Writing on (Eating in) the City of New Orleans

On the bus in New OrleansI hadn’t been to New Orleans in too many years, so when work there came my way, I pounced on the opportunity. The challenge: A conference would keep me close to my hotel. Still, I managed to escape to see a bit of the city and get some good meals. The hotel concierge thought I was crazy to constantly take the bus (as well as walk a lot), but that enabled me to see more–and to capture scenes like this musician in transit.

New Orleans is one of those amazing food cities, so whittling down the list of restaurants was quite difficult. There are still many on my wish list. For now, I’m happy to report back on my visits to:

  • Liuzza’s by the Track
  • Verti Marte
  • Cochon Butcher
  • August
  • Maurepas Foods
  • Root

Immediately after throwing my luggage in the hotel room after taking the bus (!) from the airport, I jumped on another bus and made my way to Liuzza’s by the Track. A few people had recommended the place for its BBQ shrimp po’boy, so it seemed like an appropriate first stop. On this particular day, a lot of locals were lounging in the restaurant, enjoying food and drinks. On that note, the sandwich did not disappoint at all.

Liuzza's by the Track bbq shrimp poboy 6542

BBQ shrimp po’boy at Liuzza’s by the Track.

Liuzza's by the Track shrimp sandwich 2 6570

Another look at the sandwich, consisting of shrimp sauteed in BBQ sauce and stuffed into a French bread pistolette. This angle shows the “sauciness.”

Liuzza's by the Track interior 6606

A look inside the restaurant.

Liuzza's by the Track interior 2 6605

Note the Saints’ stuff on the walls, as well as the gaming booth.

Liuzza's by the Track exterior

Here’s the outside of Liuzza’s by the Track.

Trying to maximize my meals, I woke up extra early one morning to make my way to Verti Marte. I’d rather have lunch for breakfast (and dinner for lunch), so a savory sandwich would hit the spot. With Verti Marte open 24 hours, I was ready for an “All That Jazz” po’boy at 7am. The worker looked at me funny when I placed my order at the counter, asking “Isn’t it early for something that heavy?” but complying with my request. With ham, turkey, Swiss + American cheese, mushrooms, Wow sauce, and shrimp, this is a serious sandwich, and dare I say it might rival the best from our beloved Paseo?

Verti Marte sandwich

“All That Jazz” po’boy at Verti Marte.

Verti Marte counter and menu

Check out the long list of sandwiches on the chalkboard above the counter.

Verti Marte exterior

Outside of Verti Marte, a store that’s always open and ready for your order.

So many people recommended Cochon, but it simply didn’t fit into my schedule. But for one more sandwich, I did manage to make it to Cochon Butcher. There are many good sandwiches to consider, but with a muffaletta on my to-do list, this would be my choice. Cochon Butcher’s version is warm, which provided an interesting twist. When I asked at the counter whether a side order of boudin would be too much, the worker asked, “Aren’t you here to eat pork?” Well-said.

Cochon Butcher muffaletta

Cochon Butcher’s muffaletta. Delicious.

Cochon Butcher boudin

Here’s the side order of hot boudin, with pickles and some tasty mustard.

Cochon Butcher interior

Inside Cochon Butcher.

I wanted to get to one John Besh restaurant. Luckily, I was in New Orleans for Friday lunch, which enabled me to go to August for their one-day-per-week lunch at an “annual” price of $20.13. (Look for that to go up a penny next year.) This white tablecloth affair would be my fanciest meal of my time in New Orleans. Quality ingredients, excellent execution, and first-class service. Even if not my favorite type of restaurant (I’m not a high ceiling and drippy chandelier guy?), I’m glad I got to go.

August menu

My Friday lunch menu at August.

August amuse bouche

Amuse bouche: pumpkin custard with pistachios and coconut mousse, if I remember this right.

August pâté

Pâté is a signature item at August, so I had to try it. Pretty plate, and I especially enjoyed the apple marmalade and cranberry compote.

August etoufee

This etouffee was interesting, with white shrimp, dumplings, and baby turnips the outstanding ingredients. I wanted more curry sauce to sop up with the bread.

August panna cotta

The honey panna cotta was a light and satisfying ending to lunch, with wafers, satsuma sorbet, and ginger foam.

For one of my dinners, I wanted to avoid the touristy areas, and ended up in the Faubourg Marigny/Bywater neighborhood, where I ate at Maurepas Foods. I’d heard good things about the restaurant, which keeps it simple with southern-style dishes using local products. Most recommended was the chicken leg quarter. Not something I typically order, but done deliciously with market greens, slow-poached egg, and grits.

Maurepas Foods radish salad

To start at Maurepas Foods: radish salad with basil vinaigrette, anchovy, manchego, and sweet greens. Great flavors.

Maurepas Foods chicken front

And here’s the chicken leg quarter. For $14, this is fantastic.

Maurepas Foods chicken

Another look at the chicken dish.

But, by far, my best meal would be dinner at Root. This restaurant is whimsical with purpose, with delightful food that’s simply delicious. Dining solo, I felt welcomed and at home at the counter, watching the preparation of charcuterie plates and the entrance of amazing dishes coming out of the kitchen. Asking my server for suggestions, we cobbled together an incredible meal that makes me anxious to return to Root, even knowing that there are so many other restaurants to explore in New Orleans.

Root amuse bouche

Amuse bouche at Root: Scarlet turnip puree, winter bean salad, melon mostarda, and spiced bread crumbs. A good preview of plates to follow, full of interesting ingredients.

Root menu

The charcuterie (and start of sausage) menu at Root. How to choose?

Root charcuterie

For my charcuterie plate, I had beef tongue and also CBD (chicken-beef-duck). The poached galantine was made with chicken breast, veal sweetbreads, and duck breast–plus some foie gras? There’s a lot happening on this board, including pickled sweet potato, pickled papaya, bread + butter pickles, eggplant mostarda, Indian-spiced lime pickle, pickled squash, and pickled cantaloupe. Plus a tiny tube of homemade mustard.

Root foie gras 3 ways

Speaking of foie gras, would you believe I did NOT order this foie three ways? There’s foie (dipping dots!) in the terrarium. I did have a taste of the foiellipop (foie lollipop) that’s in the middle, though.

Root deviled eggs and pickled shrimp

Pickled shrimp with deviled eggs. Clearly I’m the winner at this food version of tic-tac-toe. I loved all of the flavors in this dish.

Root intermezzo

Root surprised me with this intermezzo. If I’m capturing it correctly, it’s green apple Pimm’s sorbet with Mezcal-pressed apples, hibiscus black tea, hibiscus syrup, freeze-dried currants, puffed rice, and an apple crisp on top.

Root duck heart salad

Here’s another amazing course: grilled duck heart “anticucho” salad, containing Peruvian “anticucho” sauce, compressed peaches, charred onions, crispy confit potatoes, black duck terrine, and local mint. I know I say this a lot about dishes I like, but the flavors and textures were fabulous. Earthy, fruity, smoky…and delicious.

Root dessert

And for dessert, I enjoyed this blueberry orange blossom clafoutis with Earl Grey tea sable, sour cream cardamom ice cream, blueberry vacherin, purple croquant, lemongrass curd, and violet blueberry foam. (More about this dessert here.)

Root interior

The scene at Root.