Last week I visited New Orleans for the first time. How an Honorable Kentucky Colonel like me hadn’t been to a city exuding so much Southern charm boggles the mind. Fortunately, I was able to redeem myself when the Tulane University Environmental Law Summit invited my documentary “Toxic Soup” to screen at its conference and flew me in to do a Q+A after the movie.
The first food I scarfed down was in Metairie at Radosta’s. Metairie is a 10- to 15- minute drive from New Orleans proper. Now, Radosta’s might seem like a random first stop, but I should explain that I was staying around the corner at my friend’s house, so it made plenty of sense, especially after I woke up with an empty belly following a red-eye flight.
Radosta’s doesn’t look like much from the outside. Actually it looks like a liquor store, which it is. There are neon beer signs hanging on the walls, as well as the requisite animal head — or two or three. But there’s also a bitching deli, cold ice tea and plenty of seating. I went in around 11:30 a.m. and there were around 30 other customers, but I had no problems getting a seat. The roast beef and shrimp po’ boys are supposed to be killer at Radosta’s, but I hate shrimp. I was feeling spicy so I went with the spicy sausage po’ boy, which was also recommended. It was seriously spicy, and I could only eat half of it because not only was it spicy, it was huge.
After Radosta’s I drove into New Orleans and ended up in the French Quarter at Café Du Monde for some beignets. The place was packed with people sitting under the fans drinking coffee, eating pastries and carrying on. There was also a longish line of ten or more people waiting for take-out. Café Du Monde puts the beignets in a white paper bag that’s full of powdered sugar. The trick is to shake the bag so that your pastries are good and sugary. The donuts were dense, and I felt full after eating only two of them (they come in threes).
For dinner I went to Mother’s Restaurant. I got there just after 5:00 p.m. as recommended. The red brick restaurant has an inviting feel to it, with the requisite autographed celebrity photo wall, a large open kitchen and a blackboard menu. As for the grub, the fried chicken and shrimp are notorious, but the chicken takes 25 minutes to make, and you know how I feel about shrimp. Instead, I ordered the roast beef po’ boy. The roast beef sits on top of mustardy pickles and cabbage, which really complemented the meat’s flavor and made for a tasty, tasty po’ boy. Again, the portion size was humongous and I could only get through about two-thirds of it before I waved the white towel.
My only gripe with Mother’s was that the staff could have been a little less standoffish. When I pay $15 for a sandwich I don’t want a complimentary side of attitude. But the food is damn good, which is why when I wandered past Mother’s a few hours later the line was spilling out the door.
The next day, I went out boozing with a local. If you’re looking for a good bar with live music, check out Circle Bar. The place is tiny and has a cool circular foyer where bands set up and jam. I saw The Ripe, an Austin, Texas, outfit and drank two Maker’s Marks on the rocks at $7 a pop.
After Circle Bar, I went to Half Moon Bar and got a chicken Philly sandwich to soak up some of the bourbon, then washed it down with some PBR. After I put some more food in the tank, it was off to The Saint Bar in the Lower Garden District where a Brazilian DJ was spinning dance music.
So if you like good food, good booze and good times, consider New Orleans for your next vacation. And although I probably gained about 10 pounds in three days, it was well worth it. I’ll go on a diet when I’m dead.
Photos by Rory Delaney.