By far one of the most attractive aspects of living in New Orleans (and other regions of the Deep South) is the endearing atmosphere of genuine hospitality. Locals go out of their way to make newcomers feel welcome, whether it’s the courteous cries of “Good morning!” and “Where y’at?” or an invitation to a family crawfish boil. The fabled “Southern hospitality” is so pervasive that even if you’re a Yankee, after living here for a few months (or even only a few weeks), the courtesies ubiquitous to Southern personalities almost become second nature.
As the “universal symbol of hospitality,” you might also notice that New Orleans is filled with an overwhelming number of images and carvings of pineapples. You’ll see it perched atop wrought-iron fence posts, repeated in wallpaper patterns, carved into wooden banisters and painted on windows and doors. What you might not know is that the pineapple is also a symbol of affluence. This delicious, edible bromeliad has a long and twisted history from its arrival in the Caribbean islands in the hands of nomadic Caribs to its appearance in Europe, introduced by none other than Christopher Columbus. When it arrived in Europe, only the very rich could afford to eat pineapples. Therefore, it also became a symbol of prestige.
Thanks to modern conveyances and canning, anyone these days can afford to enjoy the tangy, sweet, juicy and most affable pineapple. In fact, many chefs and restaurants in New Orleans take full advantage of the tropical fruit.
Recently opened in the Warehouse District, Meril is a hip, casual restaurant created by famous celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse featuring small plates and rather eclectic cuisine. Along with dishes like crispy turkey necks and Korean short ribs, Chef de Cuisine Will AvelarAvelar also offers an incredible “Upside-Down Cornbread” baked with pineapples and topped by a smoky bacon marmalade. At only $6, you can gobble this decadent cornbread with a fried chicken salad and voila! Lunch anyone?
Though it’s not nearly as shmancy, Red’s Chinese in Bywater is most definitely hip to the pineapple vibe, welcoming diners to its double shotgun-turned-grocery-turned-restaurant on St. Claude Avenue. The menu offers dishes that are proudly not “authentic,” but obviously inspired by Chinese cuisine like Craw Rangoons with spicy honey and pork belly buns with kimchi mayo. Guaranteed to blow you away, feed you (and a friend) and keep you coming back for more would be the Hawaiian fried rice — a gigantic mound of curry-seasoned fried rice filled with tender chicken, juicy chunks of pineapple, and thick pieces of slab bacon.
Instead of east, you could be interested in something more south of the border at El Pavo Real. Located in the Broadmoor neighborhood inside a corner building that once housed a Time Saver convenience store, this traditional Mexican cafe is helmed by chef/owner Lindsey McLellan who used to be in the kitchen at Spanish restaurant Lola’s in Mid-City. Though everything at El Pavo Real will knock your socks off, from the incredible mole poblano and fresh tortillas to the soul-warming chilaquilles, you should definitely try the al pastor tacos made with achiote marinated pork loin and pineapple-cilantro salsa. At only $8, you could pair this with the rajas con queso with roasted poblano and fresh corn, and still keep your wallet intact.
With the sweet, juicy nature of pineapples, you may be surprised that everything mentioned so far has been savory. Don’t despair, dessert is just around the corner … specifically the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Bordeaux! It’s hard to imagine a more perfect place to cool down with a sweet treat in the middle of June than Hansen’s Sno-Bliz. In the business of icy bliss for almost 80 years, Hansen’s offers finely-shaved, fluffy sno-balls crafted with house made syrups and all-natural ingredients that are well-worth waiting in line for … and you will wait in line no matter when you decide to get your sno-ball fix. Special flavors include Thai basil, blood orange, nectar and Creambow (doing unicorn before it was cool), but for the purposes of this pineapple piece, we recommend a cream of coconut sno-ball topped with crushed pineapple, it will be an experience you’ll never forget.
*Article originally published in the June 2017 issue of Where Y’at Magazine