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The best New Orleans-style sandwich you’ve never tried is coming to town

Sandy's menu centers around the muffuletta sandwich, but the shop will also serve sides and treats like Zapp's chips and salted chocolate chip cookies. | Courtesy Peterson Harter/Sandy's | Source: Courtesy Peterson Harter/Sandy's

Gumbo, po'boys and beignets are some of the best-known New Orleans culinary exports. The muffuletta—a delectable tower of salami, mortadella, ham, provolone, mozzarella and olive salad between two slices of a seeded loaf—is more of a sleeper hit. That may not be the case in San Francisco for much longer. This March, Peterson Harter and Moni Frailing plan to give their cult-favorite pop-up, Sandy’s, a brick-and-mortar home on Haight Street. 

As Eater first reported, the sandwich shop will be located steps away from Harter and Frailing’s Haight-Ashbury apartment, next to longtime hangout Pork Store Cafe, in the same storefront where they first launched their last pop-up, Bread Spread Pickle. 

Harter told The Standard he’s excited to spread the gospel of muffuletta, a staple food of the Sicilian community in New Orleans. At the turn of the century, millions of Italian immigrants arrived in the U.S. through the Port of New Orleans, bringing with them a culinary influence that continues to influence the foodie city to this day. Sicilian immigrants created the muffuletta as an economic and filling way to feed farmers at the French Market. 

The presence of New Orleans cuisine in San Francisco might seem like a transplant thing, but the Southern foodways have a much longer history in the Bay Area. New Orleans cooking first rolled into town during the Great Migration in the late 1800s. The Transcontinental Railroad forged a direct link between NOLA and Oakland. There are several gumbo shops scattered around the Bay, and a few places to find po’boys, but the muffuletta remains underrepresented. Harter and Frailing are here to change that.

Still, gathering up the cash to open a restaurant in San Francisco is a tall order. Like many other independent restaurateurs, Harter and Frailing found it helpful to use their pop-up to gauge interest and sustainability. Harter said he now feels confident in Sandy’s success as a brick-and-mortar. 

“We already tested the waters,” he said. “The Haight has a lot of potential, and I could see it really taking off here.”

Along with making muffulettas, Peterson Harter and Mini Frailing also boil crawfish. | Courtesy Peterson Harter/Sandy's

Part of that success hinges around Sandy’s namesake sandwiches, with which Harter said many Bay Area residents are still unfamiliar. “I like to say the muffuletta is the bastard cousin to the po’boy,” he said. “A lot of people here take their first bite and are like, ‘Oh, shit’—like, they have this epiphany moment.” 

Harter and Frailing worked with Firebrand Artisan Breads in Oakland to develop their own muffuletta bread. Unlike many other muffuletta shops, they press their sandwiches into a panino. That point of departure took some convincing for Harter. “When we first started, I was hesitant to put it in a press,” he explained. “But it’s a large sandwich, and it’s hard to eat without pressing. The panini makes the olive salad more expressive. It’s better the next day because the bread really absorbs the olives.” 

He said he’s excited to debut Sandy’s in the Haight because he believes the historic countercultural neighborhood is San Francisco’s closest analog to the weird and wonderful energy of New Orleans.

Sandy’s likely won’t open by Feb. 21, Mardi Gras Day, but Harter said he hopes to bring a little more of his hometown to San Francisco by eventually partnering with the Haight Ashbury Street Fair to do what the Crescent City does best—host a jubilant party in the streets. 

“That’ll come with time,” Harter said.