When we are in New Orleans one of our favorite meals is the Po’Boy or “Poor Boy” sandwich, a crusty 6 or 12 inch French bread roll traditionally stuffed with fried seafood, or as we learned, roast beef. You can find these classic po’boys all across the New Orleans area, but the sky is now the limit, and more avant-garde restaurants like Killer Poboys (811 Conti St, Erin Rose Bar, New Orleans) are doing vegan and internationally-influenced Po’boys. Our favorite Po’Boys are probably the classic fried shrimp ones from Parkway Bakery (538 Hagan Ave., New Orleans), however we also love trying new places, and on our latest trip, we deeply enjoyed the garlic fried oyster po’boy from stalwart restaurant Liuzza’s On the Track (1518 N Lopez St, New Orleans – half po’boy pictured below with their signature gumbo). The exact origin of Po’boys is shrouded in mystery, as most good food origin stories are, but the New Orleans weekly Where Y’At has a deep dive into its murky origins.
Tag Archives: New Orleans
We have already sung the praises of the zeppole for St. Joseph’s Day (March 19), but it almost always overshadows the similar fried confection, the sfinge (or sfingi). The sfinge, like the zeppole, is stuffed, fried dough with Southern Italian origins. However, while the zeppole is filled with custard, the sfinge is filled with ricotta cream, much like a cannoli. Both are topped with candied fruit. We also think the sfinge has more of a cream puff texture versus the doughnut texture of the zeppole (don’t tell, but we might like sfinge better!). You can find sfinge around March 19 at any good Southern Italian style bakery. This is one treat we wont be attempting to make at home, but here is a recipe from Cooking with Nonna, of you are feeling advanced. We especially like the sfinge from Angelo Brocato (214 N Carrollton Ave.) in New Orleans and Palermo Bakery (7312 E Irving Park Rd) in Norridge, right outside Chicago. Astoria, Queens is also a hotbed for Sfinge.
We always love to get Cajun and Creole food when we are in New Orleans, but we are also impressed at how much international cuisine and fine dining is present in the city. On our latest trip, we were excited to learn about James Beard-winning chef Alon Shaya’s eponymous modern Israeli restaurant in the Garden District, Shaya (4213 Magazine Street, New Orleans, LA).
The key feature of Shaya is the impressive wood-burning stove in the corner of the bright, airy restaurant. The stove was running at full tilt during lunch, and it was fun to watch the pita being pulled out of the oven and being brought right to the table. The menu at Shaya is vegetable-focused and that shines through the menu. For lunch one of the most popular items is the salatim – where you select from a variety of small plates to share (3 for $15 or 5 for $23). Salatim means “salad” and refers to the assortment of cold dishes that serve as a kind of appetizer for Israeli meals.
We were really excited to sample some salatim that we had never heard of: Ikra (whipped cream cheese, caviar and shallots), Lutenitsa (roasted pepper, eggplant, garlic and tomato) and the more familiar Labneh (yogurt with peppers and radishes) and Tabouleh (parsley and bulgar salad). Each of the salatim had a unique flavor profile, and we loved the lush, creamy flavors of the Labneh and Ikra, and the piquant peppers of the Lutenitsa (also popular in Balkan and Eastern European cuisines).
We had also heard great things about Shaya’s hummus, which comes in varieties from plain tahini ($9) to more exotic takes with curry, eggplant, or lamb ragu. We selected a variety with asparagus and crispy shallots, which was perfect for early spring. The hummus was creamy and rich and we absolutely could not get enough of the pita, which we sopped up every morsel of hummus with. Fortunately, you can get as many pita refills as you want.
Beyond the salatim there were soup and salads (including matzoh ball soup and a fresh cucumber salad), small plates (ranging from halloumi cheese to the ubiquitous avocado toast), and sandwiches like the classic Israeli staple, the sabich. For the rest of our lunch we selected L’s favorite: falafel ($12) and the lamb kofte ($15) along with the roasted Brussels sprouts. The kofte was shaped into more of a patty, and was topped with tomato jam, herbs, tahini, and served over a bed of white beans. It was like the best kebab you ever had and a burger had a baby, with a sprinkling of spice. The falafel was our favorite variety, crispy and bright green from the high herb content, and they were each clearly fried to order.
The grand finale was the chocolate Babka cake, served in a small cast-iron skillet. We are huge fans of babka, a sweet brioche loaf marbled with chocolate, and Shaya’s version was divine – and drenched in a caramel sauce (there now appears to be a cinnamon variety on the menu). Shaya reminded us a lot of Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia, another modern Israeli powerhouse, which is a good thing. However, the fresh pita really sent Shaya over the top. This place is the real deal! Alon Shaya is opening up 2 more restaurants, and we can’t wait to see what else he has in store.
We are heading to New Orleans for two of our favorite only-in-New-Orleans events, St. Joseph’s Day (March 19) and the Sunday closest to it, known as “Super Sunday” (which we can assure you has nothing to do with the Super Bowl). Super Sunday is the day when Mardi Gras Indians parade their finery through the streets, and St. Joseph’s Day is a holiday with origins in Sicily that celebrates the miracle of St. Joseph saving the island from famine (see our previous coverage here). And oddly enough, these two days are related, and Mardi Gras Indians also march on St. Joseph’s night.
Though other areas in the US obviously have Sicilian-American populations, the tradition of the St. Joseph’s Day altar is observed with fervor in New Orleans, owing to its particularly concentrated Sicilian population. St. Joseph’s Day is observed in New Orleans to a much larger degree than it is elsewhere, even Sicily. Every Catholic church and high school in greater New Orleans seems to have an elaborate St. Joseph’s Day altar, and they can range from modest altars in homes to unthinkably huge, sometimes taking up the entire Church community center. The altars, contributed to by parishioners and the community, traditionally have three tiers and are decked out with statues, flowers, photos, candles and food. All of the photos in this post are from altars we visited in 2016.
Typical St. Joseph’s Day altars are decked out with tons of food, including citrus, fanciful breads in shapes representing Joseph’s trade as a carpenter (or even fish or figures), whole fish, dozens of varieties of cookies, fava beans, and more (You may even see a lamb cake or two). And if you visit a church on St. Joseph’s Day in New Orleans you will probably be treated to a bowl of Pasta Milanese or other meatless favorites. Pasta Milanese is similar to pasta con sarde, but with tomatoes, and of course you have to top it with breadcrumbs, representing the Joseph’s carpentry sawdust – check out this recipe from Sicilian Girl.
Our favorite St. Joseph’s Day food is probably the fig-filled cuccidati cookie, which are also traditionally made at Christmas. We bought a cookbook on St. Joseph’s Day at one of the churches we visited a few years ago, which now provides us with our go-to cuccidati recipe. The St. Joseph’s Day altars are cookie heaven, and volunteers spend weeks making literally tens of thousands of cookies for some of the larger altars. We also like to seek out some of the unique foods that are probably unseen outside of a single parish, like the amazing, giant, fleur-de-lis crawfish-shaped “Craw-fig” cookie below, that we spotted on an altar in Metairie.
At the end of St. Joseph’s Day, the altar is symbolically broken in the “Tupa tupa” ceremony and the food and donations are distributed to charity. You will probably also get handed a fava bean for luck, and a bag of cookies to take home. And if you manage to steal a lemon from the altar it means you will get married (or have a baby) by the next St. Joseph’s Day. We love to go around New Orleans and the surrounding area on St. Joseph’s Day and visit all of the altars, since no two are alike. For 2018 we found a few guides (Italian American Center, ABC) to all of the St. Joseph’s Day churches in the area.
New Orleans is one of our favorite food cities (heck, ANY type of city) in the US. Unfortunately, it seems like NOLA only enters the general public consciousness around Mardi Gras Time (which is right around the corner). We like to go to New Orleans on Super Sunday, the big Mardi Gras Indian parade day, and while there is a ton of street food available at the parade, the standout was sweet potato and pecan pies from Tee-Eva’s. When we were at Super Sunday in 2016, we happened upon the ebullient Miss Eva Perry herself, selling her homemade pralines and pies to the crowds, and chatting with everyone like they were old friends. And we have to say, this was the best pecan pie we have ever had! Fortunately we found out that Tee-Eva also has a long-standing bricks and mortar shop (5201 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115), so you can sample some delicious treats (and full-sized pies) any time you are in NOLA. Definitely take some time to explore outside of the French Quarter and visit Tee-Eva’s!
When we set out to New Orleans we were excited to stuff ourselves with as much Cajun and Creole food as possible (which we did), but we are always open to a good international meal, no matter where we are. Little did we know that we would get an authentic taste of Africa right in the middle of New Orleans, and actually gain a new country in the process – Gambia! Turns out New Orleans is home to a stalwart African restaurant with roots in both Gambia and Cameroon – Bennachin (1212 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116).
We are going to New Orleans at the end of this week, one of our favorite food destinations! To prep for our journey we’ve been doing a lot of of research into what food we want to eat, and what music we want to hear (answer: EVERYTHING). Appropriately, we unearthed a food story at the junction of food and music that involves one of New Orleans’ favorite sons, Louis Armstrong. It turns out that along with being the lauded musicians that he was, Louis Armstrong was a major foodie. In fact, he often signed his letters, “Red Beans and Rice-ly yours,” after his favorite dish. In 1971, Louis Armstrong gave one of his final performances, which was then released as an album, also called Red Beans and Rice-ly Yours with a booklet of his favorite recipes. The rare album has been recently reissued with recipes intact: red beans and rice and all.
Red beans and rice have long been an iconic part of New Orleans cuisine, and every cook makes them a different way, though ham hocks and the holy trinity of onion, celery and bell peppers are the traditional flavorings. NPR details Armstrong’s international food adventures, including finding the only Chinese restaurant in Nairobi, and also provides and transcribes his original, personal recipe for red beans and rice, which you can see below. It turns out the Armstrong isn’t the only one musician who loved Red Beans and Rice, other New Orleans musicians and residents have adopted the dish as their favorite meal to share for years.
We can hardly believe it – but Mardi Gras is next Tuesday – February 9th! Nowhere does Mardi Gras like New Orleans, and an integral part of the celebration in the city is the iconic purple, yellow and green King Cake. However, if you are in New Orleans around this time of year you are completely spoiled for choice. So that’s where the King Cake Database comes into play – you can search by name, neighborhood or by type of king cake desired (traditional, dietary specifications, etc.). Laissez les bons temps rouler!
[updated 2/2016] Happy Mardi Gras! In Chicago, the classic Mardi Gras treat of choice is the Paczki, however we are also big fans of a fried doughy treat right out of New Orleans, the beignet! While we are not going to be near Cafe Du Monde, we are hoping to get some of that NOLA spirit, so where to go in Chicago? It turns out there are quite a few places. You can get beignets in Chicago at Jimmy’s which specialized in NOLA-style beignets, Big Jones and our new favorite beignet: Butcher & Burger, which also serves Cafe Du Monde coffee. Of course, you can always make your own. Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Parkway Bakery and Tavern
538 Hagan Ave.
New Orleans, LA
It’s been nearly two years since we first became obsessed with New Orleans’ quintessential local sandwich, the Po’Boy. Though we had heard of them before coming to Louisiana, and they are available at a few Southern spots in Chicago, our first real experience with Po’Boys in NOLA was in November 2011 at the Oak Street Po’Boy festival. That day we tried a bunch of different sandwiches, but our Po’Boy from Parkway Bakery and Tavern was among our favorite samples. We think of the festival as a pretty formative experience, and we even had a paper Parkway Bakery hat we kept as a souvenir. Though we won’t make it back to the Fest again this year, we were lucky enough to spend a day in New Orleans on our Louisiana tour, and made it a priority to seek out Parkway’s on-site offerings, widely claimed to be the best and city, produced in a restaurant and which claims to be the place where the Po’Boy sandwich originated.
A Po’Boy sandwich (short for Poor Boy) consists of a particular type of French roll, with a crusty exterior and soft interior, filled (traditionally) with fried fish or seafood (we are partial to fried shrimp) and “dressed” with mayo, lettuce, tomatoes and pickles. As we learned at the Po’Boy fest, the term really encompasses a wide range of sandwiches, and the filling could truly be anything you have a taste for. Parkway in Mid City, is (thankfully) far off the tourist track, though it is certainly a popular place with locals from all walks of life. When you walk into Parkway Tavern you are first greeted by an unassuming bar and a handful of tall table. However, you can either order at the bar or at the walk-up counter and then wait for a place at a communal table either indoors or outdoors.
Parkway has a pretty extensive menu of Po’Boys, including fried shrimp, fried oyster, fried catfish, fried sweet potato (for the vegetarians among us), BBQ beef, and many more. There are non-Po’Boy options available, but we question both the sanity and taste level of those who order them. Wanting to be traditionalists on this day, we opted for the classic fried shrimp Po’Boy while M’s dad went eclectic and got a “Surf ‘N Turf,” a combo of shrimp and roast beef, considered a Parkway specialty and client favorite. We placed our order and the counter and waited patiently for our name to be called. A few minutes (which seemed like an eternity) later we were delivered our picture-perfect Po’Boys – see proof below.
The Parkway Po’Boy is truly a thing of beauty. The key to a good Po’Boy is the combination of ingredients on the crusty bread, and at Parkway, everything seemed to work in perfect harmony. The chefs care as well: even given the very high output, this was our first experience with the men behind the counter carefully double-checking our order to make sure they got everything right. And did they: the shrimp we freshly fried (turnover would seem to guarantee that), the portion was more than generous, and the toppings balanced the sandwich perfectly. We all opted for the “regular” size Po’Boys, which was more than enough: though it may be possible for a single person to finish a “large,” we wouldn’t recommend it. If you are extra-hungry there are Zapp’s potato chips and a few desserts, too. If we lived in New Orleans we know this would be one of our favorite spots. Though we always have more places to try, we can’t help but agree with the locals: The Best Po’Boys in NOLA in an unpretentious, local spot for a great price. We’ll have to make the pilgrimage every year.
Last weekend we had the good fortune to visit M’s dad in Louisiana – where we had a fun time exploring Baton Rouge, Cajun Country, and even spending a day in New Orleans. We had a lot of fun seeing the sights and eating as much as we could, from every type of cuisine available (including some tasty grub at an extravagant LSU tailgate). In the next few weeks we’ll be talking about some of the places we were fortunate enough to visit, thanks to recommendations from friends, family and even ETW readers. In the mean time, here are the stops we made on our food journey:
- Southern Dawgz, Baton Rouge
- Chelsea’s, Baton Rouge
- Tsunami, Baton Rouge
- Parkway Bakery and Tavern, New Orleans
- Cafe du Monde, New Orleans
- Roberto’s River Road Resataurant, Sunshine, LA
- The Cabin, Burnside, LA
930 Tchoupitoulas Street
New Orleans, LA
We are big fans of smaller, cheaper branches of upscale restaurants, (Xoco, etc.) since we like good food, but we like it even more when it is cheap. Cochon Butcher is the casual spinoff of more upscale spot Cochon, which has long been a darling of the NOLA foodie scene. It was made even more attractive of an option, being one of the few places in the Central Business District (CBD – where our hotel was) that was open on a Thursday night. The offerings at Cochon Butcher mostly consisted of small plates and sandwiches, though it is also a working deli and a bar as well (you can even see the meats curing right there on the wall). The Cochon Butcher sandwiches all featured the in-house charcuterie and the selection of sandwiches varies nightly. We can tell it’s a popular place, when we arrived at 8PM; some varieties had long been sold out.
Among the remaining options we opted for the Carolina BBQ pulled pork ($10), and the muffaletta ($12). So, one obvious choice and one more adventurous one. NOLA is not exactly known for its BBQ – though it has amazing food. However, we never miss the chance to try some good BBQ from a respectable southern restaurant. The pulled pork had a North Carolina style sauce, and was absolutely perfectly seasoned, right down to the pink smoke rings (yum). On the other hand, ordering a Muffaletta in New Orleans is a very obvious choice. The Muffaletta – probably one of the most famous sandwiches in New Orleans – was piled high with deli cuts on a large focaccia roll with olive relish. Though not perhaps as famous as Central Grocery’s, Cochon Butcher made an amazing Muffaletta, with their homemade charcuterie and olive spread.
We finished off the meal with something else that we cannot pass up at a good Southern restaurant – a bowl of Mac & Cheese ($6). This variety came with a helping of Pancetta. M is much more of a fan of Pancetta than L – so she was a bit wary to try this offering – however we were both pleasantly surprised. – the highlight of all of the dishes was probably the Mac & Cheese. It was extremely decadent and not overpowered by the Pancetta at all. For the price, Cochon Butcher has amazing quality, and for a bit more of an expense-account dinner we’d love to try Cochon.
1109 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA
When we were looking for places to eat in New Orleans we were warned against the French Quarter restaurants for being generally high-priced and too tourist-centric. However, there were a few diamonds in the rough, including Coop’s Place. For Southern cooking in the vicinity of the French quarter this is one of your best options. Coop’s, with less than a dozen rickety table and a retro bar, probably qualifies as a hole in the wall. Coop’s also has a pretty strict seating policy – no reservations allowed – you just tell the hostess your party size. The host then continuously scans the line (which often snakes around the block) and when one of the tables in the tiny place opens up with your group size– you’re in (even if that 2-top that just got a table arrived a half hour later than your 4-top)!
The menu at Coop’s is pretty extensive and has touches of both Cajun and Creole cooking. A posted menu board also lists some daily specials including Shrimp Etouffee and Alligator. M couldn’t decide among the options – so he was really pleased that there was a sample platter featuring some Southern Favorites ($12.95) – Jambalaya, Gumbo, Red Beans & Rice, and some BBQ shrimp and pasta. M was especially a fan of the jambalaya and gumbo, both of which were extremely flavorful and full of spice. The BBQ shrimp was also good, but could not measure up to the other offerings.
Cafe du Monde
800 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA
There are some places that are tourist draws for a reason – and still manage to turn out good food even with the constant onslaught of crowds. Cafe du Monde is one of those places. Since 1862, Cafe du Monde has been turning out world-famous beignets with cups of trademark chicory coffee. You can wither choose to sit in the historic open-air tent or take your coffee and beignets to go. Either way, expect a line, even though CdM is open 24h!
A beignet is really nothing more than a fried piece of dough, doused with a heaping helping of powdered sugar; however, like the descriptions of many of our favorite baked goods, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Chicory coffee, again deceptively simple, is basically a strong coffee blend mixed with chicory root. It is a pretty divisive topic – people either love it or don’t get its appeal, I think I am a fan so far (though M doesn’t drink coffee so his verdict is still out).
We arrived at Cafe du Monde on a pleasant fall day, and decided to enjoy our treats in nearby Jackson Park – so we headed straight for the takeout line. The line went pretty rapidly (an order or two of beignets seemed to pretty much be the standard order) and the cashier was hyper-efficient (as the cashiers at this type of high-volume operation tend to be). Within a minute or two we were out – a small pack of three beignets and a cup of chicory coffee in our possession. The beignets especially were amazing, totally fresh and way more delicious than they needed to be. Moreover – we were covered in clouds of powdered sugar for the next few hours. The pigeons of Jackson Park enjoyed the powdered sugar even more than we did, however. We’d love to try to make beignets someday, but I think we’d prefer a return trip to New Orleans.