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 had 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 fillets. 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.
Like all 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 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 like 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.
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, is 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 a of a hot bar! From the usual rotisserie chicken and fried catfish, to glorious tamales, tostadas, beautiful beef stews, Spanish rice, braised ox tail 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 yen on a delicious, hot, freshly made meal wrapped and ready to go in their deli section. Just get there before 11am, 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 looked 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.
*Article originally published in the September 2023 issue of Where Y’at Magazine