As I’ve been doing my best to consume every last drop of New Orleans, the city has slowly consumed me. Every time I turn a corner, the irresistible smell of cajun spices and other devastatingly good aromas waft out through kitchen doors, made all the more dizzying by the striking colors that decorate the facades of homes in a way that would be gaudy in any other city. My twin sister chose to go to Tulane University because New Orleans “felt like another country.” She’s right! No other place in the United States has created such a distinct, exotic culture. New Orleans is drenched with sultry late night jazz, voodoo magic and an old-world feel evoked by trolley street cars and gas-lit lanterns hanging above every doorway. But forget about the fact that you can roam the streets with open beer bottles – the food is clearly the most intoxicating and liberating part of New Orleans life!
As I’ve worked remotely from local eateries and coffee shops over the past week, I feel the most qualified and compelled to share my daytime meals, with a few evening giveaways. Let’s begin the tour.
This funky diner is no secret. Tourists and locals swarm the corner of Gallier and Chartres on weekends for arguably the best brunch in town. Elizabeth’s serves down-home southern food with surprising twists and embellishments, like this past Sunday’s special, “cornmeal waffle with sweet potato and smoked duck hash, and red pepper jelly.” The walls are exploding with quintessential New Orleans artwork. When you arrive, give your name and head straight upstairs to the bar and order a Bloody Mary – these are not to be missed! Return to the sunshine, and recline on the banks of Chartres while snacking on the spicy pickled bean garnish and freshening up your day the bloody right way. To optimize this menu, plan to brunch with a group of plate-swappers (warning: not everyone is comfortable sharing dishes, especially one they covet). Our crew played a generous round of musical plates, sharing the waffles, poached eggs on crab cakes, bubble and squeak, and an insanely delicious “fresh toast burrito” packed with sausage, egg and hash. Sensational. www.elizabethsrestaurantnola.com
Lucky us, my friend Eric Lind just moved near Ithaca from the sweet city of New Orleans. He sent me trotting into the urban wilds with a list of top picks, including his friends newly opened bake shop, Shake Sugary. When he said something along the lines of “they have the most tempting baked goods you will not be able to turn down,” I nearly beelined for this place. It helped that we were at Elizabeth’s less than ten blocks away, with over an hour wait for a table and Bloody Mary’s in hand. Our growling stomachs made the choice easy. Though we didn’t spot a sign outside, it was clear we’d arrived. The corner bakery was pulsing with activity; bleary-eyed souls wandered in for coffee and treats, and back out with a zippy smile and a beat to their step. We sampled a “chocolate-orange strudel bar” and the “sweet potato and bacon scone.” I surrendered into meditation over each bite. www.shakesugary.com