New Orleans’ Best New Restaurants 2013
The Knuckle Sandwich, Wayfare
Are you tired of reading about restaurants opening on Freret Street? I hope not, because I’m not tired of writing about them, at least not as long as they’re as good as Wayfare. When it opened, Wayfare was often described as a deli, and there are definitely elements of that, including one of the best Reuben sandwiches in town, but there’s a lot more going on.
Wayfare is a part of the often cited “restaurant row” on Freret Street, and a part of the revival of the stretch of that street between Napoleon and Nashville avenues. It is housed in a building that was previously a boxing gym, but there’s no evidence of its former life apart from one of the specialty sandwiches (The Knuckle Sandwich: cold roast beef with shoestring potatoes, arugula and horseradish sauce on a pretzel-dough bun) on the big board that lists Wayfare’s offerings. The dining room occupies roughly one half of the restaurant’s space, the other half being taken up by the long bar at which customers place orders or sit for a cocktail or a draft beer.
Wayfare is definitely a sandwich-centric place. In addition to choices such as roast turkey served with a salsa verde aioli, white cheddar and heirloom tomatoes on caraway bread and toasted fennel sausage with peperonata, sharp provolone cheese and a fried egg on a ciabatta bun, the restaurant offers constantly changing specials such as grilled white patty squash with roasted peppers, cremini mushrooms, charred onions, pepper jack cheese, tomato, slaw and chipotle mustard and pear butter on ciabatta.
The house salad consists of mozzarella made in-house, tomato, kalamata olives, greens and blood orange. Roasted beets come with Maytag blue cheese, spiced pecans and dill. There is a daily soup special; you might find butter beans and greens with ham hock one day, and ginger-carrot-fennel the next. Tomato basil is the only standard. The variability applies to starters and small plates as well; bruschetta change frequently, as do the fried rice balls known as arancini.
These are people who care about good food, and that’s evident from the moment you walk into the place and get to experience the friendly, if casual, service.
We don’t know how much longer Freret Street can sustain restaurant openings, but if they’re all like Wayfare, we hope the trend never ends.