Miss Linda Green's pork chop sandwich, a handful of deep-fried heaven. (©Shawn Fink)
For many, Miss Linda Green’s bone-in pork chop sandwich is a Jazzfest food must-have. Served from her booth alongside her immensely popular “ya-ka-mein” (beef broth soup with spaghetti, beef, spices and half of a hard-boiled egg), the simple sandwich is nothing more than a lightly seasoned flour-dunked chop, quickly deep fried and placed between two slices of soft, unassuming, totally delectable white bread swiped lightly with mayonnaise. A perfect snack to fortify dancing/festing feet.
Though it may not sound like much, there is some history to the pork chop sandwich, which is growing in popularity and even featured in up-market renditions.
The pork chop sandwich came to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival via fest food director Michelle Nugent, who first encountered the sandwich at a zydeco festival in southwest Louisiana. She brought the idea for the sandwich to a former vendor, and when they stopped participating in Jazzfest, Nugent suggested Miss Linda add it to her menu. She did, giving it her spin on seasoning and that slick of mayo on the bread. Longtime New Orleans residents claim that thin, quick-fried chops were a common after-school snack because they were inexpensive and filling. Putting a chop on a slice of white bread made it easier to grab and go.
While this simple sandwich is getting some culinary world attention, it is not new, nor is it unique to the Southern food canon. Several cities in the U.S. lay claim to inventing it. In Mount Airy, North Carolina, it’s all about Snappy Lunch; in Chicago, there’s Maxwell Street Depot’s; and in Butte, Montana, Pork Chop John’s version is said to have inspired a sandwich at New York’s late fine-dining restaurant Chanterelle. All these sandwiches differ from New Orleans’ though in one significant way: the bread. Virtually every other pork chop sandwich outside the South puts the chop and fixings on a hamburger bun.
Bone-in or boneless, the pork chop sandwich is a food of convenience for its portability, and some surmise the bread keeps hands virtually grease-free. Miss Linda’s sandwich is bone-in because “the bone has the flavor, baby!” The chops are deep fried, though for the annual Oak Street Po’ Boy Fest, she serves her slim, crisp chop on French bread.
But pork chop sandwiches aren’t just a festival food staple; you’ll spot them on the menu at Creole soul restaurants and corner stores citywide. Not far from the Fair Grounds, Dooky Chase serves its double-cut chop with bread on the side; ditto for Lil Dizzy’s pork chop special with garlic butter. And at Toups South, chef Isaac Toups, pays homage to Miss Linda with his “Fried Bone-In Pork Chop Stack” with pickled summer squash, coffee aioli and ... white bread.