So what do I think about when I think about New Orleans? My recent 5-day trip to this non-stop party of a city left me thinking just that and I honestly don’t even know where to begin. The answer I’ve been giving when asked about my vacation is that it’s unlike anything I’ve seen before. That it feels vaguely as though I’ve walked onto a trippy carnival-esque movie set of a place full of gluttony, debauchery, and excessive libations.
It’s a place where you can get a double vodka soda for a mere three bucks… if you know where to go. A place where the daytime has you eating beignets by a water fountain but a few blocks away in the evening you find yourself passing a voodoo shop as a sleazy man outside of Lipstixx Gentleman’s Club announces that “It’s titty time!” A place where groups of twenty somethings gather in the street and play some fantastic bayou tunes on everything from a banjo to a washboard yet at night, nothing gets a group of tipsy fifty somethings more excited than a cover of Jon Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer. But most importantly, it’s a place with a passion for its food and drink culture and the people there will do all they can to hook you up with finest, greasiest, richest, and most decadent dishes that New Orleans has to offer.
Going there with the number one priority of running the Jazz Half Marathon, trying as many iconic Nola food items as possible was a very close second. My friends and I stayed a good ways away from the French Quarter in Uptown, so we tended to stick to nearby Freret Street for a good number of our meals and were very pleased with what came of it. And we certainly found that when it came to eating and drinking, we also had to treat it like a marathon. From frozen Irish coffees to étouffée fries to countless beignets, it started to feel like making room in our stomachs what a more difficult task than running the 13 miles. In the end, feeling like I need to go though some serious detox therapy, I can certainly say that it was completely worth every bite.
Here's a look at our 5-day Nola food marathon:
Wayfare – A trendy bar and sandwich shop with quite possibly the best sandwich I’ve ever had, the Knuckle Sandwich, pictured. It’s roast beef and horseradish salad topped with pickled red onions, crispy onions strings, and arugula on a pretzel bun with housemade chips. The friend green tomato BLT and Cuban got rave reviews as well.
Café du Monde – The obvious option for beignets and café au lait. It’ll be crowded at all times so get your loot to go (with A LOT of napkins) and find a bench somewhere secluded where you don’t have to feel ashamed about covering your body entirely with powdered sugar.
Erin Rose - A cool, divey bar with cheap brunchtime drinks including their Irish coffee slushies. Really it's more like a milkshake but that just makes it all the better. If you walk all the way to the back of the bar it turns into a tiny shop called Killer Poboys, a short and sweet menu of some really innovative versions of the classic sandwich. I tried the pork belly but was quite envious of the meatloaf poboys my friends got.
Dat Dog - Another spot on Freret Street, Dat Dog is just that, a lot of hotdogs, but unlike you've ever seen before. They have about 15 varieties of hotdogs with an endless list of toppings. I recommend getting the chef's choice for toppings. I went with the Duck Dog and they mounded it with a hot blackberry sauce, spicy mustard, bacon and bbq sauce. Pair it with some étouffée fries and an Abita beer, of course, and you'll be good to go.
Antoine's - If you're looking for a fancy place to bruch with accompanying jazz music, then head over to Antoine's. To be honest, it probably wasn't the smartest decision for the group of us to plan to eat three courses of rich heavy foods like shrimp and grits and hollandaise on everything to the sounds of upbeat jazz after a New Orleans Halloween. However, if your Saturday night was on the tamer side then jazz brunch will be perfect for you. But no matter how hungover you are, be sure to order the bread pudding. You won't regret it.
Humble Bagel - Our final Freret Street find. It's in no way a classic Nola dish but it is a damn good bagel if you're looking for cheap, delicious, and filling
Central Grocery - Home of the Original muffuletta sandwich, a pressed sandwich stuffed with italian deli meats and cheeses and an olive and pickled vegatable salad on soft sesame bread.
The Carousel Bar at the Hotel Monteleone - Swanky drinks on a rotating carousel bar. Dont worry, it takes 15 minutes for 1 full rotation so there is no risk of motion sickness. Just make sure that you become friends with someone already sitting at the bar when you get in so they give you their seats when they leave