This may come as a shock to my more sophisticated friends in Seattle and Brooklyn, but I love fried bologna sandwiches! Or to be more precise, I love one fried bologna sandwich… and that’s the fried bologna at Chattanooga’s Main Street Meats! This is a sandwich so deceptively complex — so playfully subversive — that it immediately revolutionized my understanding of what a fried bologna sandwich could be.
Once exclusively a staple of the EBT class, fried bologna sandwiches have been undergoing a cultural renaissance of late. Fanatical foodies and elegant epicureans alike have recently discovered this diamond in the rough. For example, Chef de cuisine David Fisher of NYC’s once thriving (but now closed) Kat & Theo made waves with his “Panisse & Fried Mortadella.” That sandwich was a divine inspiration in its day, but is a dying winter’s eve compared to the fried bologna sandwich composed by Main Street Meats.
Deconstructed and recontextualized by executive Chef Eric Niel, this seductive sandwich features two slices of multi-grain bread, mayonnaise, mustard and a regional sandwich topping known as chow-chow. But the real star attraction of this sandwich is the bologna. “We make a lovely Mortadella at Main Street Meats with lots of peanuts, black peppercorn and chunks of pork fatback,” Chef Niel explained in a recent interview with Food & Wine, “and then stuff it in beef bungs to poach it sous vide.”
The fried bologna sandwich pairs exquisitely with another delectably ironic blue collar staple, the pork rind. I had never eaten a pork rind before, nor had I any particular desire to ever eat one. But when I noticed the menu’s asking price of five dollars per rind, I couldn’t resist. With a drink, tax and tip, the total bill was around $25, which would have been enough to feed a hungry family bologna sandwiches for a month.
The fried bologna sandwich and house pork rind make frequent appearances on Main Street Meat’s mercurial menu. Call ahead to make sure it’s being offered. Or roll the dice on any of their other gourmet reboots of plebeian favorites like the chicken sandwich, the turkey sandwich, or the cheeseburger.