OK, if we had to name a cold cut ourselves, we could probably do better than pork roll. But questionable name aside, this humble, oh-so-tasty meat product is a staple in parts of New Jersey and the Philly area. Soft like bologna, generally served as a breakfast meat, it’s best heated a bit on the griddle before it’s paired with eggs, laid atop a burger or served on a roll all by its lonesome.
We do have to stop and note the discrepancy in terminology. Folks in North Jersey will call the meatstuff Taylor ham—asking for a Taylor ham, egg and cheese on a roll, say. Taylor is actually one of the two major producers of pork roll, but up north it’s used as the term for any brand. Down south, it’s generally called by the more generic pork roll. (As with any fiercely beloved regional food, some folks can get very worked up about the matter.)
The bread. Pork roll is best served as a sandwich, often on a squishy white bun or a bagel, as befits its breakfast character.
The filling. Egg-and-cheese sandwiches do mighty well with a warm slice of pork roll. But some diners appreciate the meat on its own merits, perhaps dressed up with a little lettuce and tomato, or ketchup and mustard, burger-style.
Where to get it:
Olde Towne Deli; Boonton, NJ. No less than the largest newspaper in New Jersey, the Star-Ledger, named Olde Towne Deli’s pork roll sandwich one of the best in the state—and we’re not arguing with the local experts. “Olde Towne Deli doesn’t look like much inside or out,” writes Peter Genovese. “But they made a darned good pork roll sandwich,” with “tasty pork roll grilled just right” and a “crusty soft roll with no seeds.”
White Rose Diner; Linden, NJ. New Jersey has a proud slider tradition—there’s almost nowhere in the country better for these tiny burgers perfectly layered with onions and melty cheese. But while White Rose Diner is among the very best slider destinations, their same griddle skills translate to a killer pork roll sandwich, yielding a nice crisp on the meat, melting the cheese through, getting the eggs just right.
Court Street Grocers; Brooklyn. The Americana-loving folks at this Brooklyn sandwich shop have a soft spot for classic regional foods, making the pork roll a perfect fit—particularly with scrambled eggs and American cheese on a Martin’s Potato Roll, an ideal squishy-sweet vehicle for the hearty breakfast sandwich.