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Want something good to eat in a strange land?


Mayhaw Man
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If you are one of those people who, really when you get right down to it, just can’t deal with ugly, New Orleans may not be the place that you should put on top of your travel list right now. On the other hand, if you remember to close your eyes as the plane lands, keep them closed all the way to your hotel, and remember to keep the blinds shut so you won’t accidentally look out of the window at night, you can probably come here and have a pretty nice time. Of course, your whole cheery worldview might get screwed up if you aren’t careful. You’ll need to make sure that you don’t look at any burned out buildings, or any closed shops, refrigerators on the sidewalk, boats on the side of the road, humvees filled with soldiers who would much rather be home, the many signs offering house gutting, or any of the dozens of other little reminders that keep the fact that this place is a giant disaster are right in your face at all times.

I mean, really, even we do it. I am fully capable of not leaving the lower French Quarter for a day or two at a time. It seems almost normal there, unless you have an aural and olfactory memory like mine. Then, even the historic lower quarter becomes a problem. No sounds of motorcycles roaring up to the Verti Mart at 3 in the morning so that the late nightriders can pick up a little meat loaf with a side of baked macaroni. No couples (different sex, same sex, hard to tell sex, whatever) talking as they stumble on towards their eventual destination. The smell of the Quarter is even different these days. Hell, it

‘s one of the first things that my 12 year old mentioned on his first visit back since Aug 29. The omni present smell of spilled beer and other things probably just as well not to mention seems to be gone. Not because anyone cleaned it up, of course, but mainly because smells go away with time and there has been no one here to put any more on the ground or in the gutter. Locals in the Quarter, as a general rule, take care of the place and since there really aren’t any tourists to speak of there isn’t much stuff being thrown to stink up the place.

Well, I take it back, maybe. It’s not normal. Anywhere. Everything in this place is a train wreck. There aren’t any people living in almost two thirds of the place, most of the houses here are not occupied at all (yeah, yeah, I know-you heard that we were doing fine and that everybody was coming back-well, you heard wrong-kind of, anyway), and everywhere almost every kind of business has shorter hours and not enough employees. There are burned out buildings even in the “nicest parts” of town and no matter where you go, no matter how hard you try, you’ll see some of it. Think that going somewhere swell like August is going to get you out of the line of sight? Nope. Among the many things that you might see as you get out of your cab is a huge wreck of a 150 year old warehouse that burned while all of those people were standing around waiting on someone, anyone, to show up and give them some water. It made for a great visual on The Looting Channel during the “all disaster, all the time” early days of September on cable news. Surely you couldn’t have missed it.

As of last week, they are guessing that there are somewhere around 80K worth of folks sleeping here at night. Before the storm we were somewhere North of 400k. Of course, the population here peaked in 1965, so we have been slowly bleeding folks for 40 years, but still, that many at once is not that hard to miss.

According to the Health Dept (yes, we do have one) only 21% of the restaurants that were open on Aug 15 are open now. And they are busy almost all of the time. We are New Orleanians. We eat out. We all do. The only problem is that before the storm we were able to eat more cheaply, and probably better, than anyone else in this country. You could swing a cat and hit a good sandwich or bowl of gumbo. Now? Not so much. Shorter hours, virtually no mom and pop places as they always, like everywhere else, never made much money anyway and couldn’t afford 4 months out of business – or their places are destroyed or uninhabitable or whatever. They just aren’t going to be back anytime soon, if at all.

On a happier note, if it’s good food you want, cooked by the owner of the place, it’s very likely that you can get all that you can possibly eat or afford. Of course, you’ll have to go early, and probably wait, but you can eat really well if that’s your goal. Great food. I have eaten well (and mostly on the cuff thanks to all of the out of town writers filling this place and in need of a tour of the train wreck) and eaten out often. It’s the only place where one can find any kind of normalcy, even if just for a bit, in this place. You can’t get your mail, but you can get some seriously good food. And people are eating out. Hell, you can’t BUY groceries at night, as all of the stores close because there is no one there to work, so if you get home later than 6 or so, and haven’t groceries in the house, you pretty much have to eat out. You’ll see everyone. You never know who you’ll see.

Right now I am sitting in one of the few late night coffee shops in New Orleans (Envie) and as I type this I am listening to Becky Allen, a much larger than life actress and comedian, hold court in the front and she is, really, hysterical. But, when someone else besides us hears this, they might wonder what the hell we are laughing at. She is telling the tale of her evacuation and retrenchment in this once beautifully tragic, but now just tragic place. It’s not really funny unless you were there, and even then, it’s not really funny. But it’s what we’ve got and we will laugh at anything these days to keep from crying.

The places that you might have wanted to eat before the storm are likely open, mostly, and you can come here as a tourist and still have much of the same fun that you had the last time that you were here. But it’s different. You might notice that your waiter seems a bit unsure of himself, that he or she doesn’t know much about the wine list or the dessert cart, and generally seems kind of out of it. That’s probably because he just started working there and might even have just started waiting tables. He’s in the weeds, he doesn’t know where everything is, and he doesn’t know you from Adam’s housecat-so the service might not be what you used to get-but the food’s great.

You just have to get into the swing of things and try to behave like locals (though I would skip the suicidal depression part-it's really not that much fun). Accept that things are screwed up, probably beyond any kind of meaningful early repair, and that if you really love this place-and I mean REALLY love it-you can just deal with it and do what you can in your daily lives to make it better. It will get better, somehow, but it won't be this weekend, or probably the next and chances are whatever happens beyond levee repair is going to be completely organic. It will have to come from us. Nobody else is going to show up and do it for us. They never understood us in the first place, and now, well, they are just plain mystified by why anyone would want to stay. But we know why. We know what it means...

You guys should come. The food’s good, the weather is good right now, and there’s plenty of free parking. We need the money and it will be nice to see someone who isn’t driving a truck that says “disaster relief" on the side.

We’ll leave the light on for you….if we can get Entergy to show up and turn the damned thing on.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Brooks, you made me cry.

As members of a Society dedicated to the culinary arts ,peopled with good folks, I'd like to extend an eGullet challenge. Cancel your winter vacations to Belize or Epcot or Jackson Hole and go to New Orleans. Let's do it, please -- show the courage of our convictions and support the renaissance of a great town. Cancel your rez at Alinea or Per Se or French Laundry and do the right thing -- for New Orleans, for food, for the good name of eGullet. I'll be looking at late February or early March.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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Believe me, I've been thinking about it for days and weeks now. We have some vacation time coming and figured to go anyplace warm, even back to (yawn) Florida. Heck, what do we do on vacation other than sit by the pool, read, and check out the local food scene? Our timeshare (next deposit expires in Nov '06 anyway, gotta use it soon) even has a couple of locations with availability. So, maybe, there'll be another installment of the Perleaux Eating New Orleans sometime next quarter.

I know that Upperline is open, and we can get a roast beef poboy at Parkway... Is Crabby Jacks open?

Love and Kisses, Rachel

PS - JetBlue has 2 flights a day between MSY (New Orleans) and JFK (New York) for $69-89 pp each way.

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Brooks, I will be driving in on the 13th, I think that is the date. I will get in touch the closer it gets to time.

Larry in Tulsa.

edited to add that I am dreaming of po'boys right now.

Edited by joiei (log)

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Great idea, Maggie and I hope everyone rallies to the cause. I certainly intend to try.

Seems like there is some twisted version of the old saying about an army going to war on its stomach here, but I haven't had enough coffee to ferret it out.

Hang in there, Mayhaw Man. Our hearts are with you and, with luck, our stomachs will join you soon as well.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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Brooks, you made me cry.

As members of a Society dedicated to the culinary arts ,peopled with good folks, I'd like to extend an eGullet challenge. Cancel your winter vacations to Belize or Epcot or Jackson Hole and go to New Orleans.

We will be there in the spring, with the kids.

Scott is still thinking about moving us back. He was surfing the real estate ads a couple of days ago.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Brooks, you made me cry.

Join the club, sweetheart. It happens alot here.

And I will reserve late Feb or early March as my "beautiful women in the city" time. I can't wait to see you.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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New Orleans is my Ground Zero. I came of age amongst magnolias and oaks and streetcars and far too many Long Island iced teas. I met my husband there, went to college there, and had my first Big Girl job there.

If you've lived in New Orleans, you don't ever really leave. The city becomes a part of you. This is why I must return.

My husband doesn't want to go. He's scared. I'm scared too. I cry pretty easily. I have a feeling I'll cry alot. But I have to go.

If I want to continue to call NOLA my own, I have to go claim my little piece of the sadness. If I don't, what will I tell my children when I teach them about that part of their heritage and the horrible thing that happened in 2005? That I couldn't glance at the piles of garbage that are burned onto the brains of every New Orleanian who's had the cajones to go back and make a go of it? No way.

Besides overcoming my own fears about going back, I know I owe the city my patronage. I owe a trip to pay my respects and offer some infinitesimal glimmer of hope to its residents'.

See you in January.

Bridget Avila

My Blog

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If you've lived in New Orleans, you don't ever really leave.  The city becomes a part of you.  This is why I must return.

I didn't realize until the disaster what a tenacious hold it has on people, including my husband.

If I want to continue to call NOLA my own, I have to go claim my little piece of the sadness.  If I don't, what will I tell my children when I teach them about that part of their heritage and the horrible thing that happened in 2005?  That I couldn't glance at the piles of garbage that are burned onto the brains of every New Orleanian who's had the cajones to go back and make a go of it?  No way.

Well said. Those are big parts of why Scott wants to go back - an impulse to take on part of the grief and anger, and just see for himself what has happened to his town that he loves so much

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Brooks, the dear spouse and I are only two of millions of folks from the great state of TX who travel east to NOLA to convince ourselves that rednecks can have style and panache, and it has weighed heavily on my mind to be gone this long.

We were never there in fashionable times nor favorable climates, but surely the beauty of an hour spent somewhere staring into the middle distance still exists in the square, or upper garden by the zoo? Do the trolleys run?

Dickie Brennan was on the Today show this morning to say the Palace was reopening this week, and I believe NPR will broadcast its New Year's Eve show from Tipitina's.

Thank you for the regular updates, even as it makes my stomach clench to read it. We'll be back as soon as we can get someone to watch the sweet, vicious baby Mebanes. Hell, sometimes New Orleans is the only remedy for toddler fatigue, and if it didn't lead to more Mebanes we'd prolly get down that way once a month instead of twice a year. Please hang in there, and there will again come a day when you and your fils shake your head and say, "Too many damn Texans down here!"

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Brooks,  the dear spouse and I are only two of millions of folks from the great state of TX who travel east to NOLA to convince ourselves that rednecks can have style and panache, and it has weighed heavily on my mind to be gone this long.

We were never there in fashionable times nor favorable climates, but surely the beauty of an hour spent somewhere staring into the middle distance still exists in the square, or upper garden by the zoo?  Do the trolleys run?

Dickie Brennan was on the Today show this morning to say the Palace was reopening this week, and I believe NPR will broadcast its New Year's Eve show from Tipitina's. 

Thank you for the regular updates, even as it makes my stomach clench to read it.  We'll be back as soon as we can get someone to watch the sweet, vicious baby Mebanes.  Hell, sometimes New Orleans is the only remedy for toddler fatigue, and if it didn't lead to more Mebanes we'd prolly get down that way once a month instead of twice a year.  Please hang in there, and there will again come a day when you and your fils shake your head and say, "Too many damn Texans down here!"

I will be in that number tomorrow night at Tipitina's and yes, National Public Radio will be broadcasting live from 501 Napoleon Ave., though I believe that the broadcast will also originate from other places around the country as well.

The STREETCARS are running on Canal(though much of the area they are serving, occasionally, has no one living there-it's a pretty symbolic kind of run right now), kind of. Many of them were destroyed in the storm as the barns flooded, and the electrical part of the St Charles line is in shambles. The cars are largely built in New Orleans and they will take some time to be repaired. It may be a year before the St Charles line is back in full operation.

And Dickie Brennan (who has been media coached, which I think was a great idea, given the number of interviews that he has done since the storm) was really good this morning. Well done, says I. Palace Cafe is, in fact, opening for dinner tonight on a limited menu kind of thing (so is Jacques Imo's), though they have been serving lunch all week.

And as far as Texans go, bring em on. There are something like 200.000 of us there now, so I see it as kind of a cultural exchange.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Streetcars on Canal only run from the river to the old Krauss building, not all the way through now-ruined mid-city. But at least it's a start. Streetcars uptown won't be running for quite some time; the aerial wire system was shredded, esp. on the far uptown end of the route. And yes, there are still large swaths of certain neighborhoods where it appears that little/nothing happened.

Bavila: Audubon Park is as glossy as ever; most of the tree debris is gone & I see lots of kids at the playground on the St. Charles/Exposition Blvd site. And the zoo is open, albeit just on weekends. But you still can't have a burger at Camellia Grill; though you can get a slice at Nino's or a beer & pizza at Phillip's.

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If you've lived in New Orleans, you don't ever really leave. The city becomes a part of you. This is why I must return.

Exactly how I feel. And that is why I am going for a long weekend, (that is all I could get but it is better than nothing). That and to check up on friends, spend some time just being there. Walk along the river front. Drink some coffee. Eat a po'boy. If Divina Corozon is open, have a pupusa. Listen to some music, and if I can find a pool table, lose a couple of games to Eddie. Hang out in the quarter for a bit. Is Port o Call open? If so, maybe have a great burger. Riding the streetcar late at night like I used to when I worked at Le Pavillion and lived uptown one summer will have to wait. Buy some Mardi Gras trinkets if accent annex is open. No place in the world has such great Cheap beads. And to check out these taco trucks I am reading about.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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If you've lived in New Orleans, you don't ever really leave. The city becomes a part of you. This is why I must return.

If Divina Corozon is open, have a pupusa.

Fiesta Latina, on Airline just past Williams, is by far the best pupusaria in town. The scene there is very, very cool these days with all of the latin cats that are here to fix stuff. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and are on your way to and from the airport (like one minute away)/ I love the place and eat lunch there probably twice a week-it's near my office.

Yes, you can get a fine burger at Port o Call (also at Coops, they have great burgers that people forget about. Mostly because if you are on lower Decatur eating burgers at midnight there is probably all kinds of things that you aren't going to remember due to inebriation) and there are bead shops everywhere open (though I highly, highly reccomend going to one of the big wholesalers-you will save a ton of money and get much "better" stuff. Hey, go where the locals go to buy their trinkets! Those places are pretty amazing, really, in the breadth of plastic that they sell. I often wonder what the Chinese factory workers think about all of that stuff?

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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More on Fiesta Latina(the mysterious and soon to return (albeit briefly) Sara Roahen wrote this. I love her style. It's always about the place and the people, and not so much about the food-this is the kind of restaurant writing that I really prefer).

Really, only because I just had lunch there-shrimp thing on tortilla, a combo pupusa platter, and a deliciously sweet tamarind drink. The place was full of guys watching futbol, drinking beer, and generally yucking it up. Very little, if any, English was being spoken and that is such a nice change of pace for a meal. Kind of like going on a mini trip. Good meal. I highly reccomend the place.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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They weren't as of about 3 weeks ago, but I haven't checked since. It takes so long to get down Williams these days that it's pretty much just as easy to drive downtown.

They are good, you are completely right, but the scene at Fiesta is really a pretty good time, no matter what time of day that you go in there.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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  • 2 weeks later...

We've got our annual Easter week trip booked. April 12-18. Airfares are dirt cheap, as are rental cars. Calling Joanne tomorrow to book a few nights at Upperline. Otherwise, we are just going to wander around and eat where we can eat.

We're staying at a friend's house when we visit, but we may have other friends flying in to meet us. Anyone have any knowledge of the hotel situation these days? We've booked people at the Garden District Hotel (used to be a Clarion) in the 2400 Block of St. Charles (near Igor's). We'd like to do that again -- anyone know how that neighborhood made out?

We might be down in March to help rebuild Willie Mae's but if anyone has any status on hotels in the Garden District, I'd love it. Thanks mucho in advance.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'll be in town tomorrow with hubby, 3yo daughter and 5mo son. Where should we eat? I'm thinking Uptown/Garden District for lunch (Dante Street Deli maybe?), as we'll be visitng friends there in the afternoon, and then for dinner we'll probably go Downtown/Quarter, picking up a muffaletta and olive salad to bring back to Lafayette with us.

Edited by bavila (log)

Bridget Avila

My Blog

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I'll be in town tomorrow with hubby, 3yo daughter and 5mo son.  Where should we eat?  I'm thinking Uptown/Garden District for lunch (Cafe Degas maybe?), as we'll be visitng friends there in the afternoon, and then for dinner we'll probably go Downtown/Quarter, picking up a muffaletta and olive salad to bring back to Lafayette with us.

if you can I recommend Alberta, Lilette or Table One all on magazine.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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I wouldn't take two small children to Lilette, even two very well-behaved ones. You might be more comfortable at Dante's Kitchen for lunch. Or, why not go to Crabby Jack's? The ultra-casual environment will accomodate kids nicely, and the menu ranges from the great duck poboy to lots of other favorites & interesting things with a twist. A good way to get an inkling of the Jacques-Imos culinary style during the day. On Jefferson Highway at the parish line (where it runs into Claiborne).

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Just to report back -- we did Taqueria Corona for lunch and Dick and Jenny's for dinner. This was my first D & J's experience. It was excellent. I can dig a place that serves veal cheeks next to ice water in Mason jars.

Bridget Avila

My Blog

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Just to report back -- we did Taqueria Corona for lunch and Dick and Jenny's for dinner.  This was my first D & J's experience.  It was excellent.  I can dig a place that serves veal cheeks next to ice water in Mason jars.

Were you there at Dick and Jennie's last night?

The crowds at Corona during the lunch hour have been pretty amazing since school started up.

I was in Roma last night (Sophie Wright location in LGD) and they were, the neighborhood was, dead as Generalissimo Franco. The food was very good though, even though it's a limited menu and their beverage service is bizarrely and inexplicably limited. It's kind of, well, half open I guess. But the Roma Special is still one of my favorite sandwiches and it was really, really good. Great bread and fresh stuff on it.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Yeah, we were there last night. Good crowd, too. The front room (bar side) was full at like 5:30, 6:00, and I guess we got the last table in the back -- which was lucky since we were two families of four. I got the rabbit sausage gumbo (even better than mine, damn!) and grilled duck breast. The duck was great, and served with greens seasoned with dill, I'm pretty sure -- forgot to ask. I loved it. The kitchen was jammin, too. Looked like they were havin a good ole time.

Bridget Avila

My Blog

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