I live in the box formed by Magazine Street, Tchoupitoulas Street, Jefferson Avenue and Napoleon Avenue. I have been here since 1996, and with the exception of when it’s raining or I have to haul junk around, I enjoy the pedestrian lifestyle my interesting neighborhood affords. There are numerous shops, grocery stores, boutiques, music clubs, parks and places to grab a cocktail within easy walking distance.
My family welcomes the confines of life within the box every Carnival season as more and more parades line up each year to roll from Magazine Street and Jefferson Avenue. After Katrina the city extended the route for some parades upriver from Napoleon Avenue, and our lives have been far more enhanced than we have been inconvenienced. It is a good deal.
That said, with Carnival long over we’re over the seemingly never-ending and going nowhere, road construction that has us in perpetual lockdown. Once the only quasi-expedient escape route to points beyond, Tchoupitoulas Street is not so much anymore due to the volume of us trying to get around on the two-lane thoroughfare.
Weeks ago when the last of the parades had rolled away and the box remained hopelessly locked I gave up, tossed my car keys and committed to hoofing it about until all of this is over – reportedly in 2017.
Jewel-like and elegant, Patois is just a couple of blocks from Audubon Park. When paired with the duck confit salad, the potato gnocchi with jumbo lump crab, wild mushrooms, edamame and shaved Parmigianino appetizer makes a decadent meal that still leaves room for dessert – like the pillow-like fried apple hand pies with a lightly spicy cardamom-kissed crème Anglaise.
A half-mile walk in the opposite direction headed downtown from Magazine and Jefferson brings me to Del Fuego, a place I find on the pricey side so I make a point of stopping in during Happy Hour (3-7 p.m., daily) when their excellent margaritas are $5 and tacos (including carne asada, crispy fried pork, fried fish or shrimp, chorizo and cactus varieties) are $3 each.
When I’m really in the mood for a long-haul walk (about 4 miles each way) I head to Juan’s Flying Burrito.
According to Juan’s founder, Warren Chapoton, Juan’s “lit up” on what was once a really funky stretch of lower Magazine in 1997. If the trippy menu, heavy ink and fun-house-meets-punk-music-club environment are any indication, they’ve been lightin’ up ever since. Loosely based on the San Francisco Mission-style burrito joints that were hot in the ’80s and early ’90s, Juan’s differentiated itself with Creole-laced, kinda-sorta Tex-Mex food to order and finished à la minute on the grill. My favorites? Mardi Gras Indian tacos (corn tortillas filled with roasted corn, pinto beans, grilled squash and cheeses), Hawaii 5-0-4 nachos (smoked bacon, pulled pork, grilled mango, pineapple salsa and chipotle sour cream), Bacon Azul quesadillas (ground beef, bleu, jack and cheddar cheeses and grilled mushrooms) and the Red Chili and Goat Cheese Quesadillas with cucumber salsa. Juan’s top shelf margaritas will make your head spin.
After a meal at Juan’s that four-mile walk home is welcome, indeed.
Chef Ryan Hughes recently opened Purloo in the new home of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum on a super-cool stretch of O.C. Haley Boulevard in Central City. The moderately priced menu features traditional Southern dishes with innovative twists. Look out for She-Crab Soup laced with aged Madeira; a Southern Plate with Charleston pimento cheese, green tomato chutney, deviled eggs “Meuniére,” fried pickles and boiled peanuts; and a Low Country Boil with shrimp, clams, blue crab, baby potatoes and Conecuh sausage in a cilantro, lemon and cayenne broth. At the bar (which once graced the long-gone, though beloved Brunning’s on the Lakefront) the Milk of Human Kindness is a coconut milk-based rum punch topped with an array of Indian spices. All proceeds from the sale of this unique libation benefit the nearby New Orleans Mission.
Del Fuego 4518 Magazine St., 309-5797, DelFuegoTaqueria.com
Juan’s Flying Burrito 2018 Magazine St., 569-0000, JuansFlyingBurrito.com
Purloo 1504 Oretha C. Haley Blvd., 324-6020, NolaPurloo.com
Patois 6078 Laurel St., 895-9441, PatoisNola.com