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New Orleans Eats: Market Cafe

Muffaletta from French Market Cafe. Note the hot sauce peeking out from behind the napkins!

I hate to admit this, but I never did get around to reading the dining section in my New Orleans guide book.  Which is how I ended up rolling out of bed my first morning in New Orleans with absolutely no idea where I wanted to go for breakfast–or lunch.  And so I thought I’d combine the two meals by putting off breakfast until almost 11:00.  Had I known then how precious mealtimes were in a city this filled with amazing food, I would have gotten up even earlier–and skipped my morning run along the river–just to fit in breakfast.

After wandering the tacky stalls of the French Market–and marveling at the fact that they sell alcohol there as well–I decided it was time to find something (anything) to eat.  I was hungry, it was starting to approach the time for my photo tour, and I heard music coming from across the street.  So I asked for a table at the Market Cafe simply because there was a band playing at the time (Those of you who know me are likely puzzled at my laid-back attitude in relation to food.  Don’t worry–I’m surprised too).  I ordered a coke and half of a muffaletta and enjoyed the warm sun and the live music.

I’m so glad that I ordered half of a muffaletta.  Dining alone is often a challenge for me, not because I have any issues with asking for a table for one but because I have issues with finishing my whole meal.  And this half of a sandwich was definitely enough for two whole people.  It was stacked with a variety of meats that I chose not to examine in order to identify but seemed to be primarily ham, all stuck together with melted cheese and covered with olive salad.  Personally, I could have used more olive salad, but then I typically like condiments to be more overpowering than the average diner.  I believe it was fried on a griddle or in some sort of press, because the ham overflowing from the bun was nicely caramelized around the edges, which added an almost sweet flavor to the muffaletta–a nice contrast to the vinegary olive salad.  I think there may have been mustard involved as well, but I’m not absolutely sure.  This was a sandwich built for eating, not for dissecting.

But the best part of my Market Cafe muffaletta was by far the bread.  It was crispy on the outside, soft on the inside, and had definitely been baked in a pan lined with butter, as the edges were slightly greasy (but in a totally good way).  And who doesn’t like buttery bread, right?

This wasn’t my best meal in New Orleans.  In fact, it may have been the least remarkable dining experience of the entire trip.  But it was still better than anything I’ve had from a deli at home, it only cost something like $11 total–including my drink–and I enjoyed it in the warm sun while listening to a jazz band play.  Not a bad morning if I do say so myself.

Oh–and there was hot sauce on the table when I sat down.  That’s two for two, if anyone is counting!

The Market Cafe is located at the strange intersection of St. Philip and Decatur, though it is sort of directly on Decatur, as it juts out into the middle of the street on a triangle-shaped space created by N. Peter’s Street branching off of the main road.  If you are in the French Market area you kind of can’t miss it.  I promise.   

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