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Review: Wayfare

Ian McNulty finds a distinctive deli on the Freret Street restaurant row

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Chef Kevin White prepares an artful knuckle sandwich and an uncommon torta gazpacho. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber
  • Chef Kevin White prepares an artful knuckle sandwich and an uncommon torta gazpacho.

I'd come to rely on the unexpected at Wayfare, where during a string of visits I'd found ratatouille reworked as a sandwich and meat pies stuffed with corned beef one day and moo shu pork another. But I was still surprised by the torta gazpacho, a soup/sandwich combo we might have seen long ago if Salvador Dali had pursued cuisine instead of abstract art.

  The torta is a pressed, Mexican-style bolillo loaf with red peppers, cucumber and manchego. It's sliced and both pieces are stuck upright like stubby towers in a shallow moat of white gazpacho, a velvety pottage with flavors of almonds and green grapes that worked like a chilled dip for the crusty, plump sandwich. I did not imagine a lunch like this when I walked in that afternoon, but I've been talking about it ever since.

  It was on a frequently changing list of specials that accounts for about a third of the offerings here, so there's no telling when we'll see it again. But it was still representative of Wayfare, a place that functions as a counter-service deli, folds in modern mandates for cocktail and charcuterie programs and has a seasoned chef deployed at the sandwich board. That chef, Kevin White, worked with culinary heavyweights in New York, Seattle and New Orleans before signing on with Ray and Vincent Arnona, who opened Wayfare in January.

  Some of White's standard menu is straightforward — sausage and egg on ciabatta, a BLT with fried green tomatoes, a Reuben that was crisp and appropriately sour but trimmer than I like for the deli classic. The porchetta sandwich is more distinctive, delivering a sticky/chewy savor that's cut by salsa verde. And then there's The Knuckle, made with shaved roast beef strung with horseradish aioli on a pretzel bun. We're in thrall to hot roast beef in New Orleans, but here's a cool version that stands out.

  Sides blend modern and homey, like the bowl of farro, quinoa and greens or "oysters Wayfare," a bready stuffing that tastes of oysters even though you can't necessarily spot them.

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