Food & Restaurants
Everyone that has been to New Orleans or done some reading on it knows it’s cooking is heavily influenced by its Cajun and Creole origins. Some of the more popular munchies include gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, po’boys, muffalettas and beignets. But where one culture’s influence stops and another starts is hard to say.

Po-Boys and Muffelettas at Arabi Food Store

Po-Boys and Muffelettas at Arabi Food Store

In fact, this was one of the topics I heard the “New Orleans Food: Continuity and Change” panel discuss at the 6th annual Rising Tide conference. They brought up the point that after Hurricane Katrina, it was just as easy for a new chef to establish themselves as an older chef. This meant that many chefs had the opportunity to take the traditional ways of cooking to new places. This re-invention of the New Orleans’ food scene in the past few years seems to have opened the door to more ethnicities being represented as well. Making the food in NOLA even more unique and diverse.

Eatin’ at Holmes’: Alright, so let me just say…E@H is where it is at! Maybe it’s just that I love breakfast food and this place gives you endless breakfast options at amazing prices, but I will never go to New Orleans without hitting up this place. “YOU CAN GET TWO SLICES OF BACON FOR $0.99, FOUR SLICES OF BACON FOR $1.98, OR SIX SLICES OF BACON FOR $2.97!!!”. Moving on, not only does this place offer almost anything you can think of for breakfast (including deep-fried PB&J) at reasonable prices (most things are $1 each), but it also has a real homey environment and great jazz oil painting on the wall. Check it out at 5340 St. Claude Ave in the Lower Ninth Ward!

Eatin' at Holmes' Main (but not full!) Menu

Eatin’ at Holmes’ Main (but not full!) Menu

The Joint: Another great restaurant and very unique place. Their motto is “The Joint…always smoking” as they have a smoke pit out back that they use to cook the meat (and draw you in!). Their restaurant looks and smells like a shack that my French Canadian grandfather built, but that’s part of what makes it so great! Their food is soo great that Playboy voted them to have the best ribs in the country; as my friends and close family know…I don’t care that much for ribs, yet this place has pulled me in more than a couple of times to enjoy the experience. Check it out at 801 Poland Ave in the Bywater!

All Hail THE JOINT!

All Hail THE JOINT!

Sno-Ball Stands: Sno-Balls are like snow cones, but apparently the difference is that they use shaved ice instead of crushed ice. I don’t know if there is a REAL difference…but to me it SEEMS the difference is that: At the end of a snow cone you are usually left with a clump of ice, but no syrup or flavour. Whereas with a sno-ball you are usually left with tons of syrup and flavour, even after the ice has long melted. What I do know about sno-balls for fact though is that the stands almost never offer less than 40 different flavours to choose from, and some stands can boast up to nearly 200! Check them out at…well, all over the city and St Bernard.

Floras: This restaurant threw me off a bit when I finally found it. I heard about it front a friend at The Green Project; she was eating some rad nachos and told me I could get some of them, or really good burritos at this place called Floras. So the next day I didn’t package a lunch and decided I would check out Floras. Well I was expecting a Mexican restaurant, and ended up walking by Floras a few times before I found out it was a small cafe on the corner of a street. When I entered I learnt that not only was it a cafe instead of a Mexican restaurant, but it had a great New Orleans feel. I ended up getting the biggest burrito I have eaten in my life and really enjoyed the atmosphere as I ate my lunch. Check it out at 2600 Royal St. in the Bywater!

The Big Fat Burrito I got at Floras (After a few bites out of it!)

The Big Fat Burrito I got at Floras (After a few bites out of it!)

Bayou Beer Garden: A pretty chill place I went to with the Green Project for a going away party for one of their staff. It’s more of a bar so I wouldn’t recommend going here for dinner or anything. Three points of interest that stuck out to me were: 1. It’s got a cool private patio out back for throwing parties 2. Since they didn’t have pitchers of beer, they sold buckets full of ice and bottles of beer at discount (this may be more common in New Orleans, but I have never seen it anywhere else) 3. They have the closest thing to poutine that I can find in New Orleans. Check them out at 326 N Jefferson Davis Pkwy in the Midcity.

My "Poutine" from Bayou Beer Garden (Or "Disco Fries (omg!)" as they called it)

My “Poutine” from Bayou Beer Garden (Or “Disco Fries (omg!)” as they called it)

Crescents Pie and Sausage Company: Gets its name from selling both meat pies and pizza pies that are quite yummy. It was great to get away from generic chain pizza and have a fresh stone baked pizza with interesting unique topics. Also, most of the bars I’ve been to in Toronto will offer up to 15 kinds of beer and I find this overwhelming. But at Crescents I was presented with over 30 kinds of beer to choose from. I like to tell myself that us Canadians (who are notorious for drinking beer) simply have the best beer already and don’t need other options…Yet the beer I had there goes toe to toe with any I’ve had in Canada and my hat goes off to anywhere that can provide you with a 2-4 and every bottle can be a different brand! Check it out at 440 Banks St. in the Midcity.

The Wing Shack: As many of the reviews online bring up, this place is so deep in DA HOOD that their featured drink is called ghetto punch, and you are served through revolving bullet-proof windows (although I heard rumors these windows were just as much for keeping their weed in, as for keeping crime out). It’s about this point where I bet you are wondering why I would suggest this place. Well, with 20+ flavors to choose from that all seem to be better than the last, this place is truly a hidden treasure in New Orleans. The wing shack brings all da boyz to da yard, and they’re like it’s better than…Yeah I fail…but trust me, check it out at 759 N Claiborne Ave in the Seventh Ward!

Music & Clubs
Cajun and Creole roots have had their influence on music as well as food, creating the genres of zydeco, swamp pop and rockabilly. However, to me it seems that New Orleans is more known for its music that has been influenced by African-American roots. During the slave trade, New Orleans served as a foci for Black artists trying to establish themselves in the ragtime music scene. As this scene developed and grew to include jazz, blues, and eventually hip-hop, music became so intertwined with the heart and soul of New Orleans that it is now inseparable.

Various Artists at The New Orleans Healing Centre: Tanya would probably wring my neck if she found out, but I can’t remember the names of the two artists I saw at the Healing Centres grand opening. I don’t want to say much about the grand opening since I will be writing a whole blog about it sometime this month. But I will say that I NEVER dance, yet when the second artist started playing “Down in The Treme” even I was up and grooving.

Show from the New Orleans Healing Centre

Show from the New Orleans Healing Centre

Lower Ninth Brass Band at Katrina Memorial Event: This was the first time I actually slowed down, relaxed and listened to a full brass band song with my undivided attention. I must say, it’s really amazing what they do. With the songs being so long and energetic I would get tired just holding the instrument up that long. But they not only keep it upbeat the whole time, but also dance around to get the crowd involved and hyped up.

Lower Ninth Brass Band

Lower Ninth Brass Band

Second-line on Tennessee St: One of the highlights of my trip was getting to be part of a second-line on the main street where all the Make It Right houses were built in The Lower Ninth Ward. The second-line was done in remembrance of those lost during Katrina and included a few Mardi-Gras Indians. I don’t know what else to say besides I came closest to feeling like a true New Orleanian as I marched down the street among brass instruments, Mardi-Grass Indians and other New Orleanians.

My First Second-Line!

My First Second-Line!

Mark Growden at Chickie Wah Wahs: From my understanding Mark is Tanya’s favorite artist in New Orleans, and I can see why. Mark is a truly friendly person who interacts with the audience before, during and after his show and seems laid back about it. Probably true to most of the music scene in New Orleans I’m sure…but Mark also seems to play for his love of the music, rather than any money. My favorite part of his shows has to be the number of instruments he plays (including BIKE HANDLES! Where else can you see someone seriously play bike handles?).

Mark Growden Playing BIKE HANDLES!

Mark Growden Playing BIKE HANDLES!

There were a few other parts of the culture I wanted to bring-up, but this post is getting quite lengthy so I will try to bring them up in other blogs. Or if anyone has any questions or comments please bring them up sooner!

Bryan McGill (York University)

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