A Local’s Guide to Where to Eat in New Orleans 2014
By Abigail Gullo
Welcome back, my Tales brothers and sisters! Did you survive last year? Good. How will you survive this year? By filling up on some of that good New Orleans cuisine. And guess what? Most of these places have very fine cocktails as well so you don’t have to stop the Tales of the Cocktail party!
I don’t know if you have heard, but New Orleans is the food capital of the world; and has been for some time, if you ask anyone from here. They’ll tell you that this is the last holdout of truly unique regional American cuisine. They’ll tell you there is nothing more American the melting pot of culture that you have in Cajun and Creole cuisine. And there isn’t. What there is is a host of places that have opened up since I gave you some solid advice last year. And there are new old places I have discovered and fell in love with here in my third year as a Nola resident. So here is a rundown of some of my favorites:
People asked me if I missed the Chinese food of NYC when I moved down here. How could I when there is such amazing Vietnamese food available here?! It’s no wonder since New Orleans and the surrounding areas have the highest population of Vietnamese outside of Vietnam. Since the 1970’s they have merged their culture into the continuing flux of cuisine here in NOLA and most of the best places can be found on the West Bank across the river, including the mind-bending Hong Kong Market (www.hongkongmarketnola.com). If you have a friend with a car, get them to take you here – it is a warehouse full of groceries, snacks and drinks that you would have trouble finding outside of Asia otherwise. I get my supply of Lady Slimming Beauty Tea here too. Yup. It’s all there in the name, folks. The market also has a noodle house, a sandwich shop and bubble tea so you can shop and fill your belly with a tasty Banh Mi or “Vietnamese Po Boy.”
You don’t have to wander far to get a taste of the authentic Vietnamese food New Orleans has to offer. Crasian is a new place that opened on Canal Street just a short walk away from the Hotel Monteleone (www.hotelmonteleone.com). It has some of the biggest Garden Rolls I have ever seen! They also have a nice selection of frozen bubble tea that will be perfect on a hot day. Remember, pouring some sample booze from Tales into your bubble tea to go is perfectly legal here in New Orleans. Personally I am looking forward to trying the Jasmine Green tea with some Tanqueray Old Tom Gin. Or any one with Mezcal… Seriously….any one.
Speaking of boozy Bubble Teas, Mopho (www.mophonola.com) up by City Park does a handsome business in modern Vietnamese food with a Nola twist and even has some booze filled Bubble teas on the menu. The Guns and Roses, with strawberry and Mezcal is my favorite, but there is nothing like a good Piña Colada and the Beachbum, served with either Flor de Cana or a spiced rum, is amazing. Also, the chicken wings there will change your life.
You should rent some bikes and do a chicken wing tour. Bike up my favorite street, Esplanade Ave until you hit City Park. Get some wings and cool drinks at Mopho and then bike down Orleans to Willie Mae’s Scotch House (www.zagat.com/r/willie-maes-scotch-house-new-orleans) for the world’s greatest fried chicken. Seriously. They hold the title, and for good reason; the chicken is super juicy and the spice in the just right crust has got kick!
As long as you’ve got bikes, check out the new park on the levee in the Bywater. You know the Bywater from Bacchanal (www.bacchanalwine.com), Bj’s (www.facebook.com/bjs.bywater), Vaughn’s, Satsuma (life giving juices!!) (www.satsumacafe.com) and Maurepas Foods (www.maurepasfoods.com). It’s also the hipster dumping ground of New Orleans. Come out and laugh at the kids on the super tall bikes and get yourself dinner at Oxalis (www.oxalisbywater.com). Opened this year by two bartenders and a chef, you know this is cut out to be our kind of place. The burger can come with a side of bone marrow, but there is also cauliflower “steak” and a double kale salad to help replace those precious lost vitamins you drank away this week. But by no means stop drinking. Their whiskey list is amazing, including a “plastic cap” section. I am a Johnny Drum Gal, myself but I would not kick Evan Williams out of bed for eating crackers, as my Grammy would say.
Like that whiskey and beer vibe? You can do no better than to head to the Lower Garden District to the new place Barrel Proof (www.facebook.com/barrelproofneworleans). Brought to you by the fine folks from Sylvain (www.sylvainnola.com), this bar has an extensive whiskey and beer selection. A shot and a beer is what most bartenders crave anyway, am I right? I recently paired some Old Grand Dad with a bottle of Brooklyn Sorachi Ace to take to a picnic watching the Goonies outside on a big screen. Perfection!
And speaking of perfection, you must visit Kimberly Patton-Bragg at Three Muses. Frenchman street has long been a desert when it came to decent cocktails, but no longer now that the delightful Ms. Kim has taken over as the bar manager and cocktail creationist at Three Muses(www.thethreemuses.com). Great music and great cocktails can now also be found at the Little Gem Saloon (www.littlegemsaloon.com), a true little gem in the CBD (Central Business District) with great weekly local acts as well as musicians just passing through. And when you need some late late night food to fill your belly, go to Cleo’s in the Central Business District (www.facebook.com/cleosnola). It’s a 24 hour beacon of Middle Eastern cuisine and has a grocery where I snag almond syrup and rose water for my cocktails. Also in the Central Business District is the Lucky Rooster (www.luckyroosternola.com) with modern Asian food, and drinks named after Wu Tang Clan and shots of Baska Snapps poured directly into your mouth from a Porron. So, you know…pretty cool.
How do we keep our cool here in the sultry swamp? Well…first choice is you hook up with someone with cable and a pool. Second choice for me is a real New Orleans Sno-Ball. Our snowballs are different than your typical sno-cone in two distinct aspects. First are the syrups. Most are homemade and there are special flavors that are unique to New Orleans such as a Pink Squirrel (sherry almond) or Brown Pelican (cream of Root Beer). The second is the consistency of the Ice. The New Orleans sno-balls are with fine shaved ice that is packed in a way that holds the flavor and keeps the drink icy and cold. The ones who are best at this are The Hanson Family. They are such an icon know worldwide, Hansen’s Sno-Bliz (www.snobliz.com) just received a James Beard Award for their place in Americana cuisine, and still run by family members, this uptown icy heaven is worth the wait on a hot summer day. Get sweetened condensed milk on top of whatever you order. You’re welcome. If you want to stay downtown, there is Piety Street sno-balls (www.612piety.com/piety-street-snoballs) right across from Pizza Delicious (www.pizzadelicious.com) in the Bywater. They will put a scoop of ice cream in the middle of your sno-ball?!? That and a slice will certainly bring you back to life.
Life sometimes requires needing a place to take that sexy thing you just met. Someplace a bit out of the way. Someplace with food by an inspired chef. Go to Marti’s (www.martisnola.com) on Dumaine and North Rampart. Grand Plateau del Mar, Mississippi Rabbit, Chocolate pot du crème with sea salt and caramel. Last night I had black and blue gnocchi (black truffles and blue crab) that brought me to my knees. And it is a block away from Bar Tonique (www.bartonique.com) – perfect for a nightcap after with friends!
And finally, perhaps you just need the perfect spot in which to wine and dine a networking contact. And you need protein, serious protein. Go to Doris Metropolitan on Chartres Street (www.dorismetropolitan.com). This mini chain has three locations; Tel Aviv, Costa Rica and here. It’s a state of the art steak house, with some hearty salads, a great wine and sherry list and some great cocktails. (Ok, full disclosure. One of my baby bartenders left my nest over at SoBou to start the cocktail program here. And I could not be more proud!) Konrad Kantor is delightfully playful and creative with his classic based concoctions. Get the Future Ball to see what your future hold. Spoiler Alert: its whiskey…really good whiskey. And it is a personal milestone for me to visit a student of mine who has done so well and branched out on their own. Now has become an inspiration to me!
Just over two years in New Orleans and I am a proud cocktail Mama! New Orleans has been very very good to me. And I hope it is good to you too! Come by SoBou (www.sobounola.com) for a drink and a kiss!