a few sports bar proprietors.”
The wall behind the large tiger statue holds multiple front pages from The Times-Picayune rejoicing in one or another LSU sports championships. For awhile they were a NCAA baseball dynasty.
Football helmets line the walls.
And there is a George Rodrigue Blue Dog proudly wearing a LSU baseball hat.
“Several years ago, even before Hurricane Katrina put the fear in all New Orleanians that one day every aspect of this city’s culture could become just a page in the history books, I attended a small gathering of poor boy preservationists after-hours at Mike Serio’s Po-Boys & Deli. The meeting, one of several organized by Sandy and Katherine Whann of Leidenheimer* Baking Company, was the beginning of a small movement to find ways to promote the poor boy and protect it against an influx of non-local competitors--submarine sandwich franchises” (Sara Roahen in New Orleans Magazine). One result of these meetings is the New Orleans Po-Boy Preservation Festival--now in its fifth year.
We were set to order poor boys when Chuck noticed a sign stating that Serio’s had won a muffuletta “throwdown” on the Food Network program of the same name starring Bobby Flay. Well, if they can beat a celebrity chef, we will have to give it a try. So we decided to split a half muffuletta.
Kelly H on yelp.com writes about Serio’s muffuletta: “It's about balance. That is, the perfect balance of meat, cheese, olive salad, and Italian bread.... (W)hen it is done well, my friend, it's a thing of beauty.... It seems that Serio beat Bobby Flay in a muffuletta throw down--and I can see why! Serio's has got this one right--they understand the art of balance. I can honestly say that I would not change a thing about this muffuletta--one of the best that I have eaten.”
I’m not prepared to go as far as Kelly H. I think there is a better muffuletta in New Orleans and we’ll be visiting that place during our New Orleans visit. I was not overly fond of Serio’s bread and found it too soft and fluffy. But I give them credit for an exceptional olive salad which I think is better than that served at Central Grocery which is the most famous muffuletta shop in New Orleans. For me, the olive salad makes or breaks this sandwich and at Serio’s the salad contained green and black olives, carrots, celery, capers, and chopped pepperoncini and the tasty oil from the salad soaked into and flavored the bread.
I probably wouldn’t make a special trip back to Serio’s, but it is good to know that they are there for the next time we are in the Central Business District and need a quick bite. We will award shrine-to-all-things-LSU 3.0 Addies.
*Leidenheimer's Bread is used by many of the New Orleans poor boy shops and has a nice crackling crust with a soft but still firm center.