Some friends/coworkers (friendly coworkers? coworking friendlies?) and I went to lunch today in Norfolk. Imagine my surprise when one of the two lunch specials was a "Taylor Pork Roll Sandwich"! I grew up believing pork roll was indigenous to New Jersey and only available in New Jersey. While living in Richmond VA, I always returned from visits to Jersey with some pork roll. So you can imagine my shock when I spotted a box of Taylor pork roll (8 thin-sliced, far preferable to the 4 thick-sliced) in a local grocery store in Norfolk VA about eight years ago! I attributed its availability down here to the large number of New Jerseyans in the Navy stationed in Norfolk. But in my wildest dreams, I never expected to see Taylor Pork Roll on the menu -- let alone a special -- in one of the more popular restaurants in Ghent (a quasi-hip Norfolk neighborhood).
Well, pork roll may have been on the menu, but they completely mangled its essence. Pork roll sandwiches should be served one of three ways:
1) alone, with American cheese, (with or without ketchup) on a hard roll;
2) with a fried egg, American cheese, (with or without ketchup) on a hard roll;
3) with a hamburger or cheeseburger, etc. on a hard roll.
Pepper is allowed, but salt could kill you -- pork roll is already one of the saltiest products on the planet...
To my knowledge, these are the only accepted versions. So what were they serving up in Norfolk earlier today? A "Taylor Pork Roll Sandwich" consisting of: pork roll, provolone cheese, spicey mustard, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, on a kaiser roll.
I was overcome with emotion. First I was thrilled to see pork roll on the menu (spotted first by one of my coworkers from NC, so the good word is being spread) then I was disgusted and confused when I read how it was being served. There was no way I would order it! I looked at the menu over and over again but kept coming back to the pork roll. How could I not order it, even in this bastardized form?
Well, whaddya know? It sucked. How could I have ever doubted the three approved versions of a pork roll sandwich?? I couldn't even TASTE the pork roll because it was so overwhelmed by the other ingredients! They might as well have served cardboard as the primary ingredient! I ate the first half as served and then whittled away the second half so that I was left with the pork roll, provolone, mustard, and kaiser roll. Out of the whole sandwich, there were approximately two bites in which I could detect the delectable pork roll sweetness. It was such a tease!
And now my mouth is watering. I think I have two slices in the fridge... And a roll. And some American cheese... Hmmm. I'll catch you cats later!