With all the fabulous food to be found at the 2016 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell, it’s surprising that you’d even have an appetite for anything other than Crawfish Monica, red beans and rice, or cochon de lait po-boys. But you know, there are always those days that the food lines are too long, dancing seemed far more important or that there was no way you were going to miss The Iguanas for a Natchitoches meat pie again this year. Fear not! This is New Orleans after all, a city brimming with some of the finest cuisine in the entire country.
This piece would be remiss if it didn’t at least mention old favorites like Liuzza’s by the Track, which is literally only a couple of blocks from the fairgrounds offering dishes like their signature, overflowing BBQ Shrimp Po-Boy or Creole Gumbo that so good you’ll “slap your mama.” There’s also Lola’s on Espalande with their amazing paella and grilled pork loin. But in the past few years, there have been some new additions to the neighborhood that are well-worth a visit.
Located on Esplanade Avenue, The Half Shell On The Bayou is a fairly new gem added to the area less than two years ago. Housed in the building that once was the Creole Cottage, this neighborhood grill offers all kinds of New Orleans favorites like seafood platters, po-boys and gumbo, but you really need to dive into their chargrilled oysters, most especially the “Voodoo Bleu” featuring plump Gulf oysters wrapped in bacon and topped with bleu cheese. Order a half dozen Voodoo Bleu and a side of their spicy onion rings and you’ll be good to go.
Although the fare at 1000 Figs is a million miles away from typical New Orleans cuisine, doesn’t make it any less fabulous. Theresa Galli and Gavin Cady, the fearless duo behind The Fat Falafel food truck, now also have permanent digs on Ponce de Leon Street, less than a block from Liuzza’s by the Track. Featuring Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, 1000 Figs’s menu offers hand-cut French fries with creamy toum for dipping, crispy-on-the-outside and fluffy-on-the-inside falafel and possibly one of the best chicken salad sandwiches you’ll ever eat served on Leo’s semolina bread with rosemary aioli. To make it even more incredible, you can get all that and still not go over budget. How hungry are you exactly?
While this one might require a cab ride, or a leisurely 2 ½ mile walk, it’s still relatively close to Jazz Fest and certainly merits a little extra effort on your part. Owned and operated by chef Micheal Gulotta, formerly of Besh’s Restaurant August, Mopho is a delightfully creative blend of Vietnamese and New Orleans cuisine. Score a po-boy (or banh-mi) with fried shrimp and local Chisesi ham, a sloppy pulled pork with crispy cracklin or cast iron roast tofu with black bean mayo … all served on Dong Phuong bread of course. Mopho also offers a parade of different types of pho, the ingredients of which you’re free to mix and match, and some pretty stellar specials like Spiced Coconut Milk Braised Sweet Potatoes or a Roasted Covey Rise Farm Eggplant Bowl with curried field peas and Ms. Tole’s tofu.
Located on N. Dorgenois Street just off Bayou Road, there’s a spot worth the ½ mile hike dubbed the Pagoda Cafe. If you’re seeking a java fix or an easily portable breakfast or lunch, this little spot definitely fits the bill. You can’t go wrong with their specialty espresso drinks brewed from local roaster French Truck, nor would their breakfast tacos or toasts (made with a Bellegarde country loaf) be amiss. In fact, you could opt for two breakfast tacos with roasted potatoes, refried beans, scrambled eggs and cheese plus toast smeared with ricotta, poached figs and walnuts and still have enough for a large iced mocha. Happy festing!
*Article originally published in the May 2016 Jazz Fest issue of Where Y’at Magazine