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.
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.
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 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.
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.