Construction-driven lockdown continues Uptown on the Sliver by the River. I took to hoofing it, but this summer’s brutal heat crushed that, leaving automotive escape down Tchoupitoulas the only option. I headed downtown then had a Eureka moment and turned right instead of left.
The route took me back to a beginning.
Born in 1908, my maternal grandmother, Cecilia Fletchinger, grew up in the building that has morphed into Camellia Grill. She was a Matter Dolorosa parishioner, where she married Henry “Dutch” Steinlage, whom she met while standing outside of Schweikhardt’s Drug Store at the corner of Oak and Carrollton. They conducted their courtship between the drugstore’s soda fountain and the clandestine drive-up windows they frequented in my grandfather’s Buick, where they would secure the Prohibition-era cocktails they downed in Audubon Park.
Straight out of college I took up residence in the Carrollton area in 1992 with the man who would become my future ex-husband. Back then the only really upscale place was Brigtsen’s, which we could not afford, so we frequented the cheap dives and neighborhood joints that seemed to be on every corner.
Today Carrollton is different. Inexpensive ethnic restaurants such as Panchita’s, Ba Chi Canteen and Lebanon are thriving in place of the sandwich shops and pizza joints and upscale, casual places like Boucherie are impressive choices for a respectable first date or a special occasion that will not break the bank.
In its new Carrollton Avenue locale just around the corner from its old Jeanette Street haunt, three of us dined like royalty at Boucherie on Nathaniel Zimet’s Boudin Balls with Garlic Aioli ($7), his decadent Fries with Garlic Butter and Parmesan Reggiano ($6) and Crispy-Skin Duck Confit with Potato Terrine ($13). Then we moved on to a Smoked Pork Belly Reuben with Gruyere on House-made Rye Bread ($12), a Jerked Duck Breast with Roasted Bananas ($18) and Potato Gnocchi with Refried Cauliflower, Shaved Squash, and Thai Eggplant Chutney ($15) We finished with Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding ($8.50), Thai Chili Chess Pie ($6) and ice cream ($5). It was a memorable meal and we waddled out the door with enough left over for dinner, too.
Back in the day when we lived in the neighborhood, my future ex and I frequented China Orchid for takeout and restorative bowls of Ya-Ka-Mein soup. On a recent visit I thrilled to discover the Ya-Ka-Mein as reliable as ever and the rest of the experience enhanced considerably. Instead of plastic floral arrangements and cheesy bamboo curtain room dividers, the rooms are awash in tasteful, muted shades and the bathroom floors no longer lean to one side. But the price points remain as digestible as ever. Go with a group and order one of the diner packages. The Dinner for Five will deliver Moo Shu Pork, Crispy Shrimp, Beef with Broccoli, General Tso’s Chicken, Boneless Fried Chicken with Vegetables, five eggrolls, five orders of Shrimp Fried Rice, and five bowls of Wonton Soup with Shrimp. This will set you back $89 and everyone will sustain on the leftovers for days.
If you live Uptown, China Orchid will even bring it to your door so there’s no need to even battle the road construction.
At the first breath of cooler air I’m headed on a walk down Magazine Street to Bouligny Tavern, where all of the music is on vinyl and it’s offered up one entire album-on- turntable at a time. Total Happy Hour is offered Monday through Thursday, 4-5 p.m. when select cocktails are $5 and select menu selections are half price. The Tempura Green Beans with Spicy Sesame Aioli ($8) feels virtuous but it isn’t, and the Seared Beef Short Ribs with Chimichurri Rojo ($11) and the Sirloin Burger with, what else, more aioli ($12) are not, but are so worth it.
Boucherie 1506 S. Carrollton Ave., 862-5514, Boucherie-Nola.com
Bouligny Tavern 3641 Magazine St., 891-1810, BoulignyTavern.com
China Orchid 704 South Carrollton Ave., 865-1428, ChinaOrchidNewOrleans.com