Lassalle’s New Orleans Deli: the People, the History, (and hell yes) the Food.

By on September 30, 2014

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The People:

On Monday, August 29th 2005, one of the most deadly and damaging natural disasters in the history of the United States leveled Southern Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina took 1,883 lives, did over $100 billion in property damage and displaced nearly 400,000 people.  The total loss was enormous and terrible, and the effects are still felt to this day.

Nine years later (almost to the day) I sat down with the owners of Lassalle’s New Orleans Deli, Chris and Amanda West, and we talked about the string of events that lead to the opening of Lassalle’s New Orleans Deli in downtown Tulsa just six months ago. Chris told me cringing stories of what it was like to be there 9 years ago.  They are happy to be alive, and they did their best to “stick it out and stay” as long as they could in what had become home to generations of their families. But after 3 weeks of no electricity, no running water, and only MRE’s to eat, they became 2 of the 400,000 who had no choice but to leave.  Chris and Amanda started to make their way north to Tulsa, where Amanda’s mother lives, still in utter shock and wholly unsure of their future.

Chris and Amanda

The History:

“We bleed New Orleans,” Chris said as we started to talk about his history. Owners Chris and Amanda were both born and raised in Metarie, a significant section of the New Orleans Metro area. Amanda grew up in an old country Italian family that owned and operated a bakery called Ancona’s. Chris started as a teenager in the food industry working for a small pizza place and progressively found opportunities to work with local cultural cuisine. Chris looked out the south window at the Tulsa landscape, saying “Amanda and I know that we are supposed to be here in Tulsa, and we love bringing authentic, true New Orleans-inspired food to this community.”

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When I asked Chris to describe some of his favorite things about owning and running Lassalle’s, he said they “love being a part of the growing and thriving downtown scene for sure. But probably my favorite thing is getting to meet so many people from southern Louisiana. I had no idea. There are so many transplants from the oil industry, IBM, and of course Katrina.  I’ve already made lifetime friends.”

Of course, I had to know how they picked the name Lassalle’s. The name, it turns out, is an homage paid to Chris’s French-born grandfather, Marcel Lassalles. The recipes and dishes they serve are a combined heritage passed down from both sides of Chris and Amanda’s respective families, but a fair share are versions of the culinary creations of Marcel that Chris’s mom grew up eating each day in New Orleans.

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“What have you grown to love about Tulsa?” I asked Chris. “What made you stay?”

“Ya know what’s really cool about Tulsa? It’s growing and developing its own funky culture – the food, art and people downtown. I know a lot of people say, “It’s like a young Austin.” What I think they mean (or at least, what I think that means) is not that Tulsa is becoming a replica of Austin, but that it really is becoming its quirky, authentic, cool, unique self. I could talk for a while about this.  But the architecture, the skyline, watching a drillers game, the art, and… yes, the beer.” Chris loves to send Oklahoma local brews back to New Orleans for his friends to enjoy.

I asked Chris how he feels about his success in such a tough industry. “Yeah, I’m blown away. I’m still learning, and I always will be. [Amanda and I are] just grateful so many people like what we are doing here in downtown.”

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The Food:

Our table of three decided to share three dishes – the Shrimp Po Boy, the Roast Beef Po Boy, the Muffuletta, and some Gumbo. Our first round of food arrived, and it had been over a week since I had taken a bite of a Lassalle’s Shrimp Po Boy – so I was compelled to start here.

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This dish remains my personal favorite since Lassalle’s opened, but that may simply be because it’s the very first thing I ever ordered here.  A first love of sorts.  I think most of us have that lunch sandwich, or at least a shortlist of them around town that we could eat everyday and be happy about it. This one is easily on my shortlist of absolute favorites in Tulsa. The shrimp are lightly fried in corneal batter, and are set with fresh lettuce and tomato with Lassalle’s signature creamy and spicy sauce. When I first tried this sandwich six months ago I immediately realized that I hadn’t had bread like the last time I was in New Orleans visiting friends.

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“Yeah, the bread is very important – essential in fact,” Chris said.

“How important?”

“Well, we have it shipped fresh directly from where it’s baked in New Orleans, and it’s just impossible to find anything like it anywhere else. In fact, Amanda and I made up our minds that if we couldn’t find a way to get this bread shipped to us, then we were not going to open up Lassalle’s.”

Although I have personally experienced the difference, I had to ask Chris to describe what it is about the bread that made it so crucial.

“Ya know..I don’t know all the science behind it. People talk about how proximity to the Gulf and elevation play a part.  But, it might as well be voodoo magic to me. What I know is how it needs to be so that it’s real – that outside crisp texture that blends perfectly with the inside airy softness, like a little bread pillow, with every bite. You know it when you eat it – it’s unmistakable if you’ve grown up around it.”

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I asked Chris if the Shrimp Po Boy was his most popular dish and he said that it started out to be, and people really do love it, but lately the Roast Beef Po Boy has been winning most days.

Chris looked back to his see his kitchen plating one up for someone in line and said, “Yup – there’s the last one. We just sold out.”

This was my first time to try the roast beef, and I must say that I can see why this is already becoming such a local favorite. Again, the bread holds up strong under the rich gravy and weight of the slow-cooked, tender, locally sourced Angus beef.

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Make certain that you order a side of gumbo the next time you’re at Lassalle’s.  It’s thick, packed with true Cajun flavors, and a little heat. It’s extremely good and the locals rave about it. This led to asking Chris an off-the-wall question:

“How many gallons of gumbo do you think you’ve you made so far in the last 6 months?”  He went back to the kitchen to ask Amanda, and returned a few moments later with the answer. “Five hundred and eight gallons. So, 8,128 cups of gumbo – and its summertime.”

“Wow – that’s a lot of gumbo.”

“It’s a LOT of Gumbo in the summer, man. Just wait ’til the fall turns here in a few days. It’s going to get crazy.  When it cools down here under – what 70? – 60? I don’t honestly don’t think our kitchen is big enough to be able to keep up with the demand if we already selling that much in the heat.”

I couldn’t stop chowing on it with some Zappos Creole Onion chips.

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The final sandwich that our table shared was the Muffuletta, which did not disappoint in the least.  The bread is different for this sandwich, but has the same contrast in crunchy/softness. Chris and Amanda have this bread shipped daily from a Sicilian bakery in New Orleans called Gambinos. And the olive salad is a made by the Boscoli Family in New Orleans. The Muffaletta is delicious and deserves a place in your rotation, even if you’ve already fallen in love with the Shrimp or Roast Beef Po Poy.

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Lassalle’s has a small kitchen and no walk-in cooler, so everything they prepare needs to sell that day.

We talked about how similar they are in their cult following and in how they do business to some of the regional BBQ joints.  ]“We are much like a BBQ place in this area who strives to smoke and cook everything fresh so they sell out every day.”

Speaking of the how they deal with the limited kitchen space, Chris smiled and said, “we enjoy the challenge, and know that it’s a key part of what makes us who we are.”

Indeed.  I suppose that this challenge is, perhaps, a bit comical to Chris and Amanda in comparison to what they’ve had to overcome since Katrina.

But Chris and Amanda are here, and Tulsa is better for it.  As painful as it is, out of tragedy is born opportunity.  And as for those of us who want authentic New Orleans cuisine in Tulsa? We have it.

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 Lallalle's logo
 
 601, S Boston Ave, Tulsa, OK 74119
(918) 582-6652
 Monday-Friday, 11am-4pm

http://www.lassallesneworleansdeli.com/

 

TulsaFood.com Staff

About TulsaFood.com Staff

TulsaFood’s mission is to inspire it’s readers to visit local restaurants, experiment with new cuisines, and enjoy amazing dining experiences in the Tulsa area. We achieve this through our commitment to publishing consistent, relevant, and excellent writing, photography, and videography that highlights our city’s incredible food culture.

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