(This article first appeared in the September issue of NACS Magazine.)
If you’re roadtripping through America you’ll find that some of the most interesting convenience stores are in the smallest of towns. Hebert’s Mini Mart is tucked away in Lydia, Louisiana, a town of around 1,000 residents.
Owner L’ree Gates Hebert explained that despite the small size of Lydia, there is a lot happening in the area. She listed the names of many nearby cane farms, salt mines, machine shops and ports.
All those workers need a place to eat. “We do biscuits. We stuff them with sausage, bacon, ham and eggs. I crack over 100 eggs every morning. We do 120 biscuits each morning,” she said.
The community support is evidenced by the never-ending line later in the day. An hour after what might be considered the lunch rush, there are people waiting for fried chicken, pork chops and Cajun fare, including jambalaya.
L’ree’s husband, Jonathan, was raised in the c-store business. The couple took over the family store in 2001. Hebert’s Mini Mart keeps things simple, and customers love it.
Consistent Chicken Salad
Customers consider Hebert’s Mini Mart a chicken salad destination.
Hebert knows what makes her chicken salad special. “I really think it’s the chicken we use. We’re a Krispy Krunchy store. We’ve been Krispy Krunchy almost since the beginning. The tenders are marinated with their seasoning. It’s what makes the chicken tenders so good. Because they’re marinated, that flavor profile shows up in our chicken salad.”
“The chicken salad is sold by the pound or you can get a premade sandwich. We just had a group of people going to the beach stop in and buy it so they can make sandwiches. Every time we’re invited to a party, we’re asked if we’re bringing chicken salad,” she said, adding, “consistency and simplicity make our food what it is. We don’t try to overdo things. If you eat chicken salad from us today and you eat it a year from now, it’s going to be the same.”
A new item on the menu is the muffaletta, a sandwich that is both all Italian and all New Orleans. The famous sandwich originated in 1906 at the Central Grocery in the French Market. There are a lot of different spins on it, but one thing is always the same, the bread. It’s a large, round spongy loaf that measures about ten inches across.
Hebert has a passion for the sandwich. After discussing it for a few years, the couple decided to add it to the menu and see if customers would like it. “We found a really good bread. Once you find a good bread, that is the start.”
“I’m a muffaletta fan. I prefer mine cold, but I wanted to be able to serve it every way. We already had ham for sandwiches, wraps and salads. We slice everything ourselves. We needed to bring in salami, we already had the cheeses. We tasted an olive spread and found one we liked. The kicker on ours is that we put a little bit of spicy mustard on it. This keeps it moist. It makes it not quite as dry as some others,” she explained.
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