Though there’s many a snob who would scoff at a dish piled high with more food that any average person could eat in one sitting, there are also those who seek to “supersize.” Perhaps those individuals have a hearty appetite; those frustrating, blessed with high-metabolism folk who can eat dizzying quantities and not gain weight. They could also be incredibly frugal and desire as much food as they can get for their hard-earned dollar or maybe, just maybe, they have an inordinate love of leftovers.
Are you one of those people who, in the middle of the night, find themselves snacking out of the refrigerator on a dinner you couldn’t finish while at the table? Or do you look forward to bringing your box to work and while co-workers settle for microwave meals or tuna fish sandwiches, you’re lording it over them with a slab of lasagna from the Italian spot you dined at the night before?
Many would argue that portion sizes everywhere have increased over the past several decades, and in general they would be right. But there are a lot of plates out there that exceed even the expected levels of excess, especially in a food-focused city like New Orleans.
Newly opened in the space that formerly housed the specialty sandwich restaurant Wayfare Acropolis On Freret is the second location of Metairie restaurant Acropolis Cuisine on Veterans Boulevard. With a menu featuring many Mediterranean mainstays like hummus with warm pita, stuffed grape leaves, falafel and kabob. Among the lunch specials offered every weekday is a gigantic slab of Moussaka, a Greek-style lasagna (they have that, too), if you will, made with eggplant, zucchini, potatoes and ground veal topped with a thick, fluffy layer of creamy béchamel. Easily big enough to feed a family of four, this massive meal comes with a side of their warm pita bread and will only set you back $10.95.
Speaking of second locations, the Uptown Wakin’ Bakin’ on Prytania Street, the second location of the popular Mid-City breakfast joint, also can offer ridiculously huge portions at great prices. Case in point, the Gravy Train. For only $9, you can feast on two fist-sized biscuits smothered in a lake of white, sausage gravy with a side of two eggs and two pieces of bacon. It’s likely you wouldn’t need to eat again until dinner time!
Over on the up-and-coming Tulane Avenue, less than three blocks from the courthouse, lies Avery’s on Tulane, a mom-n-pop spot owned and operated by husband and wife team Christy and Justin Pitard. Known for their overstuffed po-boys, gumbo and fried potato salad, Avery’s also features some pretty hefty entrees. One that comes to mind is their enormous bowl of red beans and rice served with a sizable fried pork chop finished with a garlic-butter drizzle. This feast that is easily enough for two is not breaking anyone’s bank coming in at a measly $10.75.
Admittedly, there are lots of Chinese restaurants around town serving portions so large they retain the size and shape of the takeout boxes the next day. But just as an example, Bywater neighborhood joint Red’s Chinese excels at this type of excess, such as the General’s Chicken where even a “small” portion ($11) will leave you groaning and clutching your over-satiated belly. One of the best items for guaranteed overflow is the Hawaiian fried rice which at $14 features a mountainous plate piled high with fried chicken, bacon, pickled pineapple and (of course) rice in a mouthwatering curry.
Right off I-10 and Causeway Boulevard is City Diner, a popular greasy spoon in Metairie that offers cheap eats 24 hours a day. Local denizens have long touted their gargantuan pancakes that are practically the size of a 16 inch pizza and cost about $6.50 each. Not to “dis” an old favorite, but one could reasonably argue that the Chai Pancakes at Bearcat Cafe, a California-esque restaurant that now has two locations (one just of Freret on Jena Street and the other on Carondelet in the CBD), are a great alternative. Found under the “bad cat” portion of the menu, the Chai spice pancakes are fluffy, cinnamony-sweet and topped with a generous glob of pumpkin cream cheese and a sprinkling of candied pecans. Though they aren’t quite as large as the pancakes at City Diner, they’re close enough for jazz and you get not one, but two jumbo flapjacks, with lots of warm, pure maple syrup for $12.
Finally, a lot of “old-school,” Creole Italian favorites come to mind when talking about colossal portion sizes, but none more so than that renowned neighborhood spot Rocky & Carlos. Located way out on St. Bernard Highway in Chalmette, this New Orleans classic is known for its monster portion sizes offered at ridiculously low prices. A great example of this was recently shared with me by fellow foodie Jason Vowell. For less than $13, he enjoyed a cyclopean plate of Veal Parmesan which included two cutlets of veal atop a mountain of spaghetti, all of which was smothered in red sauce and melted mozzarella. As if this wasn’t enough, this mighty dish is offered with a “side” of their famous mac ‘n’ cheese, a slab so large it could easily be a meal in and of itself. Any diner walking out of Rocky & Carlos without a doggie bag is an impressive eater indeed.
*Article originally published in the March 2020 issue of Where Y’at Magazine
**City Diner is closed