Are you the type of person who will gladly eat the gratis portion cup of slaw, even after it's warm from sitting next to a pile of hot Raising Cane's chicken fingers? Is pulled pork, smoked low 'n' slow, just not complete without a cool, tangy pile of shredded cabbage as a counterbalance? Do you trust to fate when attending a family barbecue, or do you bring a Tupperware filled with coleslaw just to play it safe?
At its most basic, coleslaw is a salad of finely shredded cabbage tossed with a vinaigrette or mayo dressing. Though the name hails from the Dutch term for cabbage salad, "koosla," variations on the simple recipe can be found all over the globe. In fact, we have quite a few delicious varieties right here in the Crescent City.
With our burgeoning 'cue scene, it's no surprise that slaw is found more frequently among the smoked meat purveyors. Recently voted the best BBQ restaurant in our 2021 "Best of the Big Easy" reader's choice awards, Blue Oak BBQ has their own unique twist on slaw. Owners Philip Moseley and Ronnie Evans started Blue Oak in 2012 as a pop-up inside music venue Chickie Wah Wah, but, since 2016, they've had their own digs on N. Carrollton Avenue and are still going strong. Along with hefty platters of smoked meats and roasted garlic mac 'n' cheese, they're known for their sandwiches, such as the "Doobin' Loobin" with pulled pork and sausage or the jerk pulled pork and fresh jalapeno-laden "Pit Viper," almost all of which are topped with their signature slaw. Made with shredded white cabbage and carrots, Blue Oak's slaw is refreshing and tangy, sprinkled with nutty sesame seeds and a bit of fresh ginger for heat.
Late this spring, Marcus Jacobs and Caitlin Carney, the masterminds behind Marjie's Grill on Broad Street, opened a more local-style seafood joint dubbed Seafood Sally's in the Carrollton neighborhood. Though Marjie's menu features Southeast Asian-influenced street food with lots of coal-fired cooking, their second restaurant is all about the "catch of the day," with fresh-caught fish served fried or blackened, boiled blue crabs and Gulf shrimp, and shucking raw Gulf oysters by the dozen. Some Southeast Asian flavors can still be seen in the peripherals at Seafood Sally's, such as their "secret" chili butter that can be added to anything, a nuoc cham mignonette served alongside horseradish and cocktail sauce with their raw oysters, and their "zippy" slaw. Red and white shredded cabbage are tossed with carrots, fresh basil, and a punch of tartness and heat reminiscent of kimchi. You'll be surprised when this unassuming side becomes a feature among your seafood feast.
Over on Freret Street, High Hat Cafe is a corner spot serving Southern cuisine with a Mississippi slant. Launched over a decade ago by Adolfo Garcia and Chip Apperson, this neighborhood gem has become something of a classic with its rich chicken and andouille gumbo, New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp and Delta hot tamales. Along with house made pimento mac 'n' cheese, sweet potato salad, and braised greens, High Hat offers a gorgeous, fresh coleslaw. It's a little on the sweeter side, with lots of finely shredded red and white cabbage, as well as green onion, tossed in a mayo-based dressing. It's a side that goes perfectly with their crispy fried catfish and hush puppies.
Company Burger, another Freret Street favorite owned and operated by New Orleans-native Chef Adam Biderman, offers a slaw side along with its popular thin-patty, diner-like burgers. Launched in 2011, this incredibly popular burger joint has a serious side menu to be reckoned with, from tater tots and red onion rings to pork rinds and pimento cheese, including a killer slaw with lots of shredded cabbage, creamy mayo, and spicy jalapeno.
Launched in 2016, by local chef Aaron Burgau (co-owner of Uptown restaurant Patois) and Marc Bonifacic, Central City BBQ is a great spot for a quick weekday lunch or weekend family outings, with award-winning smoked wings, rib tips, pit house salads, and smoked meats by the pound. Among other sides like smoky-sweet pit house beans and spoon-bread, Central City BBQ offers a spicy Cajun slaw with lots of shredded white cabbage tossed in a mayo-based dressing and Cajun seasonings: smoked paprika, white and black pepper, garlic powder, thyme, and cayenne.
Though these are only a few of our city's exceptional slaw sides, it seems you can find it almost anywhere lately, topping your favorite fried chicken sandwich, filling a fish taco, or wrapped inside a smoked-meat egg roll. At Birdy's Behind the Bower on Magazine Street, Chef Marcus Woodham features a "country slaw" with thick pieces of pickled carrot, cabbage, and bell peppers, while Mason Hereford's celebrated Turkey and the Wolf uses a simple, tangy coleslaw to top their mind-blowing collard melt. Such a refreshing, veggie-laden condiment should be found on almost every menu in town, don't you think? Perhaps it already is…