having just become a "resident out-of-towner" in nyc
after an extended (well, for me anyway) stint in new
orleans, i'm still not quite convinced that nyc tops
the big easy in terms of food qualitatively...
quantitatively, however, y'all got it. after all,
my big conversational sig while i was there was
that in new orelans, the question people ask upon
introduction is not, "so, what do you do?" but
rather, "what are you drinking and where'd ya eat
last night." sometimes i wonder why i left. that said,
here are my favorite food reasons for maintaining my
crescent city connection.
cheap eats (under $20)
Willie Mae's on St. Ann's, behind Dooky Chase just
outside the French Quarter. This tiny (two person
operation), no frills (rubber placemats-and-wood
paneling) neighborhood spot has the BEST fried chicken
outside my Aunt Eloise's in Danville, VA. The lemonade
and the iced tea are both super sweet; their smothered
veal chop and fried pork chops also get my raves. Plus
string beans and rice so buttery, you wonder they ain't
yellow. mind your manners and don't get snotty if mama
and charlie call you "baby." cash, lunch only; open on
saturdays for lunch only if miz mama isn't out making
groceries. closed sundays. some people go to church,
Uglesich's on baronne st. on the non-FQ side of I-10.
hurry up and visit here before all the new yorkers who
think they're in the know ruin the place. the joke
about "you-gluh-sit-ches" is that everybody can smell
you've eaten there. my kind of place. all the fat, all
the flavor, dawlin. get the fried green tomatoes with
shrimp remoulade, a dozen raw ersters, and the shrimp
uggie - kinda like old-style, homestyle shrimp creole
(well, if you're grandmother's haitian like mine...)
tail-on shrimp lolling in a spicy oil, tomatoes,
peppers, onions and potatoes stew. good fried
oyster/catfish po'boys too. tell anthony to make 'em
sloppy dressed. lunch, m-f only.
casamento's - on magazine at napoleon. if it looks
closed from the outside try the door anyway. they keep
weird hours. inside, it's like stepping into a kitchen
nee shower room (complete with towel hooks) add the
3'10 grinning raisin of a table busser (she'll call you
baby, too) and it's like you stepped into a david lynch
set. don't worry. sit down, have an abita and a
peacemaker half loaf, dressed (thick toast sandwiching
fried shrimp and oysters, lettuce, tomato and
mayonaise) and a plate of hand cut french fries. good,
cajun-style gumbo (cajun gumbo has a darker roux than
creole). raw oysters too. lunch. dinner
acme oyster house - in the french quarter on iberville.
okay, so it's in da quarter. and you'll have to wait in
line with fanny-packers and name taggers who've stopped
in for lunch before dinner at the hard rock for a dirty
seat and a wet table. you can get your "new orleans"
food here: jambalaya, gumbo, etoufee and boiled
crawfish. and it's good enough. but why bother when you
can stuff yourself with raw oysters, naked or sauced,
for $6 a doz? (and god bless acme, among others, for
letting you mix your own cocktail sauce...there's no
such thing as too much horseradish). regular hours
everyday, most plastic, obviously.
camellia grill: at riverbend where the st. charles
streetcar line turns into carrollton ave. is the
camellia grill which recently celebrated its 50th
anniversary...though you'd think the place'd been
around for more like 150. classic horseshoe formica
counters, countermen with paper hats and gold teeth
(it's a motif in new orleans...or is that "mo teeth"?
:p). i get tickled just by the way they serve the
straws and how they call for eggs "duz ufs, suh" and
eggs are the way to go. specifially omelettes. behemoth
griddle-browned, overstuffed folds of oeufs, spilling
with sauteed peppers, onions and shrimp or blanketed
with thick chili and cheese. no hash browns, but the
french fries will do. chicory coffee, of course. and a
fabulously icy-creamy coffee milkshake they call a
"freeze." decent burgers. this place should be open 24
hours, but it's not (8am-2am more or less). weekend
brunch it's usually packed. but you can get omelettes
chicory farm cafe - "creole vegetarian" i know it
sounds like an oxymoron, especially in new orleans, but
it's true and it's pretty damn good, too. the menu
relies on two of my favorite things: mushrooms and
cheese (the other two are bacon and foie gras) which,
along with various vegetable garnishes are trucked in
each day from their organic farm 2 hours outside new
orleans. the european style cheeses used are handmade
by them (you can buy some at zabar's...i recommend the
super-stinky catahoula and the milder orleans). jim and
i chatted about "meat analogs" a few days ago. they do
that well here. highly recommend the gumbo z'herbes
(when they do it cajun style...the kitchen's been in
transition a bit so my past few visits have been wildly
uneven. but even at it's worst, it's still pretty
great) and the "grillades and grits" - smoked
portobellos over a swell of polenta that's as soft and
creamy as lolita. the vegetable tarts rock and i would
sleep on a bed of their bread - even with my cranky
back. every day but monday, i think. corner hillary and
maple, riverbend/uptown. walkable from the streetcar.
mona's - i'm reluctant to mention this place only
because it seems really silly to talk about good middle
eastern food in louisiana. but i love their
babaghanouj. it's in mid city so you'll need a car to
get there. lunch, dinner. take out.
kim san's - again, i blush. vietnamese. in new orleans.
across the river on the west bank, no less. why? i'll
tell you why. salt baked shrimp/squid/soft-shell crab.
fish soup. that's why. a writer friend well-known for
his allegiance to chinatown turned me on to this place.
if you're willing to trek, email me for details.
enough already. i'm getting hungry. though i could go
on and on. next time i'll post on the "epicurean"
(read: moolah, baby) spots.