Once again Time Out New York released their Top 100 Dishes of the year and once again, I’m going to eat my way through every one. And no price point or subway delay will stop me. In no particular order, here’s my take on their Top 100.
When I was a kid living in Florida, I would come home from school still hungry from my brown bag lunches, take some bologna, set it on a plate, and nuke it in the microwave until it got crispy and aromatic. I honestly thought I was the only one who did that.
Well, I guess not, because one of the list items is a Fried Bologna Sandwich at Seersucker, which specializes in modern takes on Southern classics – just like every single new restaurant in Brooklyn. And while Florida is technically in the south, believe me when I tell you the state has nothing to do with Southern food. I must have just been channeling culinary ideas from neighboring states.
Although its named after a city in Italy, bologna is an American sausage through and through. It’s usually made from a combination of cured beef and pork and is as processed as it gets. It was a staple in my family’s refrigerator and I distinctly remember the salty, buttery flavor and the soft fatty texture. It sort of makes my skin crawl in retrospect, but I sure ate it up back then. And while I probably have not had a bologna sandwich in well over a decade, I was excited to try a gourmet version of my childhood guilty pleasure.
The fried bologna sandwich was one of four dishes we tasted at Seersucker. I mistakenly chose the spiced potato chips with pimento cheese which was rather lackluster and predictable and way overpriced at $6 for a handful of chips. We also sampled the fried poached egg which sat on a tasty grit cake, an underseasoned side of collard greens, and a strange rabbit stew which could have used more of the potato dumplings to soak up the heavy liquid. It was not advertised as a stew and if I had known that it was, I probably wouldn’t have ordered it. But that being said, it was rather tasty.
Getting back to the nostalgia possibilities of the meal, the bologna sandwich was far different from what I used to create in my microwave all those years ago. This bologna had been pan-fried until it was practically burned and crispy. It was wedged between two soft, buttery english muffins that had been smeared with a hint of spicy mustard. The flavor brought up another childhood food memory: well-done, grilled hot dogs. The mustard was a nice, smart addition but I could have used a bit more because I found the sandwich a little dry. All the moisture had been cooked out of the processed meat and so it was all crunchy texture, salty processed flavors, and no moist, tenderness. Maybe that’s a good thing as bologna tends to have that soft, strange mouthfeel when not killed in a pan.
It definitely brought me back and was an improvement on the slabs of cooked bologna I used to eat as a youth, but it wasn’t much more than that. I imagine the ingredients came from the local meat market and were not homemade as some of the other Brooklyn restaurants would boast (Mile End makes their salami in house). So given the right tools, I bet I could even do it at home. I’ve come a long way from the microwave.
Would Seersucker’s Fried Bologna Sandwich make my Top 100 of the year? I give it a 7 out of 10 because it tasted like those burned hot dogs I loved so much as a kid, but my tastes have matured a bit and I would like something a little more inspired nowadays.
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