A conversation on the radio about small neighborhood superettes sparked a rekindled interest in a neighborhood place called Guillory’s. This little joint tucked away in Metairie on Derbigny has been the subject of food chat on the Food Show for many years. It was the tamales that piqued the interest, but that is only a fraction of what they do. Admittedly, it is a feverish fraction. The subject of tamales continues unabated because we love our tamales in this town. And we love our joints.
My first experience with Guillory’s goes back to the late 1990s, when I tasted a perfect Cajun brown jambalaya at a friend’s party for the Scouts. It was the kind you usually find at fairs at the end of a long wooden paddle, but here it was in a catering pan. The hostess of this event told me about Guillory’s which rang a bell from the Food Show conversations Tom has often shared with me.
This was the good stuff. A brown sludge of animal fat and spices coated all the rice in the most deliciously authentic way. Here was sausage and chicken and pork and ham and who-knows-or-cares-what? It was everything this peasant country dish should be.
Unfortunately, it is not on the regular menu at Guillory’s, unless there is some left over from a catering event. Whenever I am reminded to revisit Guillory’s I ask about this and the answer remains the same.
This little joint also has another local item they do just as well. The muffuletta at Guillory’s is also everything you expect of our star sandwich. It is first, made of the perfect muffuletta bread. It is crusty on the outside, really dense on the inside, and completely covered with sesame seeds.
This is the original poster version of the sandwich’s exterior. The meats are piled high with ham, Provolone, and Salami Cotto, studded with black peppercorns. And mortadella. The olive salad is good, and ample, and this too is everything you would want in a muffuletta.
As are the poor boys, filled with piles of fried seafood and dripping with the requisite roast beef gravy. The menu at Guillory’s is substantial, and with a quick look I settled on a Cubano, which here would most certainly be called a Cuban. Why on earth I would expect something great here with this sandwich nonplusses me, but it seemed for a split second like a good idea. It wasn’t bad at all, but it was unmemorable and really on me for asking them to veer off the traditional New Orleans path.
A trip to a place like Guillory’s requires some advance preparation. Lines are longer than the menu, and you need to be ready. A quick scan of the board ahead will not do. I realized while waiting for my order that there is a club sandwich here, which I imagined would be 1970s traditional. I had to go back for that.
On this visit I got some tamales because it is Guillory’s and Manuel’s is no more. A half dozen of these reminded me of two things: these are pretty darn good, and there will never be a Manuel’s substitute. Yes, they had the greasy sauce/drippings, and yes the cornmeal and filling blended like the legend, but it is still not the legend. We all need to just get over it, though I don’t seem to be able to. That takes nothing away from the goodness of these, and their popularity attests to it.
I was surprised by the club sandwich at Guillory’s, which is not a double decker, and the bread treatment is untraditional. The bread is thicker, like Texas toast, and griddled with butter rather than toasted separately. It is still a massively high sandwich, but is assembled on a griddle, with warm meats. As a club sandwich purist, I object to this treatment. Also, there is a choice of meats for the sandwich, including roast beef. Very untraditional.
Guillory’s is also an outpost for Krispy Krunchy chicken, which I have always wanted to try. They were one of the first in town to serve it, dating all the way back to 2002. It was right in my face while I waited for my order, so I got some. A few weeks ago the question was posed, ‘How is Krispy Krunchy Chicken?” I now have an answer for that.. Krispy Krunchy Chicken is, exactly as promised, crispy crunchy chicken. Greaseless and light. These pieces are not bloated enough to be too big. It is a normal-sized piece of chicken done very well. At first it doesn't seem all that well-seasoned, but there is a hint of cayenne that lasts after you eat it, and it is very pleasing in an unobtrusive way. I will have more of this. It is purchased by the piece, and a single breast was $2. There are no sides here, but the chicken comes with a roll. Other locations have more sides.
This place is completely unexpected in the middle of a block in Metairie. Here is the Nawlins Dawlin’ vibe, charmingly raffish, tiny and dark, a buzz of activity coming from behind the counter as the staff literally trips over each other in a tiny space, working feverishly to get you your order. Tables are filled and a line ends at the door. Drinks are in the cooler along with prepared items like muffalettas, other cold sandwiches and New Orleans specialties. The owner sits in the back taking phone orders still wearing his apron. Where else but here could there be such a scene?