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Master the Art of Traveling With a Muffuletta

Between packed itineraries and early flights, the iconic sandwich makes for a perfect on-the-go meal on the last day of your trip

The writer holds a muffuletta, packed with deli meats, olives, and more.
A must-have muffuletta from Central Grocery in New Orleans.
Missy Frederick
Missy Frederick is the Cities Director for Eater.

This post originally appeared in the June 10, 2023, edition of Eater Travel, a biweekly dispatch from Eater’s staff about navigating places where food is the main attraction. Subscribe now.

I had an embarrassment of delicious meals on a recent visit to New Orleans. Think crispy salt and pepper shrimp from Tan Dinh, savory curried goat from Compere Lapin, salty yak-a-mein from Ms. Linda’s famous roaming stand, fried pork from Haitian standout Fritai, and a schnitzel-esque rabbit from La Petite Grocery. And that’s not even getting into the perfectly executed cocktails from places like Jewel of the South, Manolito, Bar Brine, and many others.

But the thing about any visit to New Orleans is you always feel like you could have had just one more great lunch or dinner, if you only had more time. So I always make sure that I do — by getting a muffuletta for the plane ride home from Central Grocery.

Beyond being an iconic dish, a muffuletta is one of those sandwiches that actually gets better if it sits for a little while. And given the main components are cured meats and preserved olives, I don’t get too nervous about it being out for a few hours at room temperature in my carry-on luggage. I’ve never had an issue getting it through security, and Central Grocery (the gold standard for the sandwich, in most people’s view) is clearly used to folks taking the sandwiches on the go — the muffuletta comes tightly packed in deli paper, additionally wrapped in plastic, and with reheating instructions if that’s your thing (I prefer mine room temperature, which is how Central serves it).

If I’m not immediately en route to the airport, I always make sure my hotel room has a fridge. If I have an early morning flight the next day, I’ll just grab the sandwich early and stash it there. Either way, I tend to show up at the market in the 9 to 10 a.m. range in the hopes that lines won’t be too long. Now, in a way, it’s even easier. Central Grocery was badly damaged during Hurricane Ida, and for the most part, the deli is closed for repairs. But here’s the thing — you can still get their muffuletta from neighboring Sidney’s Wine Cellar, either a half or a full sandwich (the latter tops out close to $30 but is worth the price, given it can comfortably serve four). Fewer people seem clued into this approach (even though there is ample signage advertising where to go), and I walked right up to the counter with no line during my visit, precious sandwich in hand. It made for a terrific lunch the day of my return — after I crashed for a few hours following the 4:20 a.m. wake-up time for my flight.

When visiting a city of excess, it never hurts to gild the lily just a little more, and the airplane muffuletta does just that.