There's really only one real certainty when it comes to cheap food these days: You can spend a lot and get a little. Thankfully, for those on a budget or those just not looking to shell out a whole lot for a quick eat, there's Verti Marte, the French Quarter grocery and deli that boasts the slogan, "Real food, for real people, at real prices."
During a recent visit, I ordered an entrée with two sides, chicken parmesan with macaroni and cheese and grean beans. The total for this Styrofoam box that weighed about a pound-and-a-half after being packed to near-overflowing capacity: just $8.95.
For less than $10, there was a chicken patty the size of a catcher's mitt, entombed in a thick, hearty layer of tomato sauce and gooey parmesan cheese. A more than ample serving of buttery green beans spilled out of its compartment in the box and a whole brick of some of the cheesiest spaghetti noodles around was somehow squeezed in.
Needless to say, it lasted more than one meal.
And that's the thing about Verti Marte – this wasn't an anomaly. In fact, a side order alone, most of which are priced about $5.50, can last for more than a day.
The menu takes up the entire back wall of the store. Breakfast food, salads, sandwiches, seafood, dessert – it's all there. And every serving is mouth-watering.
Daily chef specials run the gamut from barbecue to traditional New Orleans cuisine. Try the brisket on Saturdays. Tender meat is smothered in a sweet barbecue sauce. Again, it'll last more than one sitting. Sandwiches are made-to-order and prepared in front of you. And they taste better than Subway or Quizno's.
The atmosphere of Verti Marte is intimate. A neighborhood joint, the cooks and clerks get to know the regulars. And the whole place essentially boils down to a case study in space management. Somehow there's a corner store with a decent selection, a kitchen and a refrigerated case all positioned inside.
Needless to say, it's not a sit-down-and-eat kind of place. You either walk in and place your order in person, or, if you live in the Quarter, Faubourg Marigny or Central Business District, there's the option of delivery.
And that's the only drawback. Even with "The Best-Kept Secret in the Quarter" printed along the back wall, this is a popular place almost an hour of the day, from when it opens at 8 a.m. and until the kitchen shuts down at 11 p.m. If you're in a time crunch, delivery or even waiting for your order in person can be a little slow since there are so many orders to fill.
But if you're in the area, you have the time, and you're looking for a home-cooked meal that's affordable and will more than fill you up, you really can't go wrong with Verti Marte.
1201 Royal St., New Orleans, La., 70130
8 a.m. to Midnight, seven days a week