Shortly after she completed her Driver’s Ed. course, my daughter, Cecilia, and I agreed that I would spring her from school to secure her first license.
“Go to the one in Westwego,” we were repeatedly advised.
I can now declare our advisors wrong: The OMV in Westwego is by no means more efficient than any other, but perhaps the lengthy wait seems shorter because the place is far more interesting than its bigger city brethren.
The OMV, the Police Department and City Hall are all housed within the same low-ceilinged, squatty, uniquely atmospheric building.
The large-ish room is crammed with rows of metal folding chairs filled with friendly, colorful Y’ats babbling loudly into cell phones.
With the written part of her driving exam aced and a return visit scheduled in the coming weeks for her physical driving exam, Cecilia sought, from no one in particular, suggestions as to where we might acquire a late lunch.
Led by Heather, the extremely affable test administrator, the personnel of the Westwego OMV sprung to life.
“Mo’s Pizza. You have to go to Mo’s, OMG.”
“Gettcha a killer po’boy from the Shrimp Lot.”
“We got takeout for lunch from The Little Kitchen on 4th Street. Love that Little Kitchen and the daily hot plates. Cheap, too!”
“You know, you could get you some boudin and a snowball from the drive up window at Buck’s Sno-Wiz. You can also get it to eat at a picnic table in the shell lot out front.”
The newly minted permit-bearer chose to make the short drive across the Westbank Expressway to Mo’s, the cavernous 27-year-old eatery that locals consistently rank tops.
Situated between two large shell parking lots on Avenue H, the place was tellingly busy for 3 on a Thursday afternoon.
We ordered a large pizza with black and green olives and a couple of sodas.
Remembering the plan to get snowballs after, I changed the order to a small pizza and I grabbed a small plastic-wrapped piece of Mo’s house-made peanut butter fudge for later.
“Lagniappe,” said the girl at the counter. “I’m making the fudge two-for-one so y’all both can have some.”
As we awaited our pizza we watched kids work their parents over for money to work the iron claw and pinball machines.
Upon seeing the behemoth, golden, gooey pizza awaiting me I informed that I had changed my order from large to small. “Lady, this is a small.”
The 16-inch “small” pizza bore beautiful, perfectly imperfect, not too thin, not too thick, hand-tossed crust with a slight crackle on the outside and a dense, soft chew on the inside. While the sauce was a bit sweet for my taste, it was fresh and flavorful.
Stuffed, we stashed half of the pizza in a go-box and headed back across the Expressway to Buck’s.
After examining the voluminous menu of snowballs, traditional malts, specialty malts (divine things like Butterfinger, peanut butter and chocolate-covered cherry varieties), banana splits, spicy boiled potatoes, flaming hot Cheetos and both crawfish and pork boudin trucked in from Acadiana, we settled for refreshing melon and cucumber snowballs that we ate in the car on a drive past The Little Kitchen, and made plans for a lunch date on our pending return trip to Westwego for the permanent driver’s license.
The bill for the entire Westwegan funfest? Twenty-five bucks including generous tips at both establishments.
The cost of our trip to this parallel universe? About $1 in gas.
The value of the experience? Priceless.
The wait is over at last for local culinary enthusiasts: chef Phillip Lopez and business partner Maximilian Ortiz have finally opened the doors on Square Root in the Lower Garden District.
Competition is sure to be fierce for one of the 16 seats in the first floor dining room, which will exclusively showcase the chef’s fun, innovative tasting menu of 12 to 15 small plate courses that last two to two and a half hours.
The reservation-only, tasting menu is $150 per person; wine and beverage pairings are offered for an additional fee.
Square Root, 1800 Magazine St., 309-7800, SquareRootNola.com
Buck’s Sno-Whiz:133 Westbank Expressway, Westwego
Mo’s Pizza: 1112 Avenue H, Westwego, 341-9650, MosPizzaNola.com
The Little Kitchen: 1360 Fourth St., Westwego, 340-8553
Westwego Seafood (or Shrimp) Lot: 100 Westbank Expressway, Westwego