10 Things to Taste in New Orleans
This beard belongs to my friend Pableaux Johnson, a New Orleans native who literally wrote the book on eating in his home town. Whenever we got hungry, I called Pableaux, so he could tell us where to go, what to order, and how to make our meal a better experience. Much of the advice below is straight from Pableaux’s mouth, and I’ve never eaten better. (Thanks again, mister.)
1. Shrimp Po’ Boy at Parkway
Go hungry. If you can, go hungover. Walk past the line winding through the patio, and find the bar in back. If you can get a seat, the waitress will take your order right away. Order the Shrimp Po’ Boy, the sweet potato fries, and a side of the beef gravy for dipping. If it’s the season, you’ll want a Strawberry Abita too.
Stay as long as you want. Have another beer.
2. Beignets at Café Du Monde
Once you’ve tasted these beignets, the memory will bring you comfort. Warm, soft, sweet, and your soundtrack is a man singing gospel on the corner.
3. Hamburger at Slim Goodies
The quintessential burger, the first I’ve eaten in a restaurant that reminded me of the ones my mom fried up in a cast iron skillet at home. Thick, salty, fatty perfection.
4. Moscow Mule or House Sazerac at Bar Tonique
Come to Bar Tonique while the sun’s still out, and have a seat. Don’t make any special requests, don’t try to direct your bartender through the mix. Just sit down, and let them give you something better than what you know how to order.
If you’re a whiskey drinker, the House Sazerac will make you calmer, more acute. What you’re tasting there is a little fennel. If you’re thirsty and want something juicy, ask for the Moscow Mule. Knock it with your straw, and watch the flurries of fresh ginger dance around the ice.
5. Muffaletta at Cochon
Cochon has an in-house boucherie, so order something meaty like this Muffaletta. The cocktails are just as good as the food, and and the food is just fine, thank you very much.
6. Strawberry Abita on the porch
First off, I’m usually dubious about flavored beer. The Strawberry Abita, however, doesn’t try to pretend it’s a wine cooler. It tastes like cold beer with a little bit of extra summer on the backend. Like eating iced strawberries and popping open a beer chilled in the same bucket.
7. Turtle Soup at Commander’s Palace or Brennan’s
Unfortunately, turtle soup isn’t to my taste, but you’re a visitor so you’re honor-bound to try it. I tried a bowl at Commander’s Palace — where they take three days to make it — and a bowl at Brennan’s. They were remarkably similar to me, but I had a sentimental preference for the bowl at Brennan’s because the staff was singing happy anniversary to a gray-haired couple at the next table.
When they ask if you’d like some Sherry floated on top, you would.
8. Pimm’s Cup at Napoleon House
It’s hot. You want a drink with a cucumber in it, and this is where you should get it. Wait to sit on the patio.
9. Eggs Benedict at Stanley
Pableaux said if he had three days to eat breakfast in the French Quarter, he’d eat at Stanley all three times. Fair enough.
10. Strawberry Shortcake at Commander’s Palace
Make your reservation, fasten your pearls, and set aside a few hours for lunch at Commander’s Palace. When they offer you a dark napkin because your dress is black, let your brain unclench. Order the two-course special, and ask for the House Martini, which is a quarter. You heard me. (If you don’t drink martinis, the House Cosmo is also 25 cents, as are a nebulous blue drink, and a florescent green drink, neither of which we can discuss here.)
Everyone will tell you to finish up with the bread pudding soufflé, but if the strawberry shortcake is in season, you know what to do. Bring a cigarillo in your clutch, because you should be pleasantly illuminated by the time you leave. There’s a lovely graveyard across the street where you can chat with your girlfriend, and pat your hair back into place while you smoke.