While the foundation and the awards that bear his name connote images of food snobbery, James Beard, according to a recent documentary film, savored the simple pleasures of peanut butter and jelly as much as he enjoyed indulging in foie gras and caviar. Still, the question remains: How would “America’s First Foodie” respond when presented with a tostada smeared with French onion dip (which ingredients include onion powder and granulated chicken-flavored soup mix) dusted with pulverized Doritos? Better yet, what would Mr. Beard’s reaction be when he’s informed that the restaurant serving such a concoction was named a semi-finalist for his eponymous foundation’s award for Best New Restaurant?
My prediction: After his first crunch into that freshly made tortilla and the taste of the salty and creamy spread, he would take a sip of his Sunny D margarita, pause for a moment, and then quixotically say: “Where has this been all my life?”
Mason Hereford has no shame in his pervasive use of American cheese, white bread and other processed foods throughout the menu at Turkey and the Wolf, his eccentric sandwich shop that opened last year in the cinderblock shack in the Lower Garden District. After six years on the line at Coquette, Hereford turned his attention to creating food that at first glance is designed to appeal to stoners and 7-year-olds, but practically satisfies deep longings for comfort.
Hereford’s bologna has a first and second name— Leighann Smith, whose artisanal deli meat is pan-fried and dressed with hot English mustard, shrettuce (shredded lettuce), Duke’s mayo and American cheese between two slices of white bread. Delectable shards of lamb slow-cooked in chilies and caraway are wrapped inside freshly fried roti and cooled by lemon yogurt and cucumbers sliced as thin as a deck of cards.
Fans of Turkey and the Wolf will attest that the outlandish cleverness in the food permeates the entire operation, from the social media hashtags (#whenshitgetsweirdturntodrugs and #dukesmayoandfreeyayo) to the cocktail names, such as Ma’am Don’t Be Hysterical, a refreshing combination of gin, Campari, house blackberry syrup, lime and pickled peppers. Luckily, Turkey and the Wolf’s lone dessert is soft-serve ice cream served with a handful of topping combinations, like tahini and date molasses or savory and salty snack foods. Learn to expect (and appreciate) the unexpected.
739 Jackson Avenue; Wed–Mon 11a–9p, Sun 11a–5p, closed Tuesday; (504) 218-7428; turkeyandthewolf.com