Bill and I went to New Orleans for our wedding anniversary (four years) and milestone of when we met (10 years). While there we had a lot of good food and drinks, met up with friends for a day and saw a lot of great sights. This post is about the great food we had in the Big Easy, but we also had some wonderful drinks on our trip.
We arrived in New Orleans around lunchtime and the weather was perfect. We started at the French Market, on the east side of the French Quarter, and walked through it, making our way to Central Grocery for muffaletta. Unfortunately it was closed that day, so we kept walking around, taking in all the sights and sounds of a city we hadn’t seen for ten years.
Being a vegetarian in a food-oriented city full of meat stocks and broths, I did some research before we got there and had a short list of vegetarian-friendly restaurants. Near the top of that list was the Gumbo Shop, a small restaurant near Jackson Square. We headed over and sat in the courtyard. Still buzzing from just arriving in this great city full of so much meaning, we dove in with two New Orleans specialties. I had vegetarian gumbo with a NOLA Blonde beer, and Bill had a po-boy and one of the restaurant’s specialty rum punches. The gumbo was great with a good balance of rice, beans and spices. The beer really played off it well, adding great flavor. Looking back, we kept loving that meal and talking about it.
The next day we knew Central Grocery was open, so we made a point to go there. Central Grocery is home of the muffaletta sandwich, and they make it awesome. They have an awesome olive mix on white bread with sesame seeds, lots of cheese and three kinds of meat (obviously I kept that part off).
We waited until the line had “died down” and we still waited almost half an hour. You stand in a line that weaves through the old-school Italian market and can look at all the wonderful and unusual ingredients they stock. When you get to the counter you order a half or whole muffaletta (even the half is huuuuuge), if you want Zapp’s potato chips or a drink, or any of the few other items they have at the deli counter. I sheepishly asked if I could get my sandwich vegetarian (that’s right, I didn’t even know if it could be done!) and the old man behind the counter said “yes” in the most monotone, stern voice I had heard. I didn’t care, it was worth it. That salty, carbo sandwich was mine! We walked across the street to the Mississippi River and ate the awesome sandwich.
We liked Napoleon House so much, we went twice: once for drinks and a snack (awesome fruit and cheese platter, which turned into a fun game of guess the type of cheese) and once for lunch. At lunch I hoped to try the ratatouille calzone, which sounded amazing with roasted seasonal veggies, a Dijon vinaigrette and cheese, but they were out of it that day. So in haste I ordered the organic sandwich, which was also good. But I was really hoping for one last Southern/New Orleans specific dish.
However, Bill had a bit better luck in New Orleans since he isn’t vegetarian. He had oysters, a few different po-boys, the original muffaletta and jambalaya to name a few things, all of which he liked.
And no trip to New Orleans is complete without a stop at Cafe du Monde. Bill had never been, so we had cafe au lait and beignets hiding under a mountain of powdered sugar while sitting outside listening to wonderful jazz music.
And when we had a little time to kill before heading to the airport, we stopped for one last treat: Pinkberry. It was our first time trying it and we figured when on vacation, why not have one last treat. It is frozen tart and sweet yogurt with a toppings bar. I really liked it that it wasn’t sweet and the toppings ranged from fruit to nuts and granola to sweet treats and sauces. Very unique idea. Even Larry David likes it! (And, yes, some guy in line had to mention this episode from “Curb Your Enthusiasm” to the employee, who probably had heard this a thousand times.)