If you are friends with me on Facebook, then you know that I am currently suffering from the post-cruise plague. Virus, sinus infection, soar throat, and a double ear infection. Yes, you might feel sorry for me, but I’ll tell you one thing, I’ll take full-on zombie status for a week if it includes a prerequisite week of traveling with my long-distance guy (I see you rolling your eyes, future non-existent children).
One particular perk to my trip was the location of the port; while it would have been easy to leave from Tampa, my guy’s family is from Memphis, so we left from New Orleans. This left me plenty of time to do a little exploration of this great foodie city before they got there and after they left for home.
My first plan of attack was to join my college buddy Ally for a good ole Poor Boy at Parkway Bakery & Tavern. I knew Ally would be the perfect host: in our Mississippi River seminar, she not only brought in a CD of her favorite New Orleans music to listen to during her presentation, but she also corrected my pronunciation of Pontchartrain (twice) during a presentation after multiple failed attempts. Ally is as in love with her city as any other NOLA native, and I can tell why, after her behind the scenes tour of Crescent City. We were greeted by a pretty hefty line at Parkway, but we were determined to stick it out, our bellies rumbling for some yummy fried shrimp. The line only continued to get longer, which got me excited for the deliciousness to come, and without a doubt, 'deliciousness' is an underestimate.
Both of us ordered the regular-size Golden Fried Shrimp Poor Boy (shown above): tender shrimp, fried up in a perfectly seasoned batter until light and crispy, piled into a fresh baguette, and then topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles and mayo. It is truly the best Poor Boy (or Po’ Boy, for that matter) that I have had to date. We both finished every last bite, an interesting development, since Ally is about as big around as the sandwich. I loved the use of the baguette instead of a hoagie roll, which gave it a more sophisticated bite. The shrimp were not overcooked in the least bit, a skill I have yet to master in my own kitchen. Add a side of crispy sweet potato fries, some Zapp’s crawtator chips, and a seasonal Abita Strawberry beer (!!!!), and you have yourself the perfect introduction to New Orleans cuisine. Not to mention, we only spent $30 for the whole meal, including our beers. Happy tummy and wallet.
My second meal came on arrival back from my cruise. The tired, tanned, and soon-to-be sick version of me was ready for reintroduction to real food (sorry, Carnival), and I couldn’t imagine a better place to do just that than Cochon, a restaurant with a reputation for inventive, southern cuisine, and one of Bon Appetit’s '20 Most Important Restaurants in America'. Well, they were closed. So, we tried Root, a hip new restaurant receiving a lot of press in the port area recommended of fellow food blogger, Megan (I Run For Wine). Also closed… Damn. How about Stanley’s extremely popular brunch? Well, my fellow patrons weren’t exactly interested in a one-mile walk in the rain.... it was time to consult a concierge. She recommended Mother’s Restaurant, just a few blocks away. In hindsight, while we may have missed some opportunities to dine at a few amazing establishments, we did not go wanting for some delicious, home-style NOLA breakfast.
My cousin-in-law (one day, fingers-crossed, hint hint, wink wink, GIVE ME A DAMN RING—I’m only kidding, kind of), Jonathan, and his wife, Heather, joined me in this deceivingly large restaurant, tucked inside an unassuming brick building. The line to order had already formed, so we took our place and perused the menu. After ordering our breakfast spoils, we navigated a variety of rooms, already filled with hungry breakfast crowds, and found a table in the large, open air bar room (and yes, your breakfast can come fully-equipped with a mimosa, bloody mary, or beer). We decided to skip alcohol, at least until we made it to the airport, where there really isn’t anything better to do.
After the quick exchange of smiles and receipts with a waitress, our food was brought to us as it was ready. Mine was the first to come, and despite attempting to show my southern manners, I dug in after a little encouragement from Jonathan. Say hello to the crawfish etouffee omelet: a fluffy omelet, filled and covered with crawfish etouffee, a Louisiana classic filled with green onions, garlic, sweet onions, celery, Cajun spices, and creamy goodness; mixed with the grits alone, it was amazing. Only a side of fluffy biscuits, grape jam, and an extremely generous amount of butter could improve this situation. It was delicious, and it only put me back $14. Not bad!
Jonathan had a ham biscuit and some grits with ‘debris’, a fancy way of saying slow cooked meaty goodness, I believe. We didn’t hear much from him, so I took that as a sign that he liked it.
Heather got two eggs, grits, a biscuit, and the ‘World’s Best Baked Ham’. She gave it two thumbs up. The ham wasn’t playing around.
In the end, I may have not spent enough time in New Orleans to get to all my must-eat spots, but I was successful in finding two knock-out options for a crash course in the tastes of NOLA on a budget. A victory I am proud to share with you all! I can't wait to get down back in the bayou and fill my belly with more of its unique, tasty cuisine!