Gnawlins: the pork belly sandwich at Cochon Butcher

Matt Ufford

Intrepid New Orleans food diarist Matt Ufford ate a delicious sandwich that he'd like to tell you about.

Late Monday afternoon. The sun was sinking over Tchoupitoulas Street, and it had been a long time since I'd eaten.

Sometime around 9:00 a.m., maybe 9:15 Eastern, I broke up three cups of coffee with a turkey sandwich at LaGuardia that was boosted with avocado and some bastardized pepper in either the turkey or the cheese. It was less a meal than a prevention of hunger in D.C., where my layover was too brief to get food.

And so I landed hungry in New Orleans at 3:15 Eastern, 2:15 local. My co-workers picked me up hungry, I picked up my media credentials hungry, and I ducked into the convention center hosting radio row to do some work, still hungry. But I was patient: I knew Cochon Butcher was just a seven-minute walk away.

I chose the the pork belly sandwich, and the girl at the counter gave me an approving smile. "Do you want any sides?" she asked.

"Yes, I'm going to eat outside," I said, a veteran with moderate hearing loss. She looked at me quizzically, I apologized, and she clarified and restated the question. I ordered the tomato and cucumber salad. I'd read somewhere that salad makes things healthy.

But the sandwich. Holy shit, the sandwich.

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The pork belly was thick-cut but not too much so, tender throughout but crispy with spices around the edge. It was succulent, but the standout flavor came from the gently spicy chile-lime aioli, balanced nicely with the lightly pickled cucumbers and mint on the sandwich. If the heat persisted beyond a couple bites, I could negate it with the acidity of the cucumber salad, a swig of Abita Amber, or the bread-and-butter-sweetness of one of the pickle slices. For ten bucks, it's the kind of sandwich I'd eat every week and never think twice about doing so.

If there's a complaint to be had, I'd assume it would be that it's served on white toast. But I can't issue that quibble as my own; it's like complaining about Jennifer Lawrence showing up to your house in a Toyota Tercel. For God's sake, it's Jennifer Lawrence, dummy! Just enjoy it. In time, you might even grow to appreciate the fact that she didn't need to arrive in some overstated focaccia-mobile.

(Note: if you can't make it to NOLA for this sandwich, the folks at Gilt Taste have reverse-engineered what seems to be a reasonable facsimile of the recipe.)

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