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The Most Unorthodox Gumbo in New Orleans

The dish at Turkey and the Wolf is culinary heresy, and it’s delightful

turkey and the wolf spread
Gumbo in the top left

This story first appeared in Bill Addison’s brand-new newsletter “Notes From a Roving Critic.” Subscribe now to keep up with Eater’s roving critic on the road.

On Friday, Eater published my review of Turkey and the Wolf, a New Orleans sandwich shop that’s become a local sensation and will soon, I predict, be something of a national one, as well. Mason Hereford brings a dreamer’s imagination and a craftsman’s chops to building his creations. I’m obsessed with his chicken-fried steak sandwich, though he’s threatening to replace it with a meatloaf monstrosity dressed with (among other things) pepper jelly, dill pickles, and mayo made from emulsified pan drippings.

But there’s one thing that I neglected to mention in the review: Pay close attention to specials scrawled on pieces of paper affixed somewhere to the ordering counter. (You can also check the restaurant’s cheeky Instagram account for updates.) The specials may be dishes the kitchen is tinkering with to include on the regular menu, or they might be here-and-gone whimsies like a pasta salad — tossed with basil, mint, dill, feta, fried garlic, and sunflower seeds — that was everything I wanted beside one of those gargantuan sandwiches.

But the thing you’ll most hope to see among specials is the gumbo Hereford occasionally offers. I can see why he wouldn’t want to commit to his version daily. It’s a project. Hereford starts with an inky roux that he cooks just a shade shy of bitter and scorched. He stirs in the Cajun holy trinity (minced onion, celery, and bell pepper), smoked ham, ham stock, and mustard greens. He adds green onions and leeks to a separate hot pan and blackens them before braising them in Worcestershire sauce and tamarind paste; these, as well as the inclusion of pickled cherry peppers, blow out the acidity in the completed dish. He finishes each serving with a garnish of whole potato chips, which forms the nest for a rosette of piped-on deviled egg filling, a nod to Louisianans who like boiled eggs with their gumbo.

The result is nothing like gumbo, and yet it’s undoubtedly gumbo — here, like most aspects of Turkey and the Wolf, Hereford’s approach is flagrantly, thrillingly unorthodox. In its wild, bright richness, the gumbo is stop-dead delicious, and if the sandwiches didn’t require two hands, I’d swipe a corner of one through the murky stew for nibbling. Hereford’s culinary heresy is his own way of showing devotion to New Orleans, a city that esteems irreverence as much as it does tradition. The intersection of the two is where creativity blooms, and where essential new destinations for casual, uplifting dining are born.

Fried bologna sandwich with homemade potato chips
turkey and the wolf exterior
Turkey and the Wolf

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Turkey and the Wolf: 739 Jackson Avenue, New Orleans, (504) 218-7428,

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