Recently, I spent a few meals in New Orleans. It is true, whenever I get an opportunity to go to New Orleans; I measure my travel there in “meals” versus “days”. For over two decades, I have had the pleasure to travel to New Orleans for business. I have been fortunate to have seen the city during Mardi Gras, post Mardi Gras (the colorful strands of beads speckled the streets and trees), before Katrina, post Katrina (by several days, when cars, boats, and furniture were washed up on the sidewalks) and even now after the gulf oil spill (the Gulf oysters are plumb and flavorable). The food is amazing. While other cities I travel to grow increasingly dull with chain restaurants in strip shopping centers, Nawlins continues to display its own culturally entertaining world where food is a religion.
Where else can you go and eat unbelievable cuisine at a funky neighborhood bar or at the grandest haute restaurant? And where celebrities, locals, businessman, and Jeff & Jane from Nebraska wait in line wrapped around Canal Street for a table at a restaurant that doesn’t take reservation. My dilemma has always been there’s a myriad of foods to choose from jam-packed in only a few days.
Sea scallops swimming in mushroom risotto, sizzling oysters on have shell, blackened fish, deep fried beignets covered with powdered sugar, Seafood po’boys, muffuletta, Cajun gumbo (a catch-all stew filled with seafood & spices), crawfish etouffee, turtle soup, bread pudding with whiskey sauce and creole jambalaya; the attraction to New Orleans food is only surpassed once a year by the Mardi Gras Parade.
I usually branch out and go beyond the bars/restaurants on Bourbon Street. But you could easily spend weeks at the French Quarter and still never scratch the surface of all the great gastronomic and cultural experiences.
Tujaques (pronounced “Two-Jacks”) is one of the oldest restaurants in the United States. My story with Tujaques started eight years earlier when a former boss on hearing I was going to New Orleans for a business meeting, told me he had gone to Tujaques with a local “regular” and in turn he was given the VIP treatment. He said the key is to go in the restaurant and instead of ordering off-the-menu just tell the waiter these two words; “Feed Me”. And they’ll know what you’re talking about. “The food will keep coming all night”, he said. “Whatever the chef feels like whipping up in the kitchen, they’ll bring it out to you.” He told me he had 5 courses including a side of homemade brisket with horse radish, and the tenderest fried chicken with garlic potatoes. It is true they do have a “prix fixe” or “feed me” menu, but they provide this to all diners. I never did tell him, even to this day, that this is a price set menu, which is served each evening with several courses. VIP or not, everyone gets brisket chunks in horse radish. I let him think he was like a food critic in disguise, where really his ruse was known. However, an insider tip, the “chicken dish” is not available on the menu, so for a “feed me” experience, you should order it.
Unlike most of the places on your list to travel, which are tourist worthy for the sights, New Orleans combines two distinctive reasons to visit: the food and the culture. Your taste buds will thank you.