The Best Reasons to Visit My Happy ‘Hood, the Land of Tacos and Margaritas
I was 27 when I bought my home near Magazine and Jefferson in Uptown’s West Riverside neighborhood. That was 1996 and I still love it here. I never get bored. I have seen things change and, due to an astronomic property value uptick here on the Sliver by the River, there is no way I could ever buy back into my neighborhood. Anyway, it does not matter if my house is worth a dollar or a million bucks. I am not going anywhere, anyway. In addition to being highly walk-able and largely unscathed by the Era of the Air B & B my neighborhood is loaded with restaurants, cafes and bars of every sort.
My daughter, Cecilia, now 23, literally cut her teeth on the menu at Taqueria Corona (5932 Magazine St., 504897-3974, tacqueriacorona.com). Sure, the price of a Numero Tres, which was $6 or so back in the day, has gone up to $16.75 but it is still a bargain that can easily feed two. Selections allow for customizing the platter – which comes with rice, beans and a grilled chicken salad – but the combination of a shrimp flauta, bean burrito, and shrimp, fried fish, and chorizo tacos delivers the best of the best. Today, I must sometimes absorb the cost of a small pitcher of margaritas that I share with my daughter but the richness of the memories we share, and continue to build, make it every dime I spend at Taqueria worth it. Takeout, delivery, and table service are currently available.
I was there with Cecilia, then less than one month old and in a baby carrier, when Juan’s Flying Burrito (5538 Magazine St., 504-897-4800, juansflyingburrito.com) opened in the Lower Garden District in 1997. Loosely based on the San Francisco Mission style burrito joints that were hot back then, Juan’s differentiated itself with Creole-laced, kinda-sorta Tex-Mex-ish food to order and finished a la minute on the grill. Devoted to local food culture and value pricing, Juan’s has expanded over the years to offer its Hecho en NOLA sensibilities from four locations around town. I have remained a devoted patron and it became easier than ever for me to grab the tab for an excellent margarita or two with The Kid when Juan’s opened a location on Magazine and Joseph a couple of years ago. Takeout, delivery and table service are available.
As though life in my happy little ‘hood was not blissful enough, last year Taceaux Loceaux (737 Octavia St., 504-336-3656, or stalk them on Facebook or Instagram), my favorite food truck, opened its long-anticipated brick and mortar location—not in the LGD on Celeste Street where Alex and Maribeth del Castillio originally intended but, better, four short blocks from my house. The avocado fries and the Seoul Man tacos (Bulgogi Chicken, shredded cabbage, cilantro, pickled red onions, and Sriracha aioli on flour tortillas) I am hopelessly addicted to are one the new menu as are all of the other cleverly named favorites including Carnital Knowledge (slow cooked pork, shredded cabbage, radish, cilantro, and chipotle aioli on corn tortillas), Messin’ with Texas (seasoned slow roasted brisket, shredded cabbage, radish, cilantro, crema and salsa picante on flour tortillas), Southern Decadence (twice fried chicken skins, chow chow, and Jezebel sauce on flour tortillas)and All Hat, No Cattle (seasoned beans and rice, shredded cabbage, radish, cilantro, crema and salsa picante on flour tortillas). The only difference now is they now have additional vegan and vegetarian-friendly options, tot nachos, salads, and a full bar. Check out the new San Diego style burritos with French fried tucked inside. Takeout, delivery and table service are available.
Cooking at home this weekend? My friend, Jennie Merrill, gave me this amazing, highly adaptable recipe for a very low carb lasagna. Check it out:
Autumn Kale, Sausage, and Butternut Squash Lasagna
- 1 medium butternut squash
- 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 6 fresh sage leaves
- 4 sausage links, casing removed and discarded
- 5 cups chopped kale
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 large shallot, minced
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
- 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese (grated not shredded!)
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
Preheat the oven to 425ºF degrees.
Cut the bulbous bottom off the butternut squash (the seeded part.) Slice the top off to ensure that it’s perfectly flat. Peel the butternut squash entirely, then slice into 1/4-1/2-cslices.
Place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Once oil heats, add the sage leaves and cook until crispy, careful not to burn. Transfer the sage leaves to a small paper towel lined plate and set aside.
Immediately crumble in the sausage to the skillet and cook until browned, 5-7 minutes. Then, add the kale, garlic, red pepper flakes, shallots and season with salt and pepper. Cook the mixture for 2-3 minutes or until kale is wilted.
While the sausage is cooking, add the ricotta, parmesan and egg to a bowl. Whisk together and set aside.
the sausage is done, gather all of your prepared ingredients. Take out a 4.2 ounce of 13X9 casserole dish and add a layer of the butternut squash to the bottom. Then, add a layer of the kale and sausage mixture. Then, add in a layer of ricotta mixture. Top with a layer of butternut squash. Then, add a layer of the kale and sausage mixture. Then, add in a layer of ricotta mixture. Top with a layer of the butternut squash and then, top with all of the gruyere cheese.
Top the casserole dish with foil and bake in the oven for 40-45 minutes. After 40 minutes, poke the top layer and if you can easily pierce through the butternut squash, it’s done. If you can’t, bake another 5 minutes.
the 40 minutes of baking, take the dish out of the oven, remove the foil and immediately sprinkle with sage topping. Let rest for 5 minutes, then cut the lasagna into equal portions.