When seeking affordable eats, sometimes the best area to seek out is anywhere near a college campus. After all, most students are typically cash-poor, relying on stipends from their parents or part-time, minimum-wage jobs to get them through the month. Dining out means discovering a spot that offers dishes so plentiful (and inexpensive) that they become ideal leftovers, suitable to sustain a starving student through another meal or two. In New Orleans, one of the best areas for economical dining lies only a few blocks from both Loyola and Tulane Universities’ campuses on Maple Street.
Over a dozen different options lie in this six-block stretch—a tad dizzying for such a small area—but business is certainly jumping on Maple, especially during the school year. With so many choices, it's hard to know where to start. Perhaps we should begin with breakfast …
A spin-off from its Bywater counterpart, Satsuma Café opened six years ago and is still going strong, considering the number of folks who line up nearly every morning to get their fix. There's word on the street that Satsuma's owners plan to launch a third location in the Lower Garden District this spring, and people in the neighborhood (including yours truly) couldn't be happier. Satsuma serves specialty coffee drinks brewed from local roasters like Hey Café and Orleans Coffee, their own cold-pressed organic juices, and an array of breakfast and lunch items. Try some buttermilk pancakes with blueberries and ginger-mint syrup for $5.50, or feast on a Satsuma breakfast plate, which includes two eggs (your way), Nueske's bacon, a side of their creamy black beans, lots of fresh fruit, and toast or a biscuit for $9.50.
Less than two blocks away is Waffles on Maple, a highly worthwhile breakfast joint that specializes in the use of kosher ingredients. This tiny, counter-only spot offers huge waffles, like their Strawberry Shortcake with fresh strawberries and sweet cream cheese; the savory “Heart Attack” with caramelized mushrooms, fried eggs, and three kinds of cheese; several types of omelets filled with crab au gratin or sun-dried tomatoes; sweet and savory crepes; and (believe it or not) pizza and panini! None of their menu items rise above $14, with most hovering around $8 or $9, and the portions are ginormous enough for two to split, or you could just save the rest for lunch (or dinner).
If you're looking for some stellar pastries with your coffee, grab a cuppa joe from PJ's and proceed directly next door to Maple St. Patisserie. Whether you want croissants, donuts, or hot cross buns, this neighborhood bakery has some of the best pastries in town. Grab a couple of enormous blueberry muffins or strawberry turnovers, and you could have a week's worth of breakfasts (or desserts) for less than a ten-spot. They also regularly serve biscuits with sausage, ham and cheese croissants, and desserts to die for, from fresh fruit tarts to flaky Napoleons filled with custard.
For lunch or dinner, why not try the Eastbank's iteration of Tan Dinh? Ba Chi Canteen, a Vietnamese restaurant across from Satsuma Café, is run by the same family who owns the Westbank hit. Open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner, Ba Chi offers all of the usual suspects, like phở, vermicelli bowls, extra-crispy egg rolls, steamed pork buns or bao, and bánh mi. They also feature specialties like kimchi fries, Korean beef short ribs, fish tacos with roti, and gyoza nachos. Very few items rise above the $12 mark, and the portions are generally large enough to stuff you silly. The chargrilled pork vermicelli bowl is highly recommended at $11.75. Add an order of their famous crispy pork fried egg rolls for $5.25, and you've got a meal for two.
Recently opened by husband-and-wife team Hugo and Addie Vasquez, Catalino's is a brand-new eatery in the space that once occupied longtime tenant Babylon Café and also briefly housed Hummus & More. Originally from Guatemala, Hugo has worked in several New Orleans kitchens, including El Gato Negro and the immensely popular Mais Arepas. Dishes include items like the crowd-pleasing elote, crispy tostadas, fresh guacamole with plantain chips, and yuca fries topped with black beans and queso fresco. The appetizers are extremely affordable, and while the entrees run a bit higher, they're served with plenty of house-made corn tortillas and rice, enough to feed any starving student—twice.
The five restaurants mentioned above are only the frosting on the cake when it comes to affordable eats in that area. What's your favorite spot on Maple Street?