Big Eats in the Big Easy
Editor’s Note: Food writer and new-to-ES-blogger Emily Teachout checks in with a look at one of America’s craziest — and tastiest — food destinations.
In honor of my birthday, I decided to check a long-time goal off my bucket list and head down to New Orleans to experience Mardi Gras. Let’s be real, though; while beads and booze were on my radar, I was most excited for a no-holds-barred culinary tour of the Big Easy. I figured if I’ve lived this long, I might as well test the limits of what my body can handle in greasy, spicy, cholesterol-ridden creole specialties. New Orleans did not let me down, and surprisingly, neither did my arteries.
The first “morning” in the city, after waking up at 12:45pm in our cramped yet exorbitantly expensive hotel room, two of my friends and I dragged our hungover selves out of bed in search of a belated breakfast in the French Quarter. Our prayers were answered thanks to a little alley cafe called Green Goddess. We had to wait 45 minutes for our outdoor table, but since drinking in the streets is allowed (and seemingly encouraged) we downed some $7 beers to pass the time.
To start, we shared the truffled manchego cheese grits you see above. With that sheen of grease, you know heaven is inside. My friend literally licked the plate. No shame!
But this was only the beginning. There were more grits to be had at the green goddess, in the form of a classic Southern main course: shrimp & grits! These were the biggest, baddest shrimp my mouth has ever come into contact with… and I have consumed more than my fair share of shrimp.
Clearly some alcohol was needed to wash down this feast, and it came in the form of the Lightnin’ Mary: “roasted yellow tomatoes and our secret concoctions, featuring Junior Johnson’s Lemon Moonshine, pickled okra and green beans.”
The very best dinner we had was at Coop’s Place. This Decatur Street bar had been recommended by a handful of people and despite an unassuming exterior, I was confident we would find culinary treasure inside. I was right (as always) — I experienced one of the hands-down best dishes of my entire life: jambalaya supreme.
A heaping portion of rabbit, andouille sausage, tasso ham, and shrimp all tossed in spicy creole rice. If that sounds not meat-y enough for you, you can always go with Coop’s Taste Plate, a hearty sampling of shrimp creole, red beans & rice, rabbit & sausage jambalaya, and of course, a huge grease-drenched Cajun fried chicken leg proudly inserted into the center of it all. Not for the faint of heart.
The morning of infamous Fat Tuesday itself, it was time for one of the most famous breakfast spots in New Orleans – the tried and true Cafe du Monde. Strong chicory coffee and piping hot fried dough is a potent wake-up combination and a worthwhile way to spend a healthy allotment of one’s morning calories. Someone assessed the situation: “It looks like a cocaine factory exploded all over our table!” An apt description.
Despite the impressive amount of fried dough in our stomachs, just a few hours later we were ready for our next endeavor, gigantic po-boys at Johnny’s. One of the best places in New Orleans to grab one of these signature sandwiches, Johnny’s food sounds deceptively simple — take a french roll, stuff a bunch of fried seafood and/or meat inside, and call it a day. Order it “dressed” (mayo, tomato, lettuce, and pickles) for an extra 60 cents, or you can even get crazy and add cheese.
I got a half catfish, half shrimp dressed po-boy and a side of potato salad, which I had the genius idea to slather on the inside of my french roll. I did not regret that decision for an instant! Even though I often have trouble finishing a bland 6″ Subway selection, I found myself stuffing my face with the entire 12″+ Po-Boy. I would do it again right now if given the chance.
They say the human body is made up of 80% water, but I’m pretty sure my human body is now made up of 80% this:
(This is a portion of a huge tub of live crawfish just sitting on the sidewalk outside a restaurant in the Quarter, waiting to meet their demise.)
Until next time, mon ami, as they say in New Orleans: laissez les bons temps rouler!