Eatin’ our way through N’awlins: Part II

Continued from Eatin’ our way through N’awlins: Part I

THE PO’ BOY – at Parkway Bakery

In the Mid City planning district of New Orleans is an area referred to as Bayou St. John, a small, unassuming area of the city that was unfortunately not spared by Hurricane Katrina’s furious flooding. Today the area has become trendy again featuring many new builds, but the tourism draw remains the famous Parkway Bakery, the home of one of the city’s first and probably the best known meals – the po’ boy.

The story goes that during the 1929 streetcar strike, staff at a local restaurant began referring to the striking workers as “poor boys” and soon the owners (the Martins) began selling the sandwich bearing the locally slanged “Po’ Boy” name.

It’s a somewhat standard submarine sandwich, crammed with your choice of about a dozen different meats, though it’s typically either clam, shrimp or fish (often catfish). The bread, a long French loaf is cut through and the sandwich is dressed with lettuce, tomatoes, sweet pickles and mayonnaise. We all ordered a full po’ boy and while Victoria and Brian gobbled theirs down in nothing flat, mine defeated me and I left half my sandwich and probably 2/3 of my fried shrimp lying on the deli paper. But, don’t doubt, it was absolutely the second best submarine style sandwich I’ve ever had – next to Atlantic City’s White House Subs.

GUMBO - at Gumbo Shop

Besides Jumbalaya, Creole Gumbo is probably the meal most often linked to the Louisiana bayous. It’s a stew influenced by at least five cultures. Each contributes key ingredients that seep upon one other to enhance your overall experience, but each culture preserves its own uniqueness just to keep you on your toes. Seems gumbo, more than any other signature dish, represents the wondrous spirit of New Orleans perfectly.

In a world of chains named Pizza Hut, Burger King and Taco Bell who know very little about “Pizza”, “Burgers” or “Tacos”, it was hard for me to believe a place called “The Gumbo Shop” could possibly have the “best gumbo in New Orleans.” But, it seemed each review we read said the same thing “GO TO THE GUMBO SHOP!” Who are we to argue?

So, we hopped in line, and after only 45 agonizing minutes, got a table. We ordered their award winning chicken Andouille gumbo made from boneless chicken, a wonderful spicy Cajun sausage and okra all simmered gently in a thick chicken stock. For $8.50 we each got a bowl, toasted the crescent city and kept quiet for a while with only a few “oohs” and “ahhs” to fill the silence. A shop that knows gumbo… for once someone’s hung out an honest shingle.

Beignet – at Beignet Cafe

Last time Brian was in town, one of the few delicacies he “shoved in his gaping maw” was Louisiana’s official state donut, the beignets at Café du Monde. Café Du Monde is probably one of the most famous establishments in New Orleans and one of the most famous coffee houses in the country. And, he was disappointed.

So, we decided before our tour of the city’s most famous cemetery we would pop by Café Beignet to give the pastry another shot. I mean, what better place than a coffee shop with the delicious fried dough in its name. At Café Beignet, $6 gets you three pastries, coated in slowly liquefying powdered sugar and a large, strong coffee – possibly the best coffee we’ve had in a while, and the beignets did not disappoint either.  The picture should be enough to make your mouth water.

This time Brian got his money’s worth… and we had to deal with Brian’s sugar high the rest of the day – which sadly is about the same as Brian without sugar.

Red Beans and Rice – at Gumbo Shop

Red beans and rice is a simple dish, perhaps the simplest of Creole cuisine. Traditionally eaten on Mondays and containing leftovers of the standard Sunday meal, red beans are mixed skillfully, but not too carefully with vegetables, spices and leftover pork bones and then simmered all day on the stove. Legend has it that the meal was designed to be made while the time-consuming laundry (conventionally done on Mondays) was washed by hand.

Today was not Monday, and we had no laundry duties planned, but we wanted to complete our tour with simple, light N’awlins faire. Since the gumbo was so good at the Gumbo Shop, we decided to give it one more chance to impress us before Brian left on his jet plane for the cool of Columbus.

Today, for lunch, there was no line and we were immediately shuffled to a courtyard seat. We ordered beers and the main course and nibbled on bread for a few moments before our lunch arrived. Once again, The Gumbo Shop delivered.

The beans, thick with gravy, surrounded a dollop of rice and chives. Seated atop were two thick sleeves of smoked sausage and a tiny hot pepper. Perfectly dressed, but not for long. It took us only moments to scarf the entire meal and we had just enough room for bread pudding – it’s peculiar how your stomach stretches just enough for bread pudding after only a week in New Orleans, I wonder what would happen after a month.

Eatin’ our way through N’awlins: Part I