Every year for thirty years, thousands of people fl ock to the French Quarter during one weekend in April for the largest free music festival in the south, the French Quarter Festival, which features multiple live music stages around the area and a long lineup of hundreds of great local bands. In addition to the entertainment and scenery, many visitors look forward to the food; dozens of vendors line the large stage areas and fi ll the air with the alluring scent of an array of foods. Everybody has that one special fest food that they love: Crawfi sh Bread, Meat Pies, or local staples like Gumbo and Jambalaya. And this year's French Quarter Fest is the place to get them all and more, beginning on Thursday, April 11 th and lasting through Sunday, April 14th .
There will be approximately fi fty-fi ve vendors returning to the fest and more fi rst-time vendors that include young restaurants with diverse fares around the main stage locations: the long strip that lines the Mississippi River on the West side of the Quarter that includes Woldenberg Park and the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas Riverfront Plaza, Jackson Square in the very heart of the Quarter, and the U.S. Mint on the East side. Along with the many classic dishes that make up the city's traditional cuisine are some options for different or adventurous tastes. The Manager of Musician Sponsorships and French Quarter Festival Food Vendors Georgia Rhody says, "We're pretty heavy into the old classics. Last year, Galatoire's had their fi rst year here and made a Grilled Chicken BLT. Last year was [also] the fi rst year that we denoted vegetarian options. We don't have a lot in the festival, but one of the most surprising to me is that Dunbar's Red Beans and Rice are vegetarian, and they are fantastic. Our new foodie trend restaurant last year was Three Muses, and they are going to be returning to the Mint with Feta Fries. Mona's does falafel, and The Praline Connection does a vegetarian plate with Beans and Crowder Peas."
Those old classics have the densest lines as revelers fl ock to them for the dishes that are best served in the sunshine with abundant live music.
Rhody says, "Vaucresson Sausage is very beloved. He's been with us since the beginning. He's a thirdgeneration sausage maker in New Orleans, and he's a great all-around person too. He sings, and he makes great sausage as well. Muriel's is pretty popular. Some of our oldest vendors are in Jackson Square, where the festival originally started. Some of them have just stayed there: Court of Two Sisters, Pat O' Brien's, Ted's Frostop and Mrs. Wheat's Pies, and Tujague's. One of my favorites is Dwight Henry at the Buttermilk Drop, he's fascinating, and having a movie career on the side makes for a good story."
Some of the dishes appearing this year may be unusual, but no less tasty than the famed foods. Rhody explains, "Boucherie does a Krispy Kreme bread pudding that's pretty funny. The Praline Connection does Fried Chicken Livers with Pepper Jelly, which is really delicious. I love the Grilled Chicken Livers; I have it almost every day."
While most vendors come from New Orleans and the surrounding cities, one vendor makes a longer trip to serve their food. Rhody says, "Lasyone's is a meat pie restaurant from Natchitoches, and they're going to be offeringup, along with their Meat Pies and Crawfi sh Pies, a Mushroom Pie. They're going to have the vegetarian option."
Everybody can fi nd something they love to eat at festivals. Georgia Rhody has a few favorites. "I love G.W. Fins Fish Tacos. I love the Goat Cheese Crepe from Muriel's. Little Tokyo usually does a Spicy Crawfi sh Roll that's great to get when it's hot out. Everybody has something delicious to have."
You can see the food vendors' menus as well as music schedules and news about the Fest with the free French Quarter Festival App for iPhone and Android. Just remember to stay hydrated and cool in the blazing sunlight so that you can enjoy the French Quarter Fest for as long as the music and food lasts, and especially for Saturday night, when the Fest will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary with fi reworks on the River. Food, music, or whatever your pleasure, French Quarter Fest has something for you.