Fresh off the bayou oysters, succulent in either raw or broiled, flavorful seafood gumbo matched with the body of small local crabs, thick, stick to your ribs jambalaya, deep fried melting mouthful of cracklings, coupled with a glass of sazeracs, bloody Mary or mint julep, ahh now that’s refreshing. So why stay in the cold northeast when all of this is just beckoning to be devoured!
Whether you call it the Big Easy or Nawlins or Nola, New Orleans is known for its gluttony and I was having my fill indeed, well myself and nine of my friends. You see I’ve only been to this part of the country once before, a meager overnight stay, during my road trip across America back in 2012 so I was dying for a follow up visit. A 6:30AM departure from Logan International later we soon found ourselves landing promptly at Louis Armstrong International in New Orleans. Ahh it feels good to be back in much warmer weather.
My only goal this entire getaway was to eat as much as my eyes can stomach. We wasted NO TIME as we all conjugated at THE classic Gumbo Shop ordering up just a few of the items mentioned above. Seafood okra gumbo, jambalaya, grilled boudin with creole mustard (my favorite), red beans and rice with smoked sausages, and plentiful more to curb our long flight’s appetite. It was a very great reintroduction to creole and cajun food, how I miss all the flavors jumping around in my mouth.
With our waistline bursting at the seams we thought it a good idea to walk off all the calories we just consumed by taking a visit over to the famed Bourbon Street. Do take note that Nola allows its people to drink openly in public as long as you are responsible and the containers carrying the alcohol are of plastic nature. Of course you’re not dealing with rookies on vacation here so we stacked our bags with nips and handed them over to Phi, the nip dispenser:
There is plenty to see … err to drink rather on Bourbon Street. Every shop is either a cabaret show with a doorman trying to hustle you inside, an eatery for those late night drunken munchies (I suggest Willie’s Chicken, they’re very good late night!), or a hurricane joint (alcoholic slushie if you will) with options as far as the eye can see and of course Mardi Gras beads littering the power lines and upper balconies. The cool thing about Bourbon Street, or Nola for that matter, I found is that if you have a party of six or more people you can apply for a parade permit with uniformed police escorts and all. Now that is pretty cool! I saw a couple groups of people doing and they seem to have a grand ole time, maybe next time my group of ten can run a muck in our own parade down in the big easy.
At night is when the street really comes alive. You can find people from all over the world out roaming once the sun settles, light beams shooting every which way from windows and balconies, music blaring from giant bar speakers and beads, lots and lots of beads. I enlisted the help of Nola Pub Crawl to entertain us the evening we arrived, and as you can see I have become quite of fan of these pub crawls. Our hostesses did an excellent job showing us what the nightlife in Nola can be all about we even got to ride a mechanical bull! If you’re down there and looking for a great night out I would suggest using their services as we all had a great time!
Nothing cures a hangover like a trip to Cafe du Monde for cafe au laits and beignets in the morning, note that they’re open 24 hours a day! The line to be seated can be extremely long, it moves fast though, but there is another line for the take out option, which I stood in for. Two frozen au laits and a bag full of beignets later I met up with my equally hungover crew to talk about plans of attack for gluttony that day.
After the caffeine stupor came on we made a quick trip over to the French Market for some sights and souvenirs before brunch at The Country Club.
There were many little cool shop stalls and eateries you can find in here and not that much a of a walk from Cafe du Monde. We also found was a quaint little oyster bar with a shucker who was a character in his own right. He found out that one person in our party who shall remain nameless, Cerisse, had never had a raw oyster before! I couldn’t believe it when I heard the news either so we had to give her a go! Unfortunately our shucker’s pep talk beforehand wasn’t enough as she spat it out. I guess when living so far away from the ocean seafood isn’t your thing *insert sad emoji*.
Speaking of oysters you can have them raw or broiled down in these parts. We’ve been plate after plate of raw oysters it was time to switch it up. The very first broiled oyster I ever ate was in the south at Dragos.
I can remember it now fresh off a 12 hour drive from North Carolina and rolling on right into Dragos for a dozen broiled oysters. The smell of the butter funneling into my nostrils, the feel of the shell’s burnt edges when I picked up the first one, steam emanating off of them coming straight out of the broiler. Nostalgia was hitting and I must have some immediately.
At first our waitress asked how many we wanted and I replied with two dozen. After a look around at the hungry faces I quickly added another and she nodded with approval. Boy they did not disappoint me whatsoever when they arrived to the table! Get your hands on these as soon as you arrive in the bayou.
Another place we went to for oysters, you can see the theme here now, was Superior Seafood and Oyster Bar. This is where it gets good because on weeknights they have happy hour on oysters for $0.50. Yes, 50 cent oysters! My group is a hungry bunch so we put in an order for 12 dozen oysters. You should’ve seen the eyes on our waiter, they were big but not as big as our appetites!
Taking a step back from all the seafood we’ve consumed it was time to ingest some actual meat, porky meat. Cochon (a pig staple) is another must eat in Nola, one I didn’t even scratch the surface of on my last trip, not making that mistake again. A great cochon joint you should visit should be Butcher at 930 TCHOUPITOULAS. It reminds of what old butcher shops used to be when my parents used to take me shopping for our restaurant way back in the golden days. The decor is funky and hip, with plenty of t-shirts, sweaters and sauces to name a few on sale. If you look hard enough you can find a lot of Star Wars replicas hanging from the walls.
Their menu is impressive, heck they even had head cheese, one of my favorites my father used to make. Every way a pig can be chopped up and eaten this place has it locked down so it was hard to figure out what to satisfy my taste buds with. On order was said head cheese, not really a cheese of any sorts but a concoction of bits from the pigs head mashed together, and not to overwhelm myself I got a thick cut bacon sandwich with cucumbers, weird combination I thought.
The head cheese was buttery soft and could be used as a spread on the chips that accompanied them. It tasted different the Asian style head cheese, more collagenous, I have had in the past but with the Cajun mustard as a dip on the side it was the bees knees, let’s say my nose cleared up quite well! That thick cut bacon sandwich though, now that was a juicy morsel. It was dripping with fat when I picked it up for my first bite, which was pork heaven by the way. The cucumbers on top of it caused a taste that was very refreshing to combat the heavyset flavor of the pork. I approve of this joint and now long for a place like this at home.
Once we got our fill of gluttony, and trust me we did, we wanted to get away from the main city for a bit so we visited Algiers Point. To get there you have to take a ferry, near the Harrahs casino, for $2 each way but you need to have exact change! We’ve been on the go ever since we touched down so sitting on a ferry and slowing things down was much needed for everyone.
The ride itself was no more than ten minutes but the difference it made in atmosphere once you go to the other side was astounding. Serene, peaceful, quiet. People were out running, walking their dogs and soaking in some January sunshine. I looked back across the river only to see more hustle and bustle. If you want to get away from all that gluttony take the ferry, it’ll bring you to a different world.
If a ferry isn’t your style then perhaps hitch a ride on their streetcar system. With multiple lines originating from downtown you can take it to visit many parts of the city.
You can use it to catch festivals, dine in new restaurants or just catch a drag show, because why not?
Street art can be found in the more hipster side of town. They range anywhere from graffiti to art murals like the ones below. I always like to stand and gawk at these in whatever city I may be visiting. Nola got some great taste for sure.
It’s those pesky New England Patriots fans again.
Whatever your reasoning for visiting the Big Easy, lust, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride or gluttony like ourselves, Nola is there to help you find it. It really has a little bit of everything for everyone, you need only to search for it. The people are warming, the food hearty, the drinks heavy, the sights charming but finding your Nola is priceless.
This trip really topped my previous one by leaps and bounds, only made better by the crew that accompanied me. I packed up my North Face camp bag with a smile ear to ear for having experience another great adventure to be written into the books. Until the next one!