City Paper is not for tourists
The Sandwich: Fried Bologna “Muffaletta”
Where: The Tavern at RARE, 1595 I St. NW
Stuffings: Fried bologna, olive veggie mix, melted cheese curds
Bread: Rosemary focaccia
Thickness: 2 inches
Pros: Every bite of any sandwich that calls itself a muffaletta (even in quotes) must be salty and tangy. This new downtown steakhouse, imported from Wisconsin, delivers on that promise. You’d think using fried bologna in place of the traditional mortadella would make this sandwich too artificial tasting, but this isn’t Oscar Mayer—the bologna has a more intense flavor and crisps nicely around the edges. The olive and vegetable salad has a pleasant funk, the melted cheese curds add another level of flavor, and the soft focaccia gives every bite an additional dose of herbs.
Cons: $16 is pretty pricey for a sandwich, even one this big. The salt quotient is also quite high, so have a lot of water on hand to wash it down.
Sloppiness level (1 to 5): 2.5. While the pillowy bread keeps the sandwich fillings contained, liquid from the bologna and the olive salad drips out of the sandwich and on to your hands and plate. Keep plenty of napkins nearby.
Overall score (1 to 5): 4. On paper, this sandwich seems all wrong. A bologna sandwich imitating one of New Orleans’ finest exports served at a downtown steakhouse? Please. But this loving interpretation of a muffuletta succeeds by putting flavorful ingredients on great bread and acknowledging up front that the sandwich isn’t meant to be an exact replica. It might seem more at home at a five-star sandwich shop, but it still tastes pretty good regardless of the surroundings.