Three Muses' Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich [Kim Ranjbar]

Food Under $20 in New Orleans: Live Music Venue Food

07:00 April 10, 2024
By: Kim Ranjbar

Groove 'n' Grub

Food and music in New Orleans are inexorably intertwined.

Life in New Orleans is like a never-ending festival. We start each New Year with Carnival and Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's and St. Joseph's tumble right into Hogs for the Cause, the Tennessee Williams Fest, and the Congo Square Rhythms Fest. All that (and so much more) lead us to where we are now, on the verge of another jam-packed spring celebration with the French Quarter Festival and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the oh so massive justification for jubilation that spans two extended weekends.

For visitors, festivals are a fantastic way to groove and grub in one convenient location, sampling some of the best music and food our city has to offer. But those of us who live in New Orleans can take our sweet time, visiting live music venues—who also sport some spectacular eats—one by one.

First, hop on a green streetcar and ride until it nearly reaches the end-of-the-line on Carrollton. Step off at the Willow Street exit and amble a block towards the river to Carrollton Station. This self-ascribed, neighborhood "juke joint" lies catty-corner from the streetcar barn, where all green streetcars go to sleep. For nearly half a century, Carrollton Station has been slinging dive-bar drinks, hosting live music, and has generally featured the usual bar fare including burgers, wings, and fries, but now there's something a little bit different there.

[Courtesy of Bertie's Intergalatic Diner]

Trey Rintala, former sous chef at the now defunct Meauxbar, has been serving cosmically unique eats under the guise of Bertie's Intergalatic Diner, a mobile kitchen installation that's popped up at Zony Mash, Twelve Mile Limit, and has had a semi-permanent home at Carrollton Station five days a week. Bertie's brilliance glimmers in dishes of crisp, handmade pizza rolls with caramelized onion and Gruyere (take that, Totino's), a croque "ma'dang" with brisket and Havarti, and pork belly and apple "pigs in a blanket" that's wrapped in puff pastry and served with fermented honey mustard. Pair any of Rintala's dishes, which are served hot in a paper boat, with music from Sweet Magnolia Brass Band or Jolie and the Drifters. You'll feel just like you're festin', minus the port-o-potties and lack of air conditioning.

[Courtesy of Rivershack Tavern]

Just down the river a-ways in Jefferson Parish, "there's a funky little shack, with a tin roof-rusted." All B-52-ing aside, the Rivershack Tavern is so much more than a road-side attraction. It's a neighborhood restaurant, bar, and live music venue created from a century-old building (that has always been a grocery or a bar) with original 1940s hand-painted advertisements. Musicians performing at the Rivershack include local guitarist Clay Diamond, Ted Hefko and Brandon Brunious, and Refried Confusion Brass Band, but affordable foodstuffs always steal the show. Try a shrimp remoulade salad with fresh romaine and crisp fried green tomatoes, an alligator sausage po-boy, or a "Trudy Ages" corned beef sandwich with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and 1000 Island dressing.

[Courtesy of Bayou Bar]

For a little more "shmance," take your pants (and the rest of your bespoke suit) back down the line to the Pontchartrain Hotel. While a bougie bed at this historic hotel will set you back a thick slice of bread, you can still enjoy great food and phenomenal music for a shockingly modest price at the Bayou Bar. Wrapped in dark wood and painted panels depicting the flora and fauna so abundant in the swamps of Louisiana, it's hard not to feel a little spoiled. When Jordan Anderson is playing piano (or Peter Harris is behind the bass) and the server brings out the bar's 1&1 Burger with melted white cheddar and smoky hickory sauce, or a wild mushroom grilled cheese sandwich with manchego and truffle oil, you'll feel like a million bucks for less than $20.

Way across town on the edge of the French Quarter lies the almost-endangered Buffa's Bar & Lounge. For 85 years, this bar has hunkered on the corner of Esplanade Avenue and Burgundy Street. Over time, it has become famous for its friendly staff, vivacious live music, and comfort food. Get to tappin' your toes with musicians including Alex McMurray and Susan Cowsill, Tom McDermott and Aurora Nealand, or the Washboard Chazz Blues Trio, but make sure to fill your belly first with a patty melt on rye, a huge platter of red beans and rice, or a spicy, half-pound "Dark Side" burger doused in Buffa's original Chuck sauce and topped with sliced, melty American cheese.

Not far from Buffa's, there's Frenchmen Street, an exuberant musical corridor featuring many of the city's hottest clubs from Blue Nile to the Spotted Cat. One such musical mainstay is Three Muses. Owned and operated by local musician Miss Sophie Lee, the popular Marigny venue hosts musicians every night of the week, including performers such as Big Jon Atkinson, synth drummer Simon Lott, Becky Lynn Blanca, and the Bad Penny Pleasure Makers. Grab a drink at the bar, pull up a chair, and let the music wash over you while munching on their crispy Korean Fried Chicken sandwich with spicy jalapeño and creamy cabbage slaw. Maybe also opt for Ms. Moon's bulgogi rice bowl, loaded with thinly-sliced marinated beef, kimchi, spinach, and ssamjang.


Madame, S'il Vous Plait

A simple ham 'n' cheese sandwich transforms into a lavish brunch with a little heat, a creamy, buttery sauce, and a bright yellow egg on top, sunny-side up.

The crunchy croque monsieur—a toasted ham and cheese sandwich doused in béchamel sauce—was invented in a French bistro over a century ago, but it took over 60 years before someone came up with the brilliant idea to top it with a fried egg. Some people believe the madame to be the superior version. While the egg is the only real difference between a croque monsieur and a croque madame, it's hard to imagine eating the sandwich without it. The béchamel's richness increases tenfold with the creamy, velvety yolk. This magnificently simple, but oh-so decadent 'wich is regularly available, and amazingly affordable, at some of the best restaurants in New Orleans.

Patois Croque Madame [Kim Ranjbar]

Launched by chefs and restaurateurs Aaron Burgau and Leon Touzet back in 2007, Patois is an charming, neighborhood restaurant located on the corner of Laurel and Webster streets. It's one of those places you hope will always be there with the same amazing flavors and atmosphere it's been offering since day one, and for the past 16 years, it has delivered. Everyone has their favorites from Patios, dishes they return to again and again, from the pillowy gnocchi and moreish mussels to the five spice duck confit salad, but if you're there for brunch (and it's not already your favorite), try a Cuban Madame. Toasted WildFlour sourdough slices are layered with ham, smoked pork, tangy Gruyere, Dijon mustard, and bread and butter pickles, and then topped with a creamy manchego "custard" (an egg-based savory sauce) and a sunny-side up egg. The sandwich is also served with a mound of crispy shoestring fries, making up a magical morning meal that will only set you back $18.

Birdy's Behind the Bower on Magazine Street is a glorious spot for breakfast and lunch, especially when sitting outside on the covered patio during a warm spring day. Known for their all-day brunch menu and cocktail deals, the Lower Garden District restaurant is frequently packed, especially on the weekends, so be sure to reserve a table ahead of time. Though you could pair your espresso martini with a fried chicken biscuit or avocado toast, this time go for a croque madame instead. Toasted slices of brioche are piled high with thinly-sliced Chisesi ham and topped with Gruyẻre custard, fresh thyme, and a golden-yolked fried egg. Served with a spring mix side salad, Birdy's sandwich rings in at only $16.

Toup's Meatery Croque Madame [Kim Ranjbar]

Less than a hop and a skip down N. Carrollton Avenue from the grand oaks at City Park lies Toups' Meatery, celebrity chef Isaac Toups' flagship restaurant. As is evidenced by the name, Toups' is a meat-forward kind of joint that serves brunches filled with crispy turkey necks, pig ears, and chicken fried pork chops with sausage gravy, but they also offer a delicious croque for only $18. Served on sliced and toasted, WildFlour sourdough, their sandwich is layered with smoked ham and smothered in Mornay sauce (béchamel with Gruyere cheese) and finished on top with a beautifully-fried egg.

Where else would you find a killer croque but at a spot called Scrambled? Located on the corner of Laurel and Octavia streets in Uptown, Scrambled was recently launched by chef/owner Steven Green in early 2023. Every weekend, the place is packed with people clamoring for Green's red velvet waffles with vanilla cream cheese or spicy chilaquiles with Moroccan-braised chicken and cilantro crema. Though it's really hard to resist the Bananas Foster French Toast, go for a ride on the savory side with his version of the classic croque featuring thinly-sliced and seared honey ham layered with nutty provolone in between toasted sourdough spread with garlic aioli. The whole sandwich is topped with a creamy Mornay sauce, sunny-side up eggs, and a truffle oil drizzle. Served with a spring mix side salad loaded with grape tomatoes and crumbled cotija, Scrambled's croque will only set you back $16, so add a creamy latte, and breakfast is served.

Scrambled Croque Madame [Kim Ranjbar]

There's no way that Toast should go without mention. Chef, bakester, and restaurateur Cara Benson owns and operates this booming local breakfast chain—now located in Gentilly, the French Quarter, and a newly-launched spot across the river in Gretna. Any and all of the Toasts offer incredible fare that will not only break your morning fast in a spectacularly-good way, it will send you home fat and happy with your wallet decidedly not worse for wear. Many have frequently waxed poetic about the fried chicken and waffles with maple syrup and cayenne butter, coconut cream stuffed French toast, and breath-taking B.L.T.E.s, so it should be a surprise to no one that their croque madame deserves mention as well. Only offered at French Toast on Decatur Street, this sandwich is a massive "meater-piece" with a thick, grilled slice of Chisesi ham and gooey melted Gruyere sandwiched between toasted slices of house-made sourdough. The monster croque is topped with creamy béchamel and not one, but two sunny-side eggs and served with crispy-edged, buttery Lyonnaise potatoes and a simple salad for only $15. #werenotworthy


Ready to Roll

If you want some of New Orleans' most-coveted Vietnamese egg rolls, you'll have to be willing to travel.

Vietnamese food has so much to offer, from piping-hot bowls of soul-satisfying phở, to grilled pork with rice noodles (bún thịt nướng), washing it all down with a strong, yet sweet cà phê sữa đá. It's a cuisine that never fails to inspire long sighs and contented smiles. Perhaps it might seem almost unfair, then, to wax poetic about what is possibly the least hearth-full (or healthful?) dish in Vietnamese cuisine, but there aren't many able to resist the pull of those magically-crisp egg rolls.

Ba Chi Canteen's Egg Rolls [Kim Ranjbar]

There are two main characteristics that set Vietnamese-style egg rolls apart from the pack. The first, and most obvious, is the crisp, bubbly texture of the wrap. This singularly chewy crunch is achieved by using moistened rice paper wrappers (the same used for spring rolls) and by deep-frying the rolls twice—once during preparation and then again right before serving.

The second defining aspect of these ravishing rolls is the sauce. Isn't it always about the sauce? Not all dipping sauces are equal, and some might say nước mắm, also called nước chấm, rises above the pack. A delicate balance of sweet, spice, and tang elevating every bite to new heights, the sauce makes a delightful match with so much more than egg rolls. Fish sauce is the key to its savory flavor, and, depending upon where you go, it's also accented with citrus such as lime or lemon, rice wine vinegar, and garnished with thinly-sliced red chilis, pickled carrots, and white radish.

Luckily for us, there is no shortage of stellar Vietnamese food in New Orleans. If you ask any local for their favorite spot, you'll likely get a short list depending upon which part of town you might be in. Now, quite a few spots make their egg rolls with wheat flour-based wrappers. We can't blame them as the preparation process is less onerous, the roll stays crispy for longer, and it still produces a gobble-worthy egg roll, but we're looking for those crisp, bubbly rice wrappers—right? Right.

Pho Bang is one such spot to find these bubbly beauties and there's five locations across the Greater New Orleans area to choose from. The restaurant was originally founded in New Orleans East by Yen Vu in the mid-80s, but the family business has spread far beyond the confines of Louisiana to Texas, New York, and Montréal. Since each location is run by different branches of the family, the flavors and recipes tend to vary. At the shop along the Westbank Expressway in Gretna, however, the egg rolls alone are worth a return trip. Packed with sweet and savory ground pork and fried crisp right before serving, these are always hot when they come to the table and they always disappear within minutes. Pho Bang (at this location) also professed to make their own fish sauce, one that's loaded with a flurry of carrot and sprinkled with just enough chili to warm your tongue.

Tan Dinh's Egg Rolls [Kim Ranjbar]

Only a few blocks away, Tan Dinh is a restaurant oft-brought to local lips when discussing the merits of Vietnamese cuisine. Beloved by Westbank denizens and beyond, the restaurant's atmosphere is delightfully "old-school," and the menu features a few dishes not generally found in fast-casual, lunchtime-oriented eateries: lemongrass pork skewers and battered, deep-fried pork spare ribs. Most important to this discussion are their lovely, crisp rolls, stuffed with a combination of ground pork, carrots, wood ear mushrooms, and rice noodles. A lot of things have changed at Tan Dinh over the years, but that particular dish has not.

Like so many New Orleans restaurants, it's all in the family, which brings us to Ba Chi Canteen. Literally a sibling restaurant to Tan Dinh, Ba Chi Canteen opened on Maple Street in the Riverbend nearly a decade ago but has recently moved its digs to a larger space on 8th Street in Metairie, near Lakeside Mall. Owner and chef Phát Vũ has, from the beginning, liked to play riffs on traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Case in point is his signature "Bacos" featuring a soft, bao-like "shell" stuffed with everything from chargrilled pork to fried catfish. Like Tan Dinh, Ba Chi Canteen also serves large, crispy, rice paper egg rolls. When those rolls are loaded into a vermicelli bowl with pink-edged slices of pork, it's a match made in heaven.

[Courtesy of Elizabeth Street Cafe]

We'll wrap it up with a recent newcomer to the New Orleans Vietnamese-food scene—Elizabeth Street Cafe. Launched inside the newly renovated Hotel Saint Vincent on Magazine Street in spring 2021, the French/Vietnamese cafe and bakery offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner whether you're dining in or taking out, featuring dishes including fried egg bánh mì with pork belly and avocado, beignets with guava and strawberry jam, a sticky fried shrimp rice bowl, or chicken meatball phở (a.k.a. phở ga vien). Though Elizabeth Street Cafe's fried spring rolls are priced at a whopping $15 for two, they are crisp, rice paper-wrapped, stuffed with ginger pork sausage and Napa cabbage, and served with a bright nước mắm sauce for dipping.

How far are you willing to travel for rice paper-wrapped fried egg rolls?


Big Easy Bagels

We don't live in New York, Philadelphia, or even San Francisco, but that doesn't mean we don't deserve a good bagel.

You can grab a plastic-wrapped roll of bagels, or those bagel-like imitations, at the grocery store and call it a day, but it's a mistake to underestimate the brilliance of a well-made bagel. A great bagel has a chewy, soft interior, crisp exterior and can stand on its own—smooth and glossy—or be adorned in sesame seeds, onion, and, of course, "everything." It serves as a hearty vehicle for all kinds of toppings from the traditional schmear of cream cheese and layering of lox to, well, you name it.

As an added bonus, and, for as yet indiscernible reasons, bagels with their many add-ins tend to be lower in price than your average sandwich. Is it because it seems smaller and people complain? Are meats, cheeses, eggs, etc. less filling when loaded on a bagel as opposed to other kinds of breads? Two slices of bread average around 75 grams, whereas a bagel is typically over 100 grams, which seems like a great deal. Not to mention most shops serving bagel sandwiches really like to load them up. Mind you, we're not complaining.

Leo's Bread [Photo by Kim Ranjbar]

Take, for example, the fresh bagels to be had at Leo's Bread in Mid-City. Owner, operator, and self-taught baker (among other things) Kate Heller began her rise selling breads from the trunk of a car to vending at the Crescent City Farmers Market. The proof is in the product, as they say (do they say that?). All you have to do is head to Bell Street, squashed between Bayou Road and Esplanade Avenue, and grab some coffee and a bagel sandwich to-go. This time it's a sesame bagel with fluffy scrambled eggs, American cheese, and bacon for $9, but maybe next time you opt for a crisp, plain bagel with creamy avocado and a spicy chili crunch? It's all good.

These days you can't rightly discuss bagels in New Orleans without talking about Flour Moon. One of so many food-centric businesses born during the pandemic, Flour Moon Bagels is the creation of Breanne Kostyk, a pastry chef who's "backyard bagels," sold to friends and neighbors, steadily bloomed. Kostyk's brick and mortar version of Flour Moon Bagels opened just off the Lafitte Greenway a couple of years later. Though they also offer Hey! Coffee and bialy (a bagel-like Polish roll filled with onion), the bagels are where we're at. A Full Moon with an Everything bagel, open-faced and layered with cream cheese, smoked salmon, shaved red onion, crisp cucumbers, and tangy capers, will set you back $14, but a Harvest Moon on a pumpernickel with roasted carrot spread, nutty tahini, olives, fresh herbs, and duqqa (a Middle Eastern herb, spice, and nut condiment) is only $12.

It's oh-so fitting to find a bagelry on Freret Street. It's a corridor bursting with restaurants, growing exponentially since its "main street re-birth" a few years after Hurricane Katrina. In the eight blocks between Napoleon and Jefferson avenues, there are over 20 restaurants, and that's not including coffee shops. In the middle of the block, between Upperline and Valence Streets, lies the oh-so Humble Bagel. Initially opened (with a somewhat rocky start) in 2014 by Casey Mackintosh and Tara Mikhail, the shop offers a large range of hand-rolled bagels from plain and everything to cinnamon raisin and honey whole wheat. They also offer breakfast/brunch type sandwiches, including standouts such as a bagel (choose garlic) with eggs, sautéed mushrooms, fresh spinach, and Swiss for under $9. Oh and for only a few bucks more, grab a chocolate chip bagel (only on Sundays) slathered with peanut butter and strawberry preserves for dessert.

[Courtesy of Bywater Bakery]

Though Bywater Bakery, owned and operated by former big-time bakery boss Chaya Conrad, is known for its incredible pastries and cakes (especially those spectacular king cakes), they've also developed something of a cult following for their bagels. Every Friday, and only Friday, the bold red bakery and café on the corner of Dauphine and Independence offers a bevy of fresh boiled and baked bagels—from plain and poppy seed to Asiago cheese—with a few basic schmears. For breakfast under a 10 spot, you simply can't go wrong getting an Asiago bagel topped with bacon, eggs, and cheese, but go the extra mile with a green onion schmear while you're at it and thank us later.

Finally, another locally-loved bagel spot is Gracious Bakery. Chef Megan Forman and her husband Jay started their bakery over a decade ago in the industrial area of Gert Town. Though they've recently left the original building, they're still making the air sweeter in their locations on St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District and further Uptown on Prytania Street. Gracious' shops are typically filled with sumptuously sweet pastries, everything from cruffins and morning buns to croissants, donuts, and cookies, but they also serve hand-rolled bagels. They keep it simple, only offering everything, plain, and sesame, but they have a lovely breakfast-bagel sandwich made with house-cured salmon, lemon caper cream cheese, and thinly-sliced red onion for $12. It even comes with a side of seasonal fruit.

Don't you dare let anyone tell you it's impossible to find a good bagel in the Big Easy.


Make Mine the Special

Across the restaurant industry and its customer base, there seems to be several schools of thought surrounding specials: Where do they come from? Is it always a deal? What makes them so special?

There are all kinds of reasons a certain dish might be designated as a special. Some restaurants have day-of-the-week specials, such as red beans and rice every Monday or steak night Thursdays, and they're typically discounted and targeted towards regular customers.

Specials are also created because the chef or restaurant owner was able to acquire a unique ingredient and they want to show it off in a new recipe. Often the ingredient is one that is in limited quantities and won't keep long like a crate of soft-shell crabs or a small, backyard harvest of figs.

The least appetizing reason a restaurant might list a special is to quickly sell dishes made up of ingredients which are "on the turn." As anyone who cooks will know, we all have those items in the refrigerator that scream, "Use us now or you will never have the chance again." Restaurants have the same problem, and, like us, they hate any level of food waste. Throwing out food not only makes for bad business, it's not sustainable. In the U.S. alone, we're tossing out an estimated 30-40% of the food produced each year, all of this when more than 34 million people are food insecure.

Crawlins Shrimp Burger [Kim Ranjbar]

All kinds of restaurants offer specials, from white tablecloth affairs to the food trucks parked outside your office building, but it's frequently the mom-and-pop shops who offer the most bang for your buck. Just take, for example, the munchable lunch specials at Crawlin's Seafood. This relatively new Terrytown restaurant was launched concurrently (and wisely) with the start of crawfish season in the spring of 2022 by cousins Jimmy and Anthony Nguyen. While Crawlin's focus lies in its Viet-Cajun style of boiled local seafood, they also offer incredibly affordable, stick-to-your-ribs lunch specials all for $11.95. Regular day-of-the-week specials include smothered pork chop on Tuesdays and spaghetti and (mammoth) meatballs on Wednesdays, but every now and again there's a little something different such as a deep-fried shrimp "burger" and a pile of their battered, Cajun-seasoned fries.

On the 700 block of Baronne Street, just around the corner from the bougie South Market District, lies a restaurant that epitomizes the mom-and-pop called Leni's Cafe. Open for over half a century, the tiny diner, owned and operated by Pete Patselikos (at least since 1978), is frequented by people of all collars working in the area hungry for comfort food. Like any diner worth its salt, Leni's offers breakfast and lunch fundamentals—eggs, grits, hash browns, biscuits, bacon, po-boys, sandwiches, and salads—with no plate (aside from the seafood po-boys) exceeding the $11 mark. What really stands out are the numerous daily plate lunch specials. There are no fewer than seven or eight per day, Monday through Friday. We're talking dishes such as Monday's chicken fried steak with red beans and rice ($11.50), veal parmesan with spaghetti and tomato salad ($11.50) on Tuesday, a stuffed bell pepper served with butter beans and beet salad on Wednesday ($11.50), and so forth.

DiMartino's Poboy Special [Kim Ranjbar]

Back across the river in Algiers, Terrytown, and Marrero (they also have one on the Northshore in Covington) lies three locations of DiMartino's, a Westbank lunch staple that's been in business since 1975. Though they're known for their "famous" muffulettas, DiMartino's serves a lot of New Orleans-Italian lunch fare from meatball sandwiches and eggplant parmigiana to fried oyster po-boys and seafood platters. One of their best deals, a regular special, if you will, is the 5-inch po-boy combos, so you can get a small muffuletta or a roast beef po-boy with a brimming cup of rich, hearty gumbo, and a mound of their highly-coveted potato salad for under $15.

Li'l Dizzy's Okra and Fried Chicken [Courtesy Li'l Dizzy's]

We're finishing with a restaurant that has been featured in numerous movies and TV shows, whether they're about New Orleans or not—Li'l Dizzy's Cafe. Located in the Tremé neighborhood on Esplanade Avenue, this iconic local cafe, owned and operated by the Baquet family, has not let fame go to their heads. They still offer great deals on foods "hot out the pot" with daily specials such as red beans and rice with a slice of cornbread on Mondays for $8.25, or you can add two pieces of their crispy fried chicken, bringing the total to a whopping $13.50. While red beans are always a worthwhile, belly-filling plate, we save our ducats for Thursdays special of savory smothered okra with rice and fried chicken for only $15.25. Is it lunchtime yet?


On the Side

Exploring cornbread in New Orleans, arguably one of the most Southern of sides.

Perfect with a spicy bowl of chili or crisp, fried catfish and collard greens, cornbread is that ubiquitous Southern side that always seems to be taken for granted. But it is missed when it's not there. By and large, most cornbreads are made from five basic ingredients: cornmeal, flour, baking soda, butter, egg, and buttermilk—a relatively inexpensive staple. Some people do love to jazz it up and make it their own, and the variations run the gamut from savory and spicy to so sweet you could eat it for dessert.

Cornbread can most frequently be found at home, whether your maw maw is crumbling it in her buttermilk for breakfast, or your dad is filling a cast-iron pan to put on the grill. That doesn't mean our restaurants are bereft of this corny bounty. In fact, some are so tasty, you might be encouraged to up your cornbread game at home.

Meril Pineapple Upside-Down Cornbread [Kim Ranjbar]

Case in point, the ever popular Pineapple Upside-Down Cornbread at Meril. It's really hard to go wrong with any dish at any of Emeril Lagasse's restaurants, but Meril (named after the celebrity chef's youngest daughter) was created to be a little bit different. Not only is it more affordable than most of Emeril's high-end establishments, the menu mainly focuses on small yet shareable plates inspired by flavors from all over the world. Dishes include roasted carrots with tahini and spiced honey, Brussels sprouts drizzled in a nuac cham, and spicy rigatoni with caramelized onions and Pecorino Romano cheese. Along with their fried turkey necks (only $13), one of Meril's signature items is their sweet and savory pineapple upside-down cornbread served with a bacon marmalade, and, we promise, it's one you won't want to miss. Yes it might be a little over the top with one large "muffin" ringing in at $9, but it only takes one taste to know it's money well-spent.

If you want a little more bang for your buck, head down to one of Bywater's favorite breakfast joints—Elizabeth's. Chef Byron Peck has fully embraced the former owner's creed of "real food done real good," offering scrumptious plates of creative cuisine—all made from scratch. Located on the corner of Gallier and Chartres streets, Elizabeth's features a comfortable, super-casual atmosphere with killer cocktails and food that'll leave you more than satisfied. Among dishes including red neck eggs served on fried green tomatoes, as well as Bananas Foster French toast, Chef Peck also offers fried chicken served atop a crisp, thick cornbread waffle, all drizzled with sweet cane syrup for only $16.

Not only is it ridiculously affordable and tasty, and features a kitchen helmed by talented chef Martha Wiggins, Cafe Reconcile, is a place where you can help at-risk youth in New Orleans while enjoying a soul food lunch at the same time. Located in Central City on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, Cafe Reconcile is a community-supported "incubator" where young adults are encouraged to grow and hopefully go on to become skilled entrepreneurs in New Orleans and the rest of the world. Visit for lunch Tuesday through Friday and enjoy a bevy of good eats from jerk chicken and panéed pork loin to red beans and rice. Now you could add a $4 order of their buttery, spicy jalapeno cornbread to any order, or you could opt for their version of a BLT with fried green tomato, bacon, and lettuce on jalapeno cornbread toast for only $12.

Thick slabs of cornbread are frequently found in hot plates around town, from the small, pink soul-food joint Queen's Cuisine on Airline Drive in Kenner (brah) to the vegan Sweet Soulfood on North Broad. But it is interesting how it sometimes pops up where you'd least expect.

Take, for example, Marjie's Grill on South Broad. Opened nearly six years ago by Herbsaint alumns Caitlin Carney and Chef Marcus Jacobs, the Mid-City eatery is a casual spot specializing in Southeast Asian, coal-roasted inspirations such as grilled Gulf shrimp tossed in lemongrass sambal butter, melon, and papaya som tam. But you'll also find spicy boiled Mississippi peanuts tossed with cane syrup and fish sauce, as well as hot, buttered cornbread—a fat slice ringing in at $3.95 per slice.

Another unusual spot for cornbread is Willa Jean. Sure the South Market District restaurant offers all kinds of baked goods, but, somehow, it's surprising to see a quick-bread-style loaf of cornbread. It's not so surprising that this particular dish rings in at a whopping $12, but it does come with whipped sweet cream butter and Youngsville, Louisiana's own Poirer's cane syrup. And it's a dish meant to be shared between two to three people.

French Quarter "Southern bistro" Sylvain, a restaurant by the folks at LeBlanc + Smith, seems a little too highbrow for cornbread, but when you look at the rest of their menu, it actually fits in perfectly. How could Zapp's potato chip-crusted drum or short rib succotash not be well complimented by their cast-iron cornbread? Crispy and buttery on the outside, crumbly and sweet on the inside, Sylvain's cornbread is served with a spicy, Three Brothers Farm cane syrup butter. The skillet cornbread will set you back $12, but, again, it's a dish meant to be shared.

Jacques-Imo's Cornbread [Kim Ranjbar]
Finally, if you're feeling frustrated by the high cost of cornbread, you can always enjoy a dinner at the famed Jacques-Imo's on Oak Street where buttery cornbread muffins are their regular bread service, or you could always make it at home.


Hop[p]in' Good Eats

We're bubbling over with breweries from taprooms to microbreweries and brewpubs. At last, New Orleans has it all. Though swillin' brews and other boozy beverages may be one of our city's favorite pastimes, enjoying good food frequently competes for the top slot.

As one might expect, many breweries are focused solely on their beers, leaving food options for pop-ups and trucks, but there are some brewpubs crafting tasty grub as well. For clarification, with prices the way they are these days, having a craft brew with lunch is bound to go over a $20 budget, but maybe we can bubble over a little?

Bywater Brew Pub [Image by Kim Ranjbar]

When Bywater Brew Pub opened nearly three years ago on the corner of Royal and Montegut streets, Chef Anh Luu was behind the wheel offering Viet-Cajun fare with a flare. Though Luu has gone forth to explore new culinary adventures, the brewery bubbles on, and, while not quite as fanciful, the grub is still good. Budgeting in at least one brew, such as a pint of their "snappy" Stimulus Czech pilsner, you can still swing a giant, soft-baked Bavarian pretzel with beer cheese or cut it close with a grilled sausage sando served with fries. Speaking of fries, "my wife's salad" also comes in close, with fresh lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes, topped with a hefty helping of crispy, battered French fries and shredded cheddar cheese.

Located on Decatur Street, the Crescent City Brewhouse has been the French Quarter's sole microbrewery for the past 32 years. It continues their founding tradition of brewing distinctive lagers and award-winning house brews, including Pilsner, Red Stallion, Weiss Beer, and Black Forest. Their abundant choices are more than flight-worthy. Pair a pint with an order of fried alligator with remoulade for dipping, a pub burger on a pretzel bun, or Wolf's German sausage plate featuring steamed pork sausages, sauerkraut and Creole mustard.

Brewery Saint X [Image by Randy Schmidt]

The restaurant scene in the bougie South Market District has been bouncing since it debuted, but then something really hoppy happened with the recent launch of Brewery Saint X, the sister establishment to the equally new 'cue spot nearby, Devil Moon BBQ. Naturally, the brewery is taking advantage of the Devil next door with dishes that include smoked chicken wings and pulled pork sandwiches on brioche. Add a 16 oz. can of Swarm Czech dark lager or Time Goes pilsner, and you can stay under budget, but you can only have one. If you don't need to limit your funds, the world is your lager.

Calliope Beer Works is the shiniest of suds on the New Orleans brewery scene, as it just opened a few months ago in July. Owner and brew master Richard Szydlo launched his brewpub inside the former Cowbell spot at the river end of Oak Street with the intention of offering "food-friendly, flavorful beers," and it seems he has delivered. Szydlo's initial Calliope creations have just become ready for the tap: an IPA, rye pale ale, Belgian blonde, and an ESB (English bitter amber). But the menu has been in swing since day one, offering "fried fungi fingers" made with portabello mushrooms and queso for dipping, hot honey-drizzled chicken and waffle sandwiches, and crab and watermelon salad.

Port Orleans Brewing Co. on Tchoupitoulas Street has been sporting New York-based Avo Taco as a permanent kitchen installment since 2020. This came after hosting a bevy of successful pop-ups for years' prior. Featuring a "fun, fast-casual" environment, Avo Taco offers a large menu, with everything from carnitas nachos and street corn with cotija and Tajin, to quesadillas, burgers, and—yes—tacos. A couple of "cowboy" tacos with BBQ-braised pork and crispy onions, and 10 oz Dorada Mexican-style lager should see you well-satiated and under the mark.

Urban South Brewery [Image Courtesy of Urban South Brewery]
Finally, yet another Tchoupitoulas denizen, Urban South Brewery, will be celebrating its 8th year in business this March, just after Mardi Gras. Led by Jacob Landry, the brightly-branded brews have been pleasing so many palates and winning all the awards, they were able to launch a second location in Houston. After a year-long stint in Europe, Landry wanted to "share the gospel of good beer" back in his hometown. Urban South's Americanized European-style brews tend to be fruity and light, from their Grapefruit Holy Roller hazy juicy IPA to the fresh Paradise Park American lager. At their New Orleans location on the LGD end of Tchoupitoulas Street, Urban South has a semi-permanent Urban Smash food truck offering plates of Noni's Chicken Sandwich: buttermilk-battered and fried chicken breast topped with a tangy red cabbage slaw, LCG beer pickles, and Noni's pepper jelly; BBQ bacon burger with smoked gouda; and cheeseburger egg rolls with Tchoup sauce. While you can add a can of brew to several of the sandwiches offered and still make it under budget, Urban Smash also offers one heck of a lunch deal during the week. Just order an Urban Smash burger with a side of fries, and you get a pint of one of their core brews for free.


Flustered by Custard


Creamy, cool, smooth, and eggy, custard is often (but not always) sweet, and sadly ephemeral as its undeniable deliciousness will quickly vanish from your plate.


There aren't enough words in the English language to describe the ethereal, yet luscious, sensory experience that is custard. Whether it be a deep-fried donut, piped to almost bursting with Bavarian cream or strawberry waffles drizzled in crème anglais, custard has the magical ability to elicit feelings of utter joy and even rapture, especially in the uninitiated.


There's a special kind of magic that happens when egg yolks come together with sugar and milk. It's almost like they were meant to be a romantic triangle resulting in an unusually spectacular coalescence. One would be forgiven in thinking that it was a recipe gifted by the gods—ambrosia enjoyed by immortal and mortal alike.

Vanilla Crème Brûlée [Kim Ranjbar]

If there's one type of custard we're most familiar with in New Orleans, it would have to be crème brûlée. A simple, elegant dessert born in France sometime in the late 1600s, crème brûlée became a shining symbol of indulgence in the 1980s and, to many, has never lost its luster. While there 's absolutely nothing wrong with classic vanilla, such as Justin Devillier's version at his French Quarter restaurant Justine, it's always a treat when chefs offer their own riffs. Take, for example, the tropical coconut milk and mango crème brûlée at Fritai, a Haitian restaurant in Tremé. For a mere $8, your tongue is transported to a tropical island in the clouds. It should come with a warning as the post-brûlée blues can be rough. It might be best to order two.

Floating Island [Kim Ranjbar]

Speaking of islands, have you ever had a floating one? The île flottante, or floating island, is a fluff of steamed meringue served atop a silky pool of crème anglais, a custard sauce so dreamy, you'll want to bring the plate to your lips and drink it. Travel to the island requires a jaunt to Bayou St. John where you'll sit under the trees in the Parisian-style, outdoor dining room at Café Degas and after (or before) treating yourself to garlicky escargot or imported cheeses with fresh berries, dip your spoon into a marshmallowy meringue drifting in a pool of cool, creamy custard sauce. Don't worry, the gratuitous licking of spoons and fingers is required for proper consumption.


We're going into Cajun country with this next custard creation—the magical, mystical tarte à la bouillie. This is a genuine Louisiana-born dessert featuring a sugar cookie-like crust and a thick, silky vanilla custard. Granted, you can find several versions of this unassuming, yet utterly fulfilling custard tart, but our money is on one found in Algiers Point. Check the Appetite Repair Shop menu group for regular updates on Chef Pete Vasquez's unique menus as the tarte à la bouillie makes a regular appearance. We promise it's worth the trip. Cool, velvety, and oh-so smooth, Vasquez's double-tall version is sure to make you swoon, especially after a to-go dinner of grilled sourdough with burrata and summer tomatoes, or Zapp's-crusted redfish with Parmesan cream rice.


Napoleon [Angelo Brocato]

Since we've dipped our toes into pastry, we may as well go ahead and dive all the way in with a quick trip to Angelo Brocato, the iconic, 100+ year-old Italian ice cream parlor in Mid-City. By all means, enjoy an espresso with a biscotti or a creamy-cool scoop of their Sicilian pistachio nut gelato, but the custard-based amusements don't end there. Try a classic Napoleon or mille-feuille with thick pastry cream oozing between layers of buttery puff pastry with every bite or the lovely zeppole di San Giuseppe, a St. Joseph's Day treat made with fried dough filled with, you guessed it, delicious custard.

Pavlita [Ayu Bakehouse]

Since the door has opened into the wonderful, custardy world of pastry cream, the possibilities are almost endless. Pick a local patisserie, whether it be Gracious Bakery, La Boulangerie, La Petite Sophie (the list goes on), and you're bound to find an apt egg-sample. Just take Ayu Bakehouse, a self-described modern bakery on Frenchmen Street. Opened in the Marigny just over a year ago, Ayu has been drawing in neighbors and visitors with their chocolate babka knots and seeded sourdough. Over the summer, they dropped a precious pavlita—a mini pavlova, AKA meringue topped with mascarpone pastry cream and fresh berries.


Finally, in New Orleans, one of our most celebrated ways to enjoy custard is during Mardi Gras when it is piped generously into a king cake. While it may be difficult, it's upholding tradition to bide your time until king cake is "in season," from King's Day to Mardi Gras. Then, and only then, can you walk into almost any grocery store and score a glorious king cake, particularly one bursting at the seams with Bavarian cream, a custard-based filling made with a crème anglais base, thickened with gelatin and made airy with whipped cream. Just be sure to mark your calendar for January 6th.


Makin' Lunch at the Market: Cool Deals at the Hot Bar

It's always busy around the hot bar at these local grocery stores.

While makin' groceries and preparing your own meals is undoubtedly the most affordable way to go, sometimes you need a break. The drudgery of cooking every single day for every single meal can wear a person down. Going out to eat or getting a pizza delivered is always an option, but when was the last time you hit up the hot bar? Sneeze guards and Styrofoam boxes may not be the sexiest way to dine, but the food is good, plentiful, and perfect for anyone seeking a break from the mealtime grind while simultaneously trying to stay under budget.

Marc and Darlene Robért opened their first Robért Fresh Market in Metairie on the corner of Transcontinental and W. Esplanade almost 30 years ago. Their vision was a neighborhood market offering fresh local produce, quality prepared foods, and gourmet products, and they succeeded. Today, Robért Fresh Market has six locations, five in the Greater New Orleans area, and, in 2018, they opened their first store in Baton Rouge. Though each store has their own, in-house chef, there's quite a bit of ado around the hot bar feasts to be had at their S. Claiborne Avenue location. A cook who could easily have his own successful digs, the chef at this particular Robért's hot bar works hard on the daily to present New Orleans-style spreads—we're talking fried chicken, crawfish cornbread, mac 'n' cheese, collard greens, and crisp-fried catfish filets. Like many grocery stores, you can fill up your box by the pound, and at Robért's (as it is fondly referred to) it's only $9.99. Just try to make it home without opening the box.

Robert's [Kim Ranjbar]

Everywhere across the country, people tend to appreciate establishments with longevity, but in New Orleans one might believe that to be doubly so. Case in point, Uptown grocery store Langenstein's just celebrated their centennial last year. Located on Arabella Street, the neighborhood market originally opened (just down the street) back in 1922, and now they have three more locations in the GNO. Today, you'll find a hot bar in the back serving up specials with everything from red beans and rice, and fried chicken to spaghetti and meatballs, or BBQ. At Langenstein's, the hot bar features prepared foodstuffs for $8.99 per pound, except on Fridays when the price goes to $9.99, which makes sense. After all, who wants to cook dinner on a Friday?

Launched on Metairie Road by Sinesio Canseco in 2005, Canseco's is a relatively new local market on the scene, one that now features five locations: Metairie Road in "ole Metry," Esplanade Avenue in Bayou St. John, Fillmore Avenue in Gentilly, in Arabi on St. Claude, and the most recent opening on the corner of South Carrollton Avenue and Oak Street near the Riverbend. All locations feature a hot bar and specials vary from store to store. For example, just recently the Metairie and Fillmore markets had a steak night with rice, veggies, and cooked-to-order steak for $14.99. Mostly, the hot bar has goodies such as fried and baked chicken, jambalaya pasta, mac 'n' cheese, fresh steamed veggies and more. Hot plates range from $10.99 for chicken to $13.99 for seafood, both served with two sides.

Big Easy Fresh Market [Kim Ranjbar]

There may only be one, but we'd be happy to see more. When Big Easy Fresh Market opened right before the pandemic began in early 2020, it was the biggest thing to hit New Orleans since hand-made tortillas. Offering a packed produce section, one created to shame all others, this unique grocery store has a large selection of Latino and Middle Eastern fare and one hell of a hot bar. From the usual rotisserie chicken and fried catfish, to glorious tamales, tostadas, beautiful beef stews, Spanish rice, braised oxtail and yucca, you'll be blown away, especially when you go overboard and fill a box for two (one that lasted through three meals) for only $18.99. Generally though, the hot bar is $9.50 per pound. Located on the corner of Canal and Broad Street, you'll want to get your lunch early as the line grows long before you can say stuffed bell peppers.

Finally there's the jewel of the Westbank, Hong Kong Market. Unless you count the Peking ducks dangling behind the plexiglass as a "hot bar," this popular grocery store on Behrman Highway technically doesn't count, but you can bet your last yuan on a delicious, hot, freshly made meal wrapped and ready to go in their deli section. Just get there before 11 a.m., or nearly everything will be gone—we're talking fresh bao with assorted stuffings, vermicelli bowls (replete with lots of fish sauce), seaweed or bamboo-wrapped zongzi, and much, much more, all at prices to make your pocket smile. If you show up late and they look wiped out, just walk up to the counter and order a banh mi. At $5 (or less) each, they're easily the best deal for a Vietnamese po-boy in town.


Give It a S'whirl!

Local spots giving new life to the soft serve sensation.

Are you a sucker for cool, creamy whipped ice cream swirled to dizzying peaks atop a cake cone? Have you perfected the art of lapping and slurping the ripples of chocolate or vanilla (or both), carefully timing your consumption to prevent both meltage and brain freeze? Do sheer pleasure and nostalgia outweigh the added thickeners and preservatives typically found in this childhood treat? If the answer to those questions are a resounding, "Yes," you, my friend, are one of us—a lover of soft serve ice cream.

Invented almost a century ago, soft serve ice cream is one of those ephemeral foodstuffs best enjoyed on-the-spot like cotton candy or a corn dog hot out of the fryer. Often found at fairs and carnivals, roadside stands, and fast-food joints, it's the kind of dessert made to be eaten right now, as anyone who's stashed a DQ shake in their freezer "for later" can attest.

New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Soft Serve [Kim Ranjbar]

While we can always hit up McDonald's for a spur-of-the-moment swirl, that is if the machine at the Golden Arches location nearest us isn't "McBroken" (mcbroken.com), there's been a trend over the past decade where hip, new restaurants and shops around town are featuring soft serve for dessert. For die-hard lovers of the cool and creamy swirl, it's been nothing short of a boon.

It's hard to believe Mason Hereford's famed Turkey and the Wolf, has been open for nearly seven years, but it was his childlike genius and munchie-driven brilliance that seemed to kick start the nostalgia for swirl here in New Orleans. Sure, folks head into the Jackson Avenue stand for the spicy collard green melts, towering fried bologna and potato chip sandwiches, and crunchy, buried-in-blue-cheese-dressing wedge salads, but they shouldn't head back out without some soft serve. Other than tahini and date molasses drizzle or just colorful sprinkles, the vanilla soft serve toppings at Turkey and the Wolf change with Hereford's (and likely the rest of the staff's) whims, as things like key lime pie "crunk chunks," and cheddar crumbles with fried apples have made the cut. Regardless of the topping, Turkey and the Wolf's soft serve is pricier than most, but it typically won't rise over the $6 mark.

Turkey and the Wolf [Courtesy of Turkey and the Wolf]

Fresh from the sea—pardon, on the scene—is the oh-so socially and environmentally-conscious Wonderland & Sea on Tchoupitoulas Street. The cool corner spot is co-owned by trio Taylor Floy Hoffman, Jonathan Rhodes, and Chef Joel Brown who do their damnedest to offer an affordable menu using largely local ingredients, serving "just food and nothing less." They also believe in equitable employment (ie. paying a living wage) and a triple-threat of universal kindness. Even if it didn't feel good to be part of their warm-fuzzy, free to be you and me-vibes, their wonder-bird fried chicken thigh sandwich or sweet potato biscuits are bound to bring many happy returns. Though other flavors may enter the rotation in the future, right now Wonderland & Sea is keeping it simple with vanilla soft serve on a cake cone for only two bucks. They tack on another $2 to put it in a bowl (probably to pay for the environmentally-safe dish or twice the ice cream?), but either way it's still a dessert that won't hurt.

Wonderland and Sea [Kim Ranjbar]

Soft serve gets a smidge pricier at Mochinut, an international chain which has, at long last, made its way to Louisiana. Whether you visit the store in Metairie, or their latest in Harvey, the California-born franchise offers that unique mashup of Japanese mochi and donuts to create a chewy, bubbly mochinut, a pastry which was first dreamed into being out in Hawaii. Also on the menu at Mochinut is the Korean dog, a corn dog-like creation using a rice flour batter with fun additions including mozzarella cheese, Doritos, and fried potatoes. If that isn't enough to draw you in for a bite, Mochinut also features soft serve ice cream. "Joy" is one of four flavors (vanilla, honey butter, strawberry lemon, or melon) swirled into a chocolate waffle cone, "bliss" is the same, but bowl-bound and festooned with boba, and "delight" is a cool swirl in a mochinut-shaped bowl which includes a mochinut of your choosing—and it's obviously the most expensive ringing in at $7. But hey, it's soft serve with a donut.

Mochinut [Kim Ranjbar]

Speaking of donuts, have you had the cafe sua da cream-filled donut at Dough Nguyener's? Recently opened in Gretna, this cafe is the latest from restaurateur Betty Archote (nee Nguyen), purveyor of Huey P.'s Pizzeria and Thanh Thanh. Along with specialty coffee drinks, baked goods, and a large menu with both breakfast and lunch offerings (Louisiana Gulf shrimp toast with crab meat anyone?), the 5th Street spot also features Blue Bunny vanilla "swirl freeze," a.k.a. soft serve. Get it plain or make it both crunchy and colorful with cereal "mix-ins," such as Fruity Pebbles or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, top it with sprinkles, M&Ms, or Oreos—or both. Just be wary, a soft serve at Dough Nguyener's will set you back $6 plus 85¢ for each additional topping.

Dough Nguyener's [Kim Ranjbar]

Finally, the last place one might expect to find soft serve ice cream is a taco joint, but surprises abound at the 1940s-era gas-station-turned-restaurant Galaxie Tacos on St. Claude Avenue. Business partners Patrick Finney and Ken Jackson launched the Bywater stand almost four years ago serving cocktails and cuisine inspired by the cuisine they experienced on trips to Oaxaca and Mexico City. Not only do they make fresh tortillas (with masa imported from Mexico) filled with mouth-watering barbacoa beef cheek or adobo pork shoulder, they also sweeten the deal with some incredibly unique soft serve. Some of the more typical combos include vanilla and blueberry, mango, or Ponchatoula strawberry, but they also kick the flavor notch way up with cane syrup, mamey sapote (a large berry tree native to Mexico and Central America) and Oaxacan-spiced peanuts. Galaxie's incredibly exotic soft serve will set you back $4, but it will be worth every bite.

Galaxie Tacos [Kim Ranjbar]

For lagniappe, and because it deserves an honorable mention, if you happen to grab a burger or some thin-fried catfish at one of the GNO's seven New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood locations, you get a cone of vanilla soft serve (served yourself) for free. Now, I'd buy that for a dollar.

New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood [Kim Ranjbar]


Delicious Frappes in the Big Easy

Even for aficionados, a piping hot cup of coffee on a sweltering summer day in New Orleans is about as appealing as running a 10k in a goose down parka. Though many folks can be found sheltering inside well air-conditioned spaces where a steaming cuppa Joe can be had in relative comfort, it's altogether easier, more portable, and infinitely more fun to go frozen with a frappe.

Describing drinks chilled with ice, the name frappé is French in origin and goes as far back as the late 1800s. The French were enjoying café frappé, or iced coffee, which was sometimes served like slushes. Then, in 1957 Giannis Dristas, a representative of Nestlé, created the Greek version of café frappé, by mixing instant coffee, cold water, and ice cubes in a cocktail shaker—an invention that has forever linked Nescafé to frappé.

Fast-forward to the '90s when George Howell's Massachusetts coffee shop chain, the Coffee Connection, developed and trademarked the frappuccino, made with ice cream and cappuccino. The Coffee Connection was purchased by the Seattle-based java giant Starbucks in 1994 and the rest, as they say, is history.

These days, it seems coffee shops use the terms frappe (sounds like slap), frappé, frozen coffee, and frappuccino interchangeably to mean the same thing, though if your shop isn't Starbucks, you're likely to get slapped with a lawsuit for formally using the latter. Whatever you call it, it's a sweet, cooling delivery method for that daily caffeine injection we all adore, and, as a bonus, you don't have to go to Starbucks to get it.


[Courtesy, Coast Roast Coffee]

Though Coast Roast Coffee started in Long Beach, Mississippi, it has quickly become a beloved New Orleans brand with a café inside St. Roch Market and CR Coffee Shop on Magazine Street. Using high-quality arabica, they roast the beans in a restored, century-old roaster, resulting in a smooth, rich flavor you have to taste to appreciate. Though they do offer a regular frozen coffee, it is more than worth it to try their chocolate-covered espresso bean flavor to add an extra sweet jolt to your day.

Away over there in Arabi, there's a cool little café dubbed, most appropriately, the Coffee House. This community café started life as a drive-thru in 2015 and has now grown into a full-fledged shop, offering java brewed from Coast Roast beans as well as free WiFi, friendly faces, and handmade croissants and breakfast burritos. Their frosty frappe flavors, replete with whipped cream, are constantly changing, but they've been known to offer everything from white chocolate and cheesecake to lavender maple and (a Star Wars fan favorite) "Darth Frappe," or mocha and almond with chocolate whipped cream.

Way down in Metairie, in a busy strip mall on W. Esplanade Avenue, Evolve Coffee is mixing it up serving specialty coffees and teas, including the healthful and oh-so popular matcha. Using beans roasted by Mojo Coffee, Evolve makes not only a creamy, frozen latte, but a cool matcha-licious fusion dubbed the "frozen Evolution"—a mashup of freshly brewed espresso and ceremonial-grade matcha sourced from Japan. One day perhaps we'll see them slushify their signature rose matcha latte.

Speaking of Mojo, as one of the first coffee shops in town featuring "hand-crafted pour over methods" to the GNO, it should come as no surprise that at least one of their locations offers a fabulous frappe. In the Lower Garden District, on the corner of Magazine and Race streets, Mojo serves frozen coffees with a slew of syrups added for flavor, from salted caramel and Bananas Foster to miel (honey), Milky Way, and king cake.

Coffee giant PJ's Coffee has locations all over the country, but it calls New Orleans home as it was founded here in 1978 by Phyllis Jordan. Sourcing only "the best quality arabica beans," which are then small-batch roasted, PJ's features their own frappes, though they're called granitas (traditionally an Italian sno-ball-like dessert) and "velvet ice." Though the two are generally only offered mocha and latte-flavored, the company will occasionally release seasonal versions like Southern wedding cake with vanilla and almond or honey macadamia.

Finally, one of the most famous frappes to be had in the Crescent City would have to be the frozen cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde. Whether you're at Lakeside Mall, on Williams Boulevard in Kenner (brah), or standing in line at their iconic, green and white-awninged stand on Decatur Street in the French Quarter, it's pretty hard to beat this frozen coffee and chicory treat. Grab one to slurp while gaping at the Mighty Mississippi, and, perhaps, this summer won't seem quite so hot.


Food Under $20 in New Orleans: Queso


Like many of the world's most marvelous inventions, cheese was likely an accidental discovery.

Some lucky goat herder thousands of years ago probably was attempting to prolong the life of milk and, in the process, made it curd. Oh what a happy day that must have been. Unbeknownst to the fortunate countrywoman, her revelation would lead to the creation of hundreds of cheese varieties, thousands of dishes derived from them, and millions of "cheese-pull" videos on TikTok and Instagram.

Cheese, to those who are lactose tolerant, is easily one of the finest foodstuffs this earth has to offer. Extremely versatile, lovers of the curd can enjoy it during any meal, from breakfast to dessert, and in any form. One creamy creation, out of the hundreds of thousands (dare I say millions?) which currently exist, is a Tex-Mex phenom called queso.

Queso, or chile con queso, is a simple, yet dreamy combination of melted cheeses, cream, and chiles, one of the most perfect dips for your chip. Typically, Velveeta (which is not really a cheese, just a cheese-like product) has been the main ingredient, but many of our local restaurants step up their game adding real cheeses, or replacing the processed cheese product altogether, in their ooey-gooey, can't-stop-eating-it quesos.

Barracuda Taco Stand

Chef Brett Jones, owner and operator of Barracuda Taco Stand on Tchoupitoulas Street (now with a second location in Algiers Point), tries to make his queso as close to the classic Velveeta version as possible using real chihuahua and sharp cheddar cheeses, their own in-house hot sauce made with spicy pequin chiles, and garlic. When they first opened several years ago, Barracuda gave diners the option of enjoying their fabulous queso with flour tortilla chips or fresh-out-of-the-fryer chicharrones, but those poppin' pork skins have disappeared of late. Though some may be disappointed by their disappearance, the takeaway is that their killer queso remains.

[Emily Ferretti]

El Cucuy

Just down the street from Barracuda, El Cucuy, named after the Mexican boogeyman, is one of the city's newer taco stands. With lots of outdoor seating and colorful murals, this Mexican street food-inspired spot is choice for cocktails under the stars and the perfect pairing for a bowl of hot cheese. In their version, a Mexican hatch chile sofrito spices a bechamel made with three different cheeses (both hard and soft) and cream. The finished queso is then drizzled with arbol/guajillo chile oil and served with warm corn tortilla chips.

[El Cucuy]

El Pavo Real

Over in the Broadmoor neighborhood, Chef Lindsay McLellan and her husband Mario are slinging out all kinds of cheesy creations at their Mexican restaurant El Pavo Real, including an incredible queso. Roasted poblano peppers are blended with several cheeses (cheddar, chihuahua, queso blanca), caramelized onions, and fresh corn, and served with flour tortilla chips. Feel free to add chorizo or fresh, local crab if it's in season, but you better be hungry and share with the table or you may not be able to eat anything else.

Juan's Flying Burrito

Juan's Flying Burrito, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary, has become a New Orleans institution, a local restaurant chain inspired by the Mission Burrito joints popular in the San Francisco Bay Area. Self-touted as the "world's first Creole Taqueria," Juan's offers an eclectic menu with dishes ranging from their signature Flying Burrito stuffed with grilled steak, Gulf shrimp, and chicken to banh mi tacos with pickled daikon radish. Surprisingly enough, they keep their queso pretty simple with a creamy white, processed cheese and hatch chile combo, though they do like to top it off with sliced Cajun Chef pickled jalapeños.

[Juan's Flying Burrito]

Secret Birria Tacos

Finally, the Uptown stand dubbed Secret Birria Tacos is also a fine purveyor of cheesy bliss, among other things. As the name clearly states, this particular restaurant offers the popular Mexican dish quesabirria, which has swept the nation-crispy, cheesy, flour tortilla tacos are filled with a savory goat or beef stew meat (ie. birria) and served with a spicy, meaty tomato "au jus" for dipping. Along with those incredible tacos, Secret Birria also offers items like birria ramen, flautas, a "birriarito" and, of course, queso. Made with American white cheese and mozzarella, this particular cheese dip is topped with salsa negra (roasted tomatoes and chile peppers) and served with crispy, Cajun-seasoned cracklins.

[Kim Ranjbar]


Give It a S'whirl!

Local spots giving new life to the soft serve sensation.

Are you a sucker for cool, creamy whipped ice cream swirled to dizzying peaks atop a cake cone? Have you perfected the art of lapping and slurping the ripples of chocolate or vanilla (or both), carefully timing your consumption to prevent both meltage and brain freeze? Do sheer pleasure and nostalgia outweigh the added thickeners and preservatives typically found in this childhood treat? If the answer to those questions are a resounding, "Yes," you, my friend, are one of us—a lover of soft serve ice cream.

Invented almost a century ago, soft serve ice cream is one of those ephemeral foodstuffs best enjoyed on-the-spot like cotton candy or a corn dog hot out of the fryer. Often found at fairs and carnivals, roadside stands, and fast-food joints, it's the kind of dessert made to be eaten right now, as anyone who's stashed a DQ shake in their freezer "for later" can attest.

New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood Soft Serve [Kim Ranjbar]

While we can always hit up McDonald's for a spur-of-the-moment swirl, that is if the machine at the Golden Arches location nearest us isn't "McBroken" (mcbroken.com), there's been a trend over the past decade where hip, new restaurants and shops around town are featuring soft serve for dessert. For die-hard lovers of the cool and creamy swirl, it's been nothing short of a boon.

It's hard to believe Mason Hereford's famed Turkey and the Wolf, has been open for nearly seven years, but it was his childlike genius and munchie-driven brilliance that seemed to kick start the nostalgia for swirl here in New Orleans. Sure, folks head into the Jackson Avenue stand for the spicy collard green melts, towering fried bologna and potato chip sandwiches, and crunchy, buried-in-blue-cheese-dressing wedge salads, but they shouldn't head back out without some soft serve. Other than tahini and date molasses drizzle or just colorful sprinkles, the vanilla soft serve toppings at Turkey and the Wolf change with Hereford's (and likely the rest of the staff's) whims, as things like key lime pie "crunk chunks," and cheddar crumbles with fried apples have made the cut. Regardless of the topping, Turkey and the Wolf's soft serve is pricier than most, but it typically won't rise over the $6 mark.

Turkey and the Wolf [Courtesy of Turkey and the Wolf]

Fresh from the sea—pardon, on the scene—is the oh-so socially and environmentally-conscious Wonderland & Sea on Tchoupitoulas Street. The cool corner spot is co-owned by trio Taylor Floy Hoffman, Jonathan Rhodes, and Chef Joel Brown who do their damnedest to offer an affordable menu using largely local ingredients, serving "just food and nothing less." They also believe in equitable employment (ie. paying a living wage) and a triple-threat of universal kindness. Even if it didn't feel good to be part of their warm-fuzzy, free to be you and me-vibes, their wonder-bird fried chicken thigh sandwich or sweet potato biscuits are bound to bring many happy returns. Though other flavors may enter the rotation in the future, right now Wonderland & Sea is keeping it simple with vanilla soft serve on a cake cone for only two bucks. They tack on another $2 to put it in a bowl (probably to pay for the environmentally-safe dish or twice the ice cream?), but either way it's still a dessert that won't hurt.

Wonderland and Sea [Kim Ranjbar]

Soft serve gets a smidge pricier at Mochinut, an international chain which has, at long last, made its way to Louisiana. Whether you visit the store in Metairie, or their latest in Harvey, the California-born franchise offers that unique mashup of Japanese mochi and donuts to create a chewy, bubbly mochinut, a pastry which was first dreamed into being out in Hawaii. Also on the menu at Mochinut is the Korean dog, a corn dog-like creation using a rice flour batter with fun additions including mozzarella cheese, Doritos, and fried potatoes. If that isn't enough to draw you in for a bite, Mochinut also features soft serve ice cream. "Joy" is one of four flavors (vanilla, honey butter, strawberry lemon, or melon) swirled into a chocolate waffle cone, "bliss" is the same, but bowl-bound and festooned with boba, and "delight" is a cool swirl in a mochinut-shaped bowl which includes a mochinut of your choosing—and it's obviously the most expensive ringing in at $7. But hey, it's soft serve with a donut.

Mochinut [Kim Ranjbar]

Speaking of donuts, have you had the cafe sua da cream-filled donut at Dough Nguyener's? Recently opened in Gretna, this cafe is the latest from restaurateur Betty Archote (nee Nguyen), purveyor of Huey P.'s Pizzeria and Thanh Thanh. Along with specialty coffee drinks, baked goods, and a large menu with both breakfast and lunch offerings (Louisiana Gulf shrimp toast with crab meat anyone?), the 5th Street spot also features Blue Bunny vanilla "swirl freeze," a.k.a. soft serve. Get it plain or make it both crunchy and colorful with cereal "mix-ins," such as Fruity Pebbles or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, top it with sprinkles, M&Ms, or Oreos—or both. Just be wary, a soft serve at Dough Nguyener's will set you back $6 plus 85¢ for each additional topping.

Dough Nguyener's [Kim Ranjbar]

Finally, the last place one might expect to find soft serve ice cream is a taco joint, but surprises abound at the 1940s-era gas-station-turned-restaurant Galaxie Tacos on St. Claude Avenue. Business partners Patrick Finney and Ken Jackson launched the Bywater stand almost four years ago serving cocktails and cuisine inspired by the cuisine they experienced on trips to Oaxaca and Mexico City. Not only do they make fresh tortillas (with masa imported from Mexico) filled with mouth-watering barbacoa beef cheek or adobo pork shoulder, they also sweeten the deal with some incredibly unique soft serve. Some of the more typical combos include vanilla and blueberry, mango, or Ponchatoula strawberry, but they also kick the flavor notch way up with cane syrup, mamey sapote (a large berry tree native to Mexico and Central America) and Oaxacan-spiced peanuts. Galaxie's incredibly exotic soft serve will set you back $4, but it will be worth every bite.

Galaxie Tacos [Kim Ranjbar]

For lagniappe, and because it deserves an honorable mention, if you happen to grab a burger or some thin-fried catfish at one of the GNO's seven New Orleans Hamburger & Seafood locations, you get a cone of vanilla soft serve (served yourself) for free. Now, I'd buy that for a dollar.

New Orleans Hamburger and Seafood [Kim Ranjbar]



When the Smoke Clears

New Orleans is not typically known for its barbecue, and that's okay. We have gumbo, etouffee, boiled crawfish and po-boys a-plenty. But about a decade ago, when the 'cue scene across the country started to cool down and hold steady, the Crescent City finally started smokin'.

Here's a comprehensive guide to the best budget-friendly barbeque in the Big Easy.


Walker's Southern Style BBQ

Walker's Famous Cochon De Lait Po-Boy [Walker's Southern Style BBQ Website]

Walker's Southern Style BBQ in the East was easily one of the first, smoking cochon de lait, boudin, and brisket low 'n' slow since the early aughts, but then suddenly new spots began charging in like pigs to a trough when you sing, "Sooey!" Once-a-week pop-ups became fully-fledged brick and mortars with barbecue from seasoned smokers and chefs. Pit Master Neil McClure launched his eponymous shop on Magazine, and then smoked meats, pairing them with beer at NOLA Brewing. Formally trained chef Shane Pritchett launched Fat Hen Grill which became known for breakfast, and smoked all of his meats and cheeses in-house. Rob Bechtold, owner and operator of NOLA Smokehouse, sold out before noon on Jackson Avenue (now Turkey and the Wolf). The Young brothers launched Squeal BBQ on Oak Street (now Seafood Sally's). Over the past decade, they've all (aside from Walker's) faded away.


The Joint

Pulled Pork Sandwich [The Joint Website]

But a few were still selling their 'cue, such as The Joint in Bywater. Pete and Jenny Breen opened their stand on Poland Avenue back in 2004 and they're, as they say, still smokin'. Though they moved a couple of blocks to larger digs on Mazant Street back in 2012, the Breens still regularly impress diners with tender pork ribs, brisket burnt ends, house cured and smoked pastrami, and, yes, even pecan pie. They've been voted best BBQ in New Orleans by both local and national publications, yet they haven't let it go to their heads with pulled pork platters coming in at $14 a plate and dessert for less than $5.


Blue Oak BBQ

Blue Oak BBQ Tray [Blue Oak BBQ]

As some barbecue joints went belly up, others quickly took their place. In 2016 pitmasters Ronnie Evans and Philip Moseley took their popular pop-up at music venue Chickie Wah Wah to the next level when they launched Blue Oak BBQ at the old Felini's location. Located on Carrollton Avenue, their M.O. is a magical mix of regional barbecue from Texas-style brisket to pulled pork Alabama-style. Over the past few years, they've been slinging seriously sandwich combos such as their surf & turf—chopped brisket, fried shrimp, tartar slaw and "horsey" sauce (mayo, vinegar and horse radish)—a meal in and of itself ringing in at $16.50.


LA 23 BBQ

LA 23 BBQ Plates [LA 23 Facebook]

Because of its location in Belle Chasse, LA 23 BBQ often seems to fall off the radar, but that's one juicy mistake. Open since 2013, this roadside stand out by the Naval Air Station sells out daily (often before noon), and it's no surprise since they're on a super-short list of barbecue spots smoking OG Texas-style. Get there before it's all gone, and grab a smoked turkey or pulled pork sandwich for only $9 with a side of their creamy mac 'n' cheese starting at $5. If you like to wake up at the crack of dawn, head to LA 23 for a smokin' breakfast. Served from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m., the rise 'n' shining menu features tacos and burritos loaded with brisket and smoked sausage-packed omelets all for under a ten spot.


The Backyard

Wings at The Backyard [The Backyard Facebook]

When it opened in 2015, The Backyard was billed as a family-friendly BBQ spot with a playground set up in, well, the backyard. Still a worthwhile restaurant for your "momandem," the Backyard has somewhat changed its game. The playground is gone to accommodate more seating, but they're still serving house smoked meat-filled sandwiches and foodstuffs you'd commonly see at a backyard barbecue: burgers, hot dogs, tots, potato salad, and sloppy joes. In addition, they just completed a new interior renovation with a "stunning" bar space and, along with it, a shiny new distiller's permit. Yes, the Backyard is now blending and bottling their own bourbon. Enjoy a little tipple with their house-smoked, Crystal Hot Sauce wings. Why don't ya?


Gonzo's Smokehouse & BBQ

Pastrami Brisket [Gonzo's Smokehouse & BBQ Facebook]

Somewhat newer to the barbecue scene, Gonzo's Smokehouse & BBQ opened up in November of last year, way out on River Road in Luling. Though it seems far, the drive is much shorter than you'd imagine and if you pre-order, you won't have to stand in line. Only open on Thursdays and Fridays, it's pretty much a given that you will stand in line because the fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth, Texas-style BBQ crafted by pitmaster Jason Gonzalez. It is well worth the wait. Thursdays are devoted to smash burgers, but on Friday, you can get smoked meats by the half pound, such as prime grade brisket, "Dino" beef ribs, cherry cola-glazed brisket burnt ends, brisket boudin, and more. Gonzo's also slings sandwiches including the "el jefe," with smoked brisket, pulled pork, and pork belly burnt ends topped with sweet heat pickles, pickled onions, and sweet BBQ sauce. Pair it with a smoked broccoli, kale salad for a little vegetable refresher in your carnivorous lunch, or skip it and go straight for the smoked apple cobbler with vanilla ice cream

Devil Moon BBQ

Turkey Breast Sandwich [Devil Moon BBQ Website]

Finally, the most recent smoker to the Crescent City is Devil Moon BBQ. Opened just this past February in the uber-posh South Market District, the new 'cue joint features Shannon Bingham as the executive chef/pitmaster. Already known as one of the Blue Oak BBQ opening team, the 2017 Hogs for the Cause Grand Champion, and founder of St. Roch Market stands Emmylou's BBQ and Buttermilk, Bingham has combined his fine dining origins with his smokin' chops to create one heck of a menu at Devil Moon BBQ. Perhaps due to the fancy new digs, quite a few items run higher than your usual smoked fare. But may we recommend a smoked turkey breast sandwich on a potato roll with a side of Frito pie made with beef cheek chili? A devilish combo, indeed.



No Grill Needed

Put the sticky-sweet, tomato-based sauce back in the fridge and step away from the grill, because New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp is not what y'all think of when y'all think barbecue.

A New Orleans food writer with a lot of local cuisine knowledge "under her belt" once told said that the original recipe for BBQ shrimp, created at Uptown restaurant Pascal's Manale, consisted of three ingredients: gulf shrimp, lots and lots of pepper, and oleo (a.k.a. old-school margarine). Most of the flavor in the dish comes from the shrimp's head and shell, which remains intact while cooking and serving, but a richer recipe evolved, mainly due to a matter of etiquette. In other words, people dining at a white tablecloth restaurant had little interest in beheading and peeling their own shrimp.

Rosedale [Kim Ranjbar]

Thus, the New Orleans' classic was born, not too different from the original and still prepared a long way from the grill. Along with pepper and real butter (ditch the oleo), the generally-agreed upon recipe includes Worcestershire sauce, butter, shallots, garlic, fresh lemon juice, Tabasco, butter, and a few Cajun-Italian seasonings such as cayenne, oregano, thyme, basil, and paprika. Did we mention butter?

With the rising price of foodstuffs, it was a bit challenging to find BBQ shrimp dishes falling under the $20 mark. The original at Pascal's Manale last rang in at $28, though the Napoleon Avenue restaurant was recently bought by Dickie Brennan & Co., so that might change. Mr. B's Bistro, another famous French Quarter spot known for the dish, charges a whopping $34 for their "barbequed shrimp." Had one of a favorite local dishes become out of financial reach?

Not quite…

Junior's on Harrison [Junior's on Harrison]

Frank Brigtsen, a famous local chef and a man who devotedly espouses the Prudhommian belief that "brown is flavor," offers an affordable BBQ Shrimp appetizer at his eponymous Riverbend restaurant. Open for almost 40 years, the neighborhood spot is the best place in the bend for New Orleans-style cuisine offering shrimp remoulade and filé gumbo, and of course BBQ shrimp. Brigtsen's version comes with lots of tangy, buttery sauce and a shrimp-stuffed calas or Creole rice fritter. Dinner at Brigtsen's always includes a complimentary side of French bread, so try not to eat it all before your plate arrives—you'll want to save some to soak up all of the sauce.

Speaking of famous local chefs, Susan Spicer (who is fast friends with Chef Brigtsen) also offers a decadent dish of BBQ shrimp at her Navarre neighborhood joint Rosedale. There are so many delicious dishes priced exactly right at her police-station-turned-restaurant tucked away on Rosedale Drive, from a cochon de lait po-boy to fried chicken with baked mac 'n' cheese. Prepared classically with heads and tails in the mix, Spicer's BBQ shrimp is swimming in that lemony, buttery sauce and served with plenty of toasted and sliced French bread, which includes five jumbo-sized Gulf beauties for $15.50.

Liuzza's by the Track [Kim Ranjbar]

For something just a little different, but no less fantastic, head out to Junior's on Harrison in Lakeview. Step inside this coastal-styled corner cafe for lunch and let Executive Chef Brett Monteleone whip up his Creole/Cantonese mashup BBQ Shrimp Toast. Made with minced Gulf shrimp-coated and deep fried toast slices with lots of sesame seeds, bright green onion and that familiar Worcestershire and butter-laden sauce, it's an appetizer you can share, or treat as an entree and keep it all to yourself. Priced at only $13, you can grab a creamy, chewy scoop of Gail's Fine Ice Cream while you're there and still stay under budget.

Considering any BBQ shrimp dish worth its Worcestershire comes with lots of New Orleans-style French bread, it's natural to segue right into the po-boy. While there are quite a few to choose from, we'd be oh-so remiss if we failed to mention the Fairgrounds-famous Liuzza's by the Track. Self-touted as their signature dish (though some may argue that honor should go to their gumbo), Liuzza's BBQ Louisiana shrimp comes stuffed inside—and spilling out of—a chewy-crusted, Leidenheimer pistolette. Paying $15.95 for this landmark dish could be considered a crime, but we're not talking.

Bouree [Kim Ranjbar]

The BBQ shrimp po-boy at Bourrée could be construed as an homage to Liuzza's signature version in style and presentation, but the flavor reflects chef/owner Nathanial Zimet's own style. Kick back under the oaks at this casual, Carrollton neighborhood spot and scarf their shrimp-stuffed pistolette, but expect a little more heat (i.e. a lot more Tabasco). Bourrée's po-boy will set you back $15, but for $3 more you can add fries and make it a meal.

Since we're talking po-boys, we simply must talk about a particularly spectacular specimen at (where else?) Parkway Bakery. Everyone who's anyone knows about this iconic, Bayou St. John po-boy shop that's been serving po-boys in New Orleans since time out of mind, but everyone may not know about this incredible creation. Dubbed the "Deep Fried Creole BBQ Shrimp Po-Boy," this super-unctuous 'wich features toasted Leidenheimer French bread loaded with Parkway's "traditional flash-fried" Gulf shrimp smothered in a creamier version of that classic tangy sauce. Now, you could pig out on a large for $15.49, but a "small" is only $11.59 and you'd still be able to spring for their Southern-style banana pudding (cue the 'Nilla Wafers) for dessert.



It's Bananas [Foster]!

There's no such thing as "too much of a good thing" when it comes to the endless iterations of this classic New Orleans recipe.

You've placed your napkin on the table and declared yourself "full" when all at once you're surrounded by the caramel-like aroma of melting butter, brown sugar, and bananas. Out of the corner of your eye, you discretely glance at the next table where a group of friends have unabashedly ordered dessert, now being prepared table side by their exuberant server. She adds a splash of rum with a theatrical flourish, and the pan is set aflame, sending orange-tipped tongues of fire towards the ceiling while the delighted diners emit oohs and aahs. The bubbling mixture is spooned over generous scoops of creamy vanilla ice cream and served, and, as they begin to dig into their spectacular dessert, you realize you're not that full after all.


Creole Creamery's Banana Foster flavored ice cream [Courtesy of Creole Creamery]

New Orleans-born and loved the world over, Bananas Foster is an incredibly simple, yet astoundingly delicious dessert invented by Owen Brennan at his Vieux Carré in 1951. It's typically made with only five ingredients (six if you count the vanilla ice cream): brown sugar, butter, dark rum, a dash of cinnamon, and bananas. And if you're a daring home cook who's not afraid to flambé, you can easily reproduce it at home, but creating it yourself or ordering it at a high-end, white tablecloth restaurant certainly isn't the only way you can enjoy that Bananas Foster flavor.

Chef/owner Bryan Gilmore of Creole Creamery understands the demand for this uniquely New Orleans' flavor. At his ice cream shops, whether you're at the location Uptown on Prytania Street or in the burbs on Metairie Road, Bananas Foster-style ice cream makes a regular appearance. Gilmore's version is a creamy banana ice cream, swirled with a brown sugar, butter and rum caramel sauce. Enjoy two scoops in a crispy waffle cone or go complete nuts with a fully loaded banana split, topped with caramel sauce, tons of whipped cream, and chopped peanuts.

In the continued interest of keeping your cool, head over to Tchoupitoulas Street for a Bananas Foster sno-ball at Hansen's Sno-Bliz. For over 80 years, this iconic New Orleans sno-ball stand has been sweetening spring and summer with their superfine shaved ice concoctions. Their syrups are always made by hand and the Bananas Foster is no exception. Doused in banana syrup and topped with bruleed bananas, this is a seasonal treat to stand in line for, and make no mistake, you will be standing in line, but it's worth it.


Stanley's Banana Foster French Toast [Courtesy of Kim Ranjbar]

If you happen to be in the French Quarter one fine morning, or even afternoon, don't miss a sweet breakfasty treat at Stanley. Owner and chef Scott Boswell and his wife Tanya are offering breakfast (and lunch) daily at their restaurant on the corner of Jackson Square, mere steps away from St. Louis Cathedral. Among other incredible dishes include their Eggs Benedict poor boy and filet gumbo that has shrimp, oysters, chicken and andouille sausage. Stanley offers a Bananas Foster French toast. Made with Leidenheimer, the French toast is topped with fresh, sliced bananas, house made vanilla ice cream, crunchy, toasted walnuts and that signature, boozy Bananas Foster sauce.

Less than a block from the Ashe Cultural Arts Center on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard you'll discover Cafe Reconcile, a non-profit lunch spot serving Southern favorites while offering at-risk youth workforce development and training. The café's program is adept at not only creating a space for youth ages 16-24 to get real-time, on-the-job work experience, but it also excels at providing a supportive and safe environment for their personal growth, enriching the community as well as setting them on the right path for success. Stop into the café for lunch and devour a plate of jerk chicken and pickled peppers, a fried green tomato sandwich on jalapeno cornbread toast, or smothered turkey necks served with rice and gravy—all offered under budget. Just don't leave without getting a slice of their award-winning, custardy Bananas Foster bread pudding for dessert.

Down on Annunciation Street, the Bakery Bar is a cozy restaurant with a craft cocktail program led by Vincent Heitz and Joseph Witkowski and a menu of shareable eats by Chef Lydia Solano. But what launched the Lower Garden District, and their main attraction, are the slices and bites of New Orleanian's unofficially official celebratory cake—doberge—created by Debbie Does Doberge or Charlotte McGehee and Charles Mary IV. If you've never had the pleasure, doberge (pronounced "doe-bash") is a multilayered cake (six is the hard minimum) with alternating layers of pudding covered in buttercream or ganache and a thin fondant shell. Though the traditional flavors are lemon and chocolate, Bakery Bar (and Debbie on the Levee in Kenner) feature flavors of the more creative-and-boozy variety, i.e. Cafe Brulot King Cake, peppermint bark, spiked s'mores with bourbon, and piña colada. It's not on the menu all the time, but now and again they've been known to offer a big-fat slice of Bananas Foster doberge with layers of banana cake and caramel pudding spiked with a hefty dram of spiced dark rum.

Speaking of hefty drams, Palace Café on Canal Street can always whip up a frosty, frozen cocktail with Bananas Foster-flair, and why wouldn't they? It's one of Dickie Brennan's restaurants. It's a sweet creamy, banana-salted caramel shake blended with a kick of white rum and a dash of cinnamon. Grab a large go-cup for $11 and let the evening begin.



Feast Like You're Festin'

As much as we all love the music, art, and food at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, we can't all go. Maybe you came here during those two magical weeks for work, not to play, perhaps you suffer from enochlophobia—an intense fear of crowds, or it could simply be that you couldn't scrape up the dough. Whatever the reason, we understand your plight and we're here for you.

For out-of-towners, Jazz Fest is, admittedly, an efficient way to get a glut of local culture, music, and food in one fell swoop, but all of that incredible food (and music) is available all across town; you just have to seek them out, and that's where we come in.


Boudin Balls at Toups' Meatery [Courtesy of Kim Ranjbar]

Not far from the festival grounds on N. Carrollton Avenue is a restaurant everyone should have on their radar called Toups' Meatery. Owned and operated by Chef Isaac Toups and his wife Amanda, this Mid-City spot has been open for over a decade serving elevated Cajun cuisine with a French/Creole slant and an emphasis on everything meaty. From crispy turkey necks with pepper jelly and pork belly corn dogs, to their irresistible cracklins, it's a carnivore's fantasy. Toups makes everything in house, and that includes their spicy boudin which can be had rolled up into balls, breaded in panko, and deep fried to a golden brown, resulting in a crunchy exterior and almost creamy interior. Three large boudin balls are served with a spoonful of Cajun mustard for $7.


Vaucresson Sausage [Courtesy of Vaucresson Facebook]

It sometimes seems like a festival in New Orleans can't be a festival in New Orleans if they aren't serving Vacresson's sausage po-boys—from the Oak Street Po-Boy Festival and French Quarter Festival to Jazz Fest and beyond. Strangely enough, festivals were the only place to score Vaucresson's sausages since the levee failures of 2005 wiped out their operations in the 7th Ward. But, inch by inch, they grew back into being, thanks in no small part to the "Sausage King" Vance Vaucresson, the family's third generation of marvelous meat makers and the man who re-launched Vaucresson's Creole Cafe & Deli on St. Bernard Avenue in 2022. Are you craving that Vacresson's hot sausage po-boy you could only find at the fest? Well, now you can just go get one almost anytime you wish, and it'll only set you back $12.


Windowsill Pie [Courtesy of Brian Bahn]

It's hard not to love and crave a crawfish pie. Made with the trinity and a roux, it's like etouffee wrapped in a flaky pie crust. What could be better than that? Maybe, just maybe, a crawfish boil pie from Windowsill? Located on Freret Street, this tiny cafe is owned and managed by pie masters Nicole Eiden and Marielle Dupré who have been wrapping our hearts in their incredible pastry crusts since they started slinging their pies a decade ago at local farmers' markets. Though their sweet pies are certainly something to rave about, their seasonal crawfish boil pies are exceptional. All of the essentials found in a great crawfish boil—garlic, potatoes, onions, corn, mushrooms, seasoning, and Louisiana crawfish—ensconced within a flaky and buttery crust. A 6-inch pie that feeds two is only $17, but you can also get a hand pie for $5.50 leaving plenty of room for dessert.


Crawfish Bread from Gabrielle's [Courtesy of Gabrielle's]

Speaking of crawfish, let's discuss the spectral-like phenomenon called crawfish bread, appearing for Jazz Fest and vanishing when the Fair Grounds close on second-weekend Sunday like a visitor's inhibitions on Bourbon Street. You may not believe it, but this elusive creature can be had outside the fest. At Gabrielle, a "Cajun food restaurant with New Orleans flair," chefs and owners Greg and Mary Sonnier are cooking up dishes including BBQ shrimp pie and dark roux gumbo with duck, rabbit, and Guinea hen, but they also offer that classic Jazz Fest treat. Made with Louisiana crawfish, cheese, and butter, Gabrielle's crawfish bread is a seasonal, take-and-bake item sold on a full 12" loaf of Leidenheimer and big enough for the whole family. That's not bad for ringing in slightly over budget at $20 plus tax.

Everyone loves Miss Linda's yakamein, a bowl guaranteed to cure even the roughest hangover. Made with shredded boiled beef, seasoned beef broth, spaghetti noodles, and a hard-boiled egg, Yakamein gained national recognition thanks to Anthony Bourdain when the recipe re-emerged after Hurricane Katrina. Now you can find yakamein all over the city, from the smallest gas station to white tablecloth restaurants, but today's pick is from Three Muses on Frenchmen Street. Owned and operated by the illustrious Miss Sophie Lee (a jazz singer in her own right), this cozy venue offers the best of three worlds: cocktails, food, and live music. Slurp down a bowl of yakamein and be serenaded by jazz pianist Tom McDermott, or turn of the century tunes from the Bad Penny Pleasuremakers.


Beignet from Cafe Beignet [Courtesy of Cafe Beignet]

But what about dessert? You can always grab a Mango Freeze from Morning Call Coffee Stand, or a sno-ball at Hansen's on Tchoupitoulas, but you can't beat the classic, Crescent City donut, the powdered-sugar-laden beignet. You can get them at the usual spots (Cafe Du Monde, etc.), but have you ever tasted one of the pillowy monsters at Cafe Beignet? Open for a little over 30 years, this coffee shop began on Royal Street and has since expanded to four locations, but the favorite is on Bourbon Street. Featuring an expansive courtyard dedicated to the preservation of New Orleans' unique musical culture (with nearly life-size bronze statues of Al "Jumbo" Hirt, Antoine "Fats" Domino, Pete Fountain, Chris Owens, Ronnie Kole, Louis Prima, Allen Toussaint, and Irma Thomas), it's choice to kick back at Cafe Beignet, munch till you're dusted in a blanket of powdered sugar, sip on cafe au lait, and enjoy live jazz music from local bands on the daily.



A Piece of Cake: Tres Leches

Baru Tres Leches [Courtesy of Kim Ranjbar]

Creamy, light, and just sweet enough, tres leches cake is a splendid, springtime dessert and finding a slice in the Crescent City is as easy as cake.

Made with an airy, eggy sponge and three kinds of milk, tres leches cake (a.k.a. pan tres leches) is a wondrous Latin American dessert, which is both delicate and rich at the same time. Many countries claim to be the home of the tres leches cake, from El Salvador and Nicaragua to Argentina, Cuba, and Columbia. But all we know for sure is the recipe popped up, alongside the advent of canned milks, sometime in the 1940s. It started becoming popular in the U.S. around the early 80s, specifically in Miami where it began appearing on local menus in Latino and Hispanic communities.

These days, you can find tres leches cakes anywhere, from Honduran cafes and Dominican restaurants, to taco stands and bakeries. But how do you choose? The mark of a great tres leches is found in its airy sponge and moist, but not soggy, texture. It's a cake that should never be dry or sit in a big puddle. It should burst with the flavor of lightly sweetened milk—a rich, creamy bite of bliss just begging for another.


Baru Tres Leches [Courtesy of barutapasnola.com]

Baru Bistro & Tapas

Uptown on Magazine Street, chef/owner Edgar Caro has been delighting diners with his Latin-Caribbean cuisine since 2007 at Baru Bistro & Tapas. Most diners only have to spend one warm, spring evening, kicking back at a comfortable table on the balcony, sipping a sweet caipirinha, and munching on their signature pulled pork arepas to fall in love with this neighborhood gem. Topping off the evening should include a pristine square of Baru's tres—or should we say cuatro leches cake? "We use four forms of milk: evaporated, condensed, whole milk, and media crema," says Caro. "It makes our tres leches cake succulent, richer, and irresistible—the way it should be." This fruit-topped cream of the crop will set you back $10, but it's worth every bite.

Mais Arepas Tres Leche [Courtesy of Kim Ranjbar]

Mais Arepas

One of a minuscule number of Colombian restaurants in New Orleans, Mais Arepas is an incredibly popular spot for an affordable, and tasty, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Located a block off St. Charles Avenue on the corner of Carondolet and Clio (AKA CL10), this restaurant is known (obviously) for its thick, fluffy, corn flour arepa served stuffed with everything from skirt steak and sweet plantains, to chorizo, Gulf shrimp and pulled pork—almost all of which are $15 and under. Ringing in at only $8, the tres leches at Mais Arepas is not only sweet, cool and creamy, and it's completely gluten free. Owner David Mantilla, former business partner Edgar Caro of the above-mentioned Baru, has spent years perfecting their gluten-free version of tres leches and was unwilling to reveal their secret recipe, but who can blame them? Just go, eat, and be happy.


Alma Tres Leches [Courtesy of Kim Ranjbar]

Alma Cafe

After opening in a "cursed" location in Bywater during the pandemic, and surviving, Alma Cafe should not only be on your radar, it should be in your regular restaurant rotation. Owned and operated by Chef Melissa Arujo, a local industry vet who has worked in kitchens such as Susan Spicer's now-defunct Mondo and Restaurant R'evolution, launched the neighborhood joint featuring Honduran cuisine in Fall of 2020. Open for breakfast and lunch, Alma's menu is always changing with dishes like ground beef enchiladas with green cabbage and sliced boiled egg, chorizo and cheese pupusas, and (if you can get there early enough) house made, sweet cemitas with a cookie-like crust. Though it's not always on the menu, consider yourself blessed if you can score a massive slice of Arujo's tres leches made with yellow cake (as opposed to sponge), a blend of aromatic spices (aka "old family secrets"), and topped with burnt meringue.


Maya's Tres Leche [Courtesy of Kim Ranjbar]

Maya's Restaurant

Opened in 2007, Maya's Restaurant on Magazine Street has always seemed to fall under the food media radar, though the reason why is a mystery. Born in Honduras, co-owner and chef Edgar Irias does a spectacular job serving up plates of mahi ceviche with jicama and avocado, bean and chorizo empanadas, shrimp and crab meat tostones, and roasted Chilean seabass. Though the prices are a tad high overall, Irias' tres leches cake is still under budget, a gorgeous, spongy Nicaraguan version steeped in milky goodness and drizzled with strawberry coulis.


La Providencia Tres Leches [Courtesy of Kim Ranjbar]

La Providencia

On the other side of the Mississippi River, La Providencia is a stand-alone Mexican restaurant serving flautas, nopales, fajitas, and pupusas to Westbank denizens since 2014. This Belle Chasse Highway spot offers huge plates of chicken mole, pork and cheese tamales, and massive bowls of pozole for well under budget, so you'll have plenty of pesos left over for their creamy tres leches, topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry, which will only set you back $3.99. They also make a killer flan for the same price, so you might as well get both.


Val's

The last stop on this tres leches tour is at Val's, a taco stand by CureCo, which opened during the pandemic in June of 2020. Located on the busy Freret Street corridor, the vintage service station-turned restaurant offers a simple menu of tacos, corn chips and salsa, guacamole, and queso along with a slew of specialty cocktails as only the folks at Cure can create. Along with churros and chocolate flan, Chef Alfredo Nogueria also offers an incredible tres leches cake for $9 a slice. "The cake is a chiffon cake that we make in-house and take great pride in," says Nogueria. "I am a lifelong fan of tres leches and have done many iterations over the years." Topped with Louisiana strawberries and served in the Louisiana sunshine, it's a sweet, springtime adventure you should experience at least once.





A Different Kind of Dog

Delightfully novel ways of enjoying our favorite frankfurter in and around New Orleans.

Regardless of their offal ingredients, it's hard to deny the delicious nostalgia of a great hot dog. Just seeing an image of a frank slapped between its signature split bun, decorated with zig-zags of mustard and (sorry Chicagoans) ketchup, is enough to elicit endless memories of springtime backyard barbecues with dad at the grill and mom dumping bag after bag of potato chips into a huge, never-ending bowl. The aroma is unmistakable, whether it's pork or beef, and everyone has their preferred topping from mus-tard and onions to chili, sweet relish, or dill pickles.

Though there's a cannon of flavors and textures one expects—think corn dogs, chili dogs, Chicago dogs with mustard, tomatoes, onions, and a pickle spear on a poppy seed bun—there's a ton of alternatives available encouraging you to shake your doggy dining status quo.

For example, have you ever had a wiener-stuffed crepe? Bet you haven't. Unless, that is, you've been to T-Swirl in Metairie. Recently opened on Severn across from Lakeside Mall, this Japanese street food crêperie got its start in New York and has since franchised with more than 30 locations across the country. Typically, Japanese-style crepes are made with wheat flour, but T-Swirl and its co-founder Jerry Lin have created and perfected a batter using rice flour, making for a gluten-free crepe which is as crispy and flavorful as its wheat-based counterpart. T-Swirl's highly portable crepes offer lots of fillings of both the sweet and savory variety, but we're talking dogs, right? Dive straight into their Okinawa hot dog—filled with sliced, all-pork Japanese wieners, carrots, cheddar, sliced red onion, red bell peppers, corn, and banana ketchup. Don't forget dessert. Their sweet crepes come in a small size, so, for an additional $6.50 (all together under budget), you can add a mini-caramel Fuji apple with custard cream, whipped yogurt, and granola.


MochiNut ricedog [Kim Ranjbar]

Another Asian take on the "all-American" hot dog—or corn dog rather—is the Korean rice dog. Though the trend hit stateside in 2021, it hasn't really taken hold here in New Orleans. There was a pop up for a bit at Little Korean BBQ, but it just faded away. Now, with the recent opening of Mochinut (also on Severn), you can have a Korean rice dog anytime you want. Mochinut is a massive chain with over 100 locations in the US alone whose main focus is, well, the mochinut—a donut made with mochi—a Japanese rice cake made from sticky rice that's been pounded into a chewy paste. In addition to this incredible donut sensation, Mochinut also offers Korean dogs, which are essentially like corn dogs, but dipped and fried in a rice flour batter. What's even better are the many ways this simple recipe is expanded, with the addition of crispy diced potatoes, a heavy dusting of sugar, fried ramen noodles, or even spicy Cheetos. Plus, the dogs (before being battered and fried) can be wrapped in cheddar, halved with mozzarella, or the dog can be replaced with mozzarella altogether. While you're there, you really should get a Mochinut or three. You should always save room for dessert.


A New Orleans hot dog article that didn't mention Dat Dog is really not a hot dog article at all. Originally opened inside an itty-bitty space on Freret Street in 2011, Dat Dog has become the name in hot dogs across the city and are known for their huge, juicy franks and bright orange and blue buildings. With a hefty array of toppings and several kinds of sausages, diners are able to mix and match to their stomach's content, making this a popular spot for a big, affordable bite. Dat Dog also has several of their own creations regularly on the menu, and it's always fun to check the specials for concoctions like their recent holiday dog with duck sausage, andouille sauce, cornbread dressing, and cranberry sauce.


Cajun Pork Dog [Cochon Butcher]

Another dog more than worth its bark is at Cochon Butcher. Unlike most hot dog purveyors, Butcher makes everything in-house, including their porkalicious links. Called a Cajun pork dog, this meaty stunner is nestled in a pretzel bun and served with black-eyed pea chili and piled high with sauerkraut. With a side of house made potato chips and a frosty can of Huhu's Ginger Brew, you've got a howling-good lunch.


Because of their versatility and relative affordability, hot dogs frequently pop-up at spots you wouldn't expect. You only have to keep your eye peeled. Only a few months ago, Mason Hereford's famed sandwich shop Turkey and the Wolf offered a special dog sourced from North Carolina's Brasstown Beef, slow-cooked in chili and topped with American cheese sharing space in the Weiss Guys, split-top bun with a black bean tostada, and sweet pickled jalapenos. What a hot diggety dog.


Tostada Dog [courtesy Turkey and the Wolf]


Strut Your Stuff!: $20 and Under in New Orleans


There's little in this world you cannot stuff. You can stuff your face, a teddy bear, your house (with all kinds of stuff), a mattress, your butt into a tight pair of jeans. The possibilities are endless. Of all that's available, arguably the best (and tastiest) stuff to stuff with other stuff is food.

Humans have a long history of stuffing foods with other foods. The earliest known reference can be found in a Roman cookbook, also known as the Apicius, that's is believed to have been compiled in the fifth century AD, with recipes for stuffing everything from chicken to a dormouse with veggies, herbs, spices, nuts, spelt (hulled wheat), and organ meat. Even before we were writing recipes, it's not hard to believe we've been stuffing foodstuffs since we developed opposable thumbs, as we quickly realized that a lot of foods just taste better when you combine them with other foods.

Not only is stuffing food with other foods delicious, it's also a fairly simple and economical way to cook. Everything is in one delectable package ready for copious consumption.

While New Orleans, and the late great chef Paul Prudhomme, is known for that great stuffed marvel the turducken, there's a ton of other stuffed dishes around town worthy of your consideration, palate and your ducats.

Stuph'd Beignet [Stuph'd Beignets and Burgers]

Stuph'D Beignets & Burgers

Divine inspiration came from a little place on St. Claude Avenue dubbed, most appropriately, Stuph'D Beignets & Burgers. Owned and operated by Duana Lawrence, the Bywater eatery offers lots of non-stuffed items like wings, fried seafood Fridays, burgers, and po-boys, but her signature dishes are sweet and savory beignets stuffed with, well, all kinds of stuff. If you're feeling sweet, go for a beignet stuffed with Oreos or pecan pie. And on the savory side, you can get a crisp, hot beignet filled with everything from veggies and cheese to grilled shrimp, Philly cheese steak and, the pièce de résistance, a Creole Queen filled with crab meat, crawfish, and shrimp. All of Stuph'D's beignets are bigger than you might imagine and fully, most gloriously, stuffed with goodness.

Dooky Chase Stuffed Shrimp [Ashley Rae Turner]

Dooky Chase Restaurant

People from all over the world head over to the Creole classic Dooky Chase Restaurant in the historic Tremé neighborhood. For over 80 years, millions of people have enjoyed this New Orleans' gem serving dishes like grillades and grits, crawfish etouffee, Southern fried chicken and Creole gumbo, but did you know they also serve a lot of stuffed stuff? Along with overstuffed potatoes and stunning stuffed crab, one of their featured favorites are the stuffed jumbo shrimp. How does one stuff shrimp, you may ask? Easy. The Gulf shrimp are butterflied, packed with crab meat dressing, battered, deep fried and served with their house tartar sauce.

Chickens Kitchen Stuffed Game Hen [Chickens Kitchen]

Chicken's Kitchen

A relative newcomer to the local restaurant scene, Chicken's Kitchen is a spot serving up hot plates to the masses across the river in Gretna. You can always tell when this takeout-only eatery is open because a line forms outside the door and trails all the way down the block. Self-trained home cook Marlon "Chicken" Williams opened the popular Westbank restaurant with a lot of help from his community, and everyday he returns the favor kicking out amazing plate lunches, most of which don't rise above $15. Along with his famous fried chicken and eternally sold-out braised oxtails (only served the first Tuesday of every month), the kitchen also offers stuffed stuff like seafood-stuffed catfish and a hearty half of Cornish game hen stuffed with turkey dressing. Each entree comes with one large side, such as his "five star mac" or seafood-smothered okra and rice, and two small sides, which includes everything from buttered carrots and potato salad to sweet peas and candied yams.

Heard Dat Kitchen Stuffed Peppers [Heard Dat Kitchen]

Heard Dat Kitchen

Located over in Central City, Jeffery Heard, (along with his daughter Chef Tia) has definitely made a name for himself at his popular restaurant Heard Dat Kitchen. You'll discover lots of New Orleans' classics on the menu, made with their own special twist, including BBQ shrimp fries and filé gumbo served with a grilled cheese sandwich and potato salad, but we're here to get stuffed, right? In that case, we recommend "dat plate'' with a beautiful bell pepper stuffed with pork sausage, shrimp, onions, garlic, bread crumbs, and their own special blend of seasonings served with mac 'n' cheese, sweet peas and potato salad for only $13. We heard dat.


French Toast

Finally, because no great meal is truly finished without a little something sweet, take a brunch trip to the French Quarter and visit the aptly named French Toast restaurant on Decatur Street. Long have praises been sung to Cara and Evan Benson for their bread-laden, breakfast blowouts, from aebleskivers and eggs baked in brioche to marvelous Monte Cristo sandwiches and banana nutella crepes, but they've gone even further. Naturally, they serve French toast dotted with fresh berries and dusted in powdered sugar, but they also feature French toast stuffed with coconut cream and topped with bruleed pineapple, candied macadamia nuts, and a dollop of tangy lemon curd. It's served with maple syrup, but honestly, do you really need it?

Food lovers, get out there and get stuffed.


Pumpkins: $20 and Under in New Orleans


Along with ginger-hued leaves, bright red apples and football, pumpkins are one of the most prominent autumn archetypes. After all, what would fall be for us without pumpkin pie, spookily-carved jack-o-lanterns, or pumpkin spice lattes? It would be a sad season, indeed.

Native to North America, pumpkins are a winter squash and in the United States, over 1.5 billion pounds are produced annually. An excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin A, pumpkins can be both a healthful and flavorful feast and you can eat almost all of it, from the fleshy shell and seeds to the bright orange flowers and even the leaves. Though the mirliton is the most preferred squash to devour during the fall months in New Orleans, pumpkin is still very much in the running, so much so that there's regulars available to gourd-mandize season after season.

Breads on Oak

Case in point, the pumpkin cheddar biscuits at Breads on Oak. With a second location downtown on Carondolet, the rising bakery is proof positive vegan food can be both delectable and wholesome. One of its most popular sellers, the flaky, pumpkin cheddar biscuit, made with organic pumpkin and vegan cheddar, is made even more desirable as a breakfast sandwich stuffed with a sprouted tofu scramble, "andouille sausage," and fresh tomato. This time of year, they've also been known to offer a pumpkin spice brioche eclair with a maple glaze and candied pepitas.

The Italian Barrel

Pumpkin Ravioli [Italian Barrel]

Quite often, the simplest dish is best as French Quarter restaurant The Italian Barrel has shown with one of their most popular plates, re-gourd-less of the season. It will only set you back $18 for chef/owner Samantha Castagnetti's toothsome pumpkin-stuffed raviolo sauteed in brown butter and sage. Can you smell this dish in your mind's eye? Can you taste it? Stop fantasizing and go.

MoPho and Maypop

Chef Michael Gulotta, whose new Italian eatery TANA opened in Old Metairie in December 2023, has been known to pop pumpkin into the menu at his other two spots. In fact, an Indonesian pumpkin curry with spicy apple sambal, sweet soy and crunchy pepitas has made an appearance from time to time at both MoPho Mid-City and Maypop. We understand keeping the menu fresh, but there are many who wouldn't mind seeing that dish come 'round again—and again.

Creole Creamery

Pumpkin Praline [Creole Creamery]

While it's hard to predict what savory dish New Orleans chefs will create from year to year, or even day to day (like the brief appearance of smoked lamb ribs over pumpkin congee at Marjie's Grill), there always seems to be more annual continuity on the sweeter side of things. For example, pumpkin praline ice cream makes a regular showing at Creole Creamery, and with four locations (one in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi), it's hard to miss. If you pair it with a scoop of Creole cream cheese and brown butter pecan, it becomes a fall-icious split.

District Donuts Sliders Brew

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake [District Donuts]

You can always count on District Donuts Sliders Brew to jump on the yearly pumpkin procession, with alacrity. Since it opened on Magazine Street almost a decade ago, this specialty coffee shop has featured golden gourd-inspired donuts like pumpkin cheesecake with candied pepitas and ginger beer glaze, pumpkin spice latte crème brulee, "The Great Pumpkin" with pumpkin pie filling and brown butter glaze, and pumpkin pecan rolls—not to mention a caramel pumpkin spice latte with pumpkin spice marshmallows because why not guild the gourd?

Gracious Bakery

Pumpkin Danishes [Gracious Bakery]

Another spot that loves its annual frolic in the pumpkin patch is the Gert Town-based Gracious Bakery. When the leaves start falling and the holiday season is close at hand, you can bet the farm that owner/pastry chef Megan Forman and her happy krewe will be rolling out delights such as pumpkin danishes sprinkled with pepitas, maple pumpkin knots, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cheesecake, and pumpkin custard deliciously decorated with Valrhona white chocolate-whipped ganache.

Windowsill Pies

Ginger Pumpkin Tart [Windowsill Pies]

Finally, almost every pie-purveyor in town will be offering the ubiquitous Thanksgiving treat, the one offered at Windowsill Pies is more than worth writing about. If you've never had the pleasure, it's past time to make your way to Freret Street for their ginger pumpkin tart with crispy pepitas. As a whole, the Food & Wine Magazine-featured pie runs a higher than the budgeted $20, but lucky for us, they offer a 2-inch mini that fits the bill.


Sandwiches: $20 and Under in New Orleans

In New Orleans, a po-boy is the obvious go-to when looking for meals between the bread, but there's plenty of delicious alternatives in town worthy of a bite.

Regardless of whether or not you are still in school, fall has a way of stimulating cravings for a great sandwich. Though it's easy to slather up a sweet, sticky PB&J or tuna fish salad sandwich with lots of pickles, sometimes the answer to your sandwich needs lies outside of your kitchen. Though it would seem an easy task for a talented chef to stack the perfect 'wich, take into consideration the ingredients. When they're using freshly baked bread (sometimes made in-house), ripe veggies, and quality proteins, the care and preparation involved make for a sandwich you'll never forget.


Ayu Bakehouse

Ayu Bakehouse [Kim Ranjbar]

Bakeries are easily one of the best spots for a great sandwich. After all, they've got the main ingredient prepared fresh daily at their disposal. Though there's a ton of bakeries in town, a new one just opened up on the corner of Frenchmen and Dauphine. Dubbed Ayu Bakehouse, the folks at this fresh spot aren't loafing around, offering breads, pastries, salads, Hey! Cafe coffee, and—you guessed it—sandwiches. Though they've only been around a few months, a favorite is a sandwich version of the caprese salad—fresh tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and prosciutto are layered on a large, crunchy, chewy French baguette spread with garlicky pesto. The menu changes daily, but, recently, they took that caprese classic and added radish, snap beans, and a "special sauce" on a small baguette and named it, appropriately, the Frenchmen. Follow them @ayubakehousenola to see what lunchtime surprises they have in store.




DiMartino's Famous New Orleans Muffulettas

DiMartino's Famous New Orleans Muffulettas [Kim Ranjbar]

If the po-boy is king in New Orleans, then surely the muffuletta must be queen. The muffuletta is a local invention that's been around for over a century. The Italian round, seeded bread called muffuletta is what makes a muffuletta sandwich—that, and the olive salad. Though many turn to Central Grocery on Decatur Street, the French Quarter shop which is said to have invented it, there are many other places that offer muffulettas that some locals claim are just as good as (if not better) than Central's "original." One such spot is DiMartino's Famous New Orleans Muffulettas. Now with three locations, DiMartino's has been open since 1975, serving muffulettas and more—everything from po-boys and burgers, to seafood platters, and eggplant parmigiana. Offered in both small and large sizes, DiMartino's muffuletta is a little different because they toast the bread, which offers a slightly firmer foundation for layers of salami, ham, mortadella, Swiss, provolone, and lots of tangy olive salad. A small will feed you and a friend for only $12.99. One could go on and on about the iconic muffuletta, but that's another article.



Who Dat Coffee Cafe

Who Dat Coffee Cafe [Kim Ranjbar]

Over on Burgundy Street, there's a great little café serving up big eats called Who Dat Coffee Cafe. One might drive by the quaint Marigny corner and assume it's just a coffee house—which it is—but it's also a whole lot more. Not found in guidebooks or reviewed by national magazines, this unassuming spot is beloved by the neighborhood regulars who drop in often for breakfast, lunch, and brunch. Dishes include everything from grilled corn cakes covered in a creamy egg sauce and topped with cheddar, to an open-faced salad/sandwich made with shrimp and crab meat on grilled ciabatta dubbed the "da Marigny." One particularly stunning 'wich is their chicken fried steak served on a house-made jalapeno cheddar bun, dressed with pepper jack cheese, and their signature remoulade. Be sure to get the wavy, wedge fries on the side with an extra serving of that stellar remoulade for dipping. It's a sauce worth writing home about.

Tartine

Tartine [Kim Ranjbar]

Though it's not a bakery, per se, Tartine is a small, uptown eatery by Cara and Evan Benson, which features their own incredible house-baked breads. Formally trained as a pastry chef, Cara has taken her skills and with them, created a little piece of Paris "on da Mississippi." In addition to scones, quiche, eggs baked in brioche, and huge salads, Tartine offers, well, tartines, which are typically open-faced sandwiches, featuring pậté or egg salad (both of which are on Tartine's menu), but one rises above the rest—thickly-sliced smoked ham, triple cream brie, and fresh lettuce burst from a crunchy baguette dressed with a slightly sweet fig mustard for only $11.50. You could even add a cup of their soup of the day and spend the afternoon on their patio dreaming of Montmarte or the Champs Elysees.



CIBO

CIBO [Kim Ranjbar]

Finally, it's been mentioned in this column before, but it deserves to be mentioned again, CIBO is a great spot for sandwiches. You have only to stop in to find out for yourself. Located near Oak Street on S. Carrollton Avenue, the Italian-inspired eatery offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner with everything from bagels and salads to hot plates of meatballs and three-cheese ravioli. But their sandwiches really shine. Try the "Imports Combo" with prosciutto, sopressata, capocolla, fresh mozzarella, and roasted red peppers on a toasted Italian loaf, or sink your teeth into a chicken parmigiana slathered in their own red sauce and covered in melty Parmesan and mozzarella.


Frappes: $20 and Under in New Orleans


Even for aficionados, a piping hot cup of coffee on a sweltering summer day in New Orleans is about as appealing as running a 10k in a goose down parka. Though many folks can be found sheltering inside well air-conditioned spaces where a steaming cuppa Joe can be had in relative comfort, it's altogether easier, more portable, and infinitely more fun to go frozen with a frappe.

History

Describing drinks chilled with ice, the name frappé is French in origin and goes as far back as the late 1800s. The French were enjoying café frappé, or iced coffee, which was sometimes served like slushes. Then, in 1957 Giannis Dristas, a representative of Nestlé, created the Greek version of café frappé, by mixing instant coffee, cold water, and ice cubes in a cocktail shaker—an invention that has forever linked Nescafé to frappé.


[Kim Ranjbar]

Fast-forward to the '90s when George Howell's Massachusetts coffee shop chain, the Coffee Connection, developed and trademarked the frappuccino, made with ice cream and cappuccino. The Coffee Connection was purchased by the Seattle-based java giant Starbucks in 1994 and the rest, as they say, is history.

These days, it seems coffee shops use the terms frappe (sounds like slap), frappé, frozen coffee, and frappuccino interchangeably to mean the same thing, though if your shop isn't Starbucks, you're likely to get slapped with a lawsuit for formally using the latter. Whatever you call it, it's a sweet, cooling delivery method for that daily caffeine injection we all adore, and, as a bonus, you don't have to go to Starbucks to get it.

Coast Roast Coffee

Though Coast Roast Coffee started in Long Beach, Mississippi, it has quickly become a beloved New Orleans brand with a café inside St. Roch Market and CR Coffee Shop on Magazine Street. Using high-quality arabica, they roast the beans in a restored, century-old roaster, resulting in a smooth, rich flavor you have to taste to appreciate. Though they do offer a regular frozen coffee, it is more than worth it to try their chocolate-covered espresso bean flavor to add an extra sweet jolt to your day.

Coffee House

Away over there in Arabi, there's a cool little café dubbed, most appropriately, the Coffee House. This community café started life as a drive-thru in 2015 and has now grown into a full-fledged shop, offering java brewed from Coast Roast beans as well as free WiFi, friendly faces, and handmade croissants and breakfast burritos. Their frosty frappe flavors, replete with whipped cream, are constantly changing, but they've been known to offer everything from white chocolate and cheesecake to lavender maple and (a Star Wars fan favorite) "Darth Frappe," or mocha and almond with chocolate whipped cream.

Way down in Metairie, in a busy strip mall on W. Esplanade Avenue, Evolve Coffee is mixing it up serving specialty coffees and teas, including the healthful and oh-so popular matcha. Using beans roasted by Mojo Coffee, Evolve makes not only a creamy, frozen latte, but a cool matcha-licious fusion dubbed the "frozen Evolution"—a mashup of freshly brewed espresso and ceremonial-grade matcha sourced from Japan. One day perhaps we'll see them slushify their signature rose matcha latte.


Coffee House [Courtesy of Coffee House]

Speaking of Mojo, as one of the first coffee shops in town featuring "hand-crafted pour over methods" to the GNO, it should come as no surprise that at least one of their locations offers a fabulous frappe. In the Lower Garden District, on the corner of Magazine and Race streets, Mojo serves frozen coffees with a slew of syrups added for flavor, from salted caramel and Bananas Foster to miel (honey), Milky Way, and king cake.

Coffee giant PJ's Coffee has locations all over the country, but it calls New Orleans home as it was founded here in 1978 by Phyllis Jordan. Sourcing only "the best quality arabica beans," which are then small-batch roasted, PJ's features their own frappes, though they're called granitas (traditionally an Italian sno-ball-like dessert) and "velvet ice." Though the two are generally only offered mocha and latte-flavored, the company will occasionally release seasonal versions like Southern wedding cake with vanilla and almond or honey macadamia.

Finally, one of the most famous frappes to be had in the Crescent City would have to be the frozen cafe au lait at Cafe Du Monde. Whether you're at Lakeside Mall, on Williams Boulevard in Kenner (brah), or standing in line at their iconic, green and white-awninged stand on Decatur Street in the French Quarter, it's pretty hard to beat this frozen coffee and chicory treat. Grab one to slurp while gaping at the Mighty Mississippi, and, perhaps, this summer won't seem quite so hot.



French Fries: $20 and Under in New Orleans

Smother them in cheese and chili, or drown them in ketchup and mayo-fries are just a blank canvas for a limitless palette of flavors-right? But it doesn't have to be that way. Fresh or frozen, plain french fries, with maybe a few shakes of salt, tell their own tale. Naked and exposed, hot and fresh, one can enjoy their excellent fried, potato flavor or, sadly, their lack of flavor.

Poorly made fries will reveal things like that oh-too common bitterness that comes from old or dirty oil, sogginess if the oil is too cool, burned, bitterness from oil that's far too hot, and don't forget the waxy, starchy flavor when using altogether the wrong kind of potato.

Cafe Degas

Though many people wax poetic about McDonald's french fries, there are far better creations coming out of our local kitchens. Fries don't have to be fresh or hand-cut to come out perfect. With care taken in sourcing, storage, and preparation, restaurants can consistently produce glowing, golden, french fried beauties. Take for example, the perfectly fried spuds one gets at Cafe Degas. It's a French restaurant so it only makes sense they'd have great fries, non? Oui! The Bayou St. John bistro on Esplanade offers "pomme frites," with dishes of steamed mussels and seared hanger steak, but you can order a side unaccompanied by other distractions and revel in the beautiful, fried potato-ness they possess for only $6.

Bubs Burgers [Kim Ranjbar]

Bub's Burgers

Over in Mid-City on Banks Street, Bub's excels at busting out the killer smash-style burger, but their consistently great fries are a real draw. While they do offer to dress up their perfectly good fries with cheese sauce or bacon, ranch and jalapenos, they'll be every bit as delicious without anything extra. Every order of their "shoestring" fries come out hot and crisp, with the perfect amount of salt. You could get a small order for $4, but I say spend the extra buck and get a large. You will have no difficulty finishing them, even with the addition of a "Royale" burger with American cheese.

Bevi Seafood Co.

Only a hop and a skip away on the corner of N. Carrollton and Bienville, Bevi Seafood Co. is a place known for boiled crawfish, crab, and shrimp, as well as several memorable po-boys and sandwiches, but their fries seem to fly under the radar. Again, they offer cheese fries and roast beef debris fries, but by themselves these crispy sticks of potato happiness are great without any ado. Perhaps they are fried twice or maybe they're brined, but Bevi's fries have an extra level of crunch to them, making their near steak-like thickness a boon rather than a bane. Just try a pile, plain and uncluttered, and you'll see why no additions are necessary.

Liuzza's by the Track

Yet another Mid-City restaurant belongs on the fearless fries list-that Jazz Fest favorite, Liuzza's by the Track. Yes, you should definitely eat their gumbo, and yes, the BBQ shrimp po-boy is worth every peppery bite, but have you tried the fries? Maybe you think they've been tossed onto a side plate as an afterthought, but just bite into one, and you're on your way to spud heaven. Crisp, hot, hand-cut and salty, you can down a plate of fries with a cold can of Abita or a frozen daiquiri for under $10 and leave happy.

Fat Boy Pantry [Kim Ranjbar]

Fat Boy Pantry

Down in the Lower Garden District, Fat Boy Pantry on Magazine Street offers a mish-mashed menu of sandwiches, coffees, freshly-squeezed juices, and ice cream. It's hard to see past items like their Benedict Eggwich with hollandaise and "smash browns," or the fried lobster po-boy, but their fries are something yet again. Though the menu implies the fries are not served on their own (they only seem to accompany some of the sandwiches), they'd likely make you a pile on their own if you asked politely. Maybe it's because they wrap them up in butcher paper with the sandwich or maybe they keep their oil impeccably fresh, but these fries stand alone in their stellar flavor and texture. They're thick, almost like a steak fry, perhaps just a touch on the soggy side, but in a good way. One thing's for sure-you will not be able to stop eating these red-gold beauties until they are all gone.

Chloe

Last, but definitely not least, there's a high-end fry that belongs on this list. Not too long ago, LeBlanc + Smith opened a boutique hotel and restaurant on St. Charles Avenue dubbed The Chloe. Led by the talented chef Todd Pulsinelli, the Uptown restaurant offers plenty of dishes to rave about, from the smoked pork belly lettuce cups and shrimp etouffee dumplings to the roasted lemonfish, but don't you dare sleep on those fries. Though you can get them with a chicken katsu sandwich or mushroom melt French dip, the shoestring-style fries can easily stand alone. Make it celebratory, with a glass of sparkling wine poolside and we promise, you won't miss the obligatory pile of ketchup.

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