Of all the lunch meats in the refrigerator aisle, bologna is among the least appreciated. Sure, those wiggly pink Oscar Meyer circles weren't exactly the height of sophistication. But bologna derives from mortadella, a porky Italian cold cut as delicious as anything else you can put on a sandwich; and recently, we've seen chefs getting excited about good ol' bologna—though what they're using is a big step up from anything Mom packed in your lunchbox.
After all, bologna is just a big, soft sausage. And that gives us clues to how it's best eaten: either crisped up on a griddle, or even better, fried. You'd never get a sausage sandwich where the starring meat was cold and rubbery; why suffer the same with bologna?
Where to get it:
The Root Restaurant & Bar, Detroit: Chef James Rigato got his inspiration from, believe it or not, a full-blown bologna festival: “Before we opened The Root, I went to the Yale, Michigan, bologna festival. I ate a bologna sandwich there and it was so good that I decided if I ever opened a restaurant, I would offer a bologna sandwich." Rigato fries up the bologna and serves it on a Kaiser roll with house-made green chile mustard, topped with a fried egg, lettuce and tomato.
Wilma Jean, Brooklyn: Arkansas native Rob Newton made a name for himself and his Southern-inspired cuisine at his first New York venture, Seersucker. Though that restaurant closed, Newton brings its spirit (and some of its best-loved dishes) to Wilma Jean, with killer fried chicken and, you guessed it, a fried bologna sandwich, served on a soft potato bun.
Au Cheval, Chicago: This bar and diner turns out excellent versions of throwback classics, like an English breakfast, matzoh ball soup, and the humble bologna sandwich—except Au Cheval actually makes its bologna in-house. It's then sliced thin and piled high on a soft roll with melty American cheese.