The Yorkshire Alien is here once again to extol bargain laden wisdom from New Orleans. This time to explore the most revered and sacred time of the adult human’s vacation — the evening. A time when expectations of ‘having a good time’ reach a strangling fever pitch and when, often, the reckless plundering of your bank balance increases double or even triple fold.
Never is this personal plundering more the case than when one is in a city like New Orleans. A city with a nightlife that hurtles the mind towards relentless possibility along with the dizzying honk of live music pouring from almost every inviting doorway.
Your drunken mind will undoubtedly construct elaborate techniques to convince your sober one that drinks do not really cost money and credit cards are merely a portal key to an endless pit of mirth.
You must hold on and not be fooled by such wanton frivolity!
I hasten to add here that I am not Captain Killjoy — I am simply here for those that do not feel it is necessary to ‘make it rain’….a light drizzle perhaps.
If you require heavier financial precipitation, head to Instagram where you can discover countless preened, selfie devouring, promotion promoting, “free-living” corporate patsies to guide you on a F.O.M.O fuelled frenzy of spending — that just ain’t this alien’s cosmic bag.
Or, perhaps you really don’t give a damn about the green papers as you are pulling in the kind of sweet, sweet salary that keeps your pockets swollen and blesses you with an air of musing contempt for the lesser paid humans left in your ostentatious wake (go you!).
Well, even such fortunate sons may find speckles of guidance in this galactic log of travelling suggestions. After all, I am not suggesting you should just stay indoors, fight back tears of anguish over an 18 cents bowl of ramen and shake a fist towards the imaginary gods of fiscal justice.
You are in New Orleans, you must let your proverbial human hair down a little.
The last installment from Planet NOLA focused on both retaining and loading ourselves with dough. Despite that, I once again wish to focus on eating in this first evening entry (eating being the fulcrum of a successful vacation evening). But, before proceeding to my top value-to-satisfaction rated suggestion for eating out in New Orleans, I want to begin with a cautionary tale.
This is the sad story of Gustavo Fring and Jack Sparrow.
Their tale began (and ended) at a restaurant which I can not name here as I would feel too cruel for those involved (instead, I will just anonymously make snide, judgemental comments at their expense and transmit them via the world wide web — ahh, modern life!). To protect anonymity, let’s just say I was in Restaurant X in New Orleans.
To be fair, signs that Restaurant X would provide a unique experience should have been clear from the start. On the way to our seats, before having even met Fring and Sparrow, an employee acting as Restaurant X’s maitre d, performed an almost seamless and rapid extermination — an unsuspecting cockroach was slammed into oblivion by her keen plimsole.
Without hesitation, she turned to give a pleasant smile, pointing out our seats without a trace of the murderous intensity that had just moments ago been administered to the blattodean cousin. An unusual start, but, cockroaches exist — I was willing to proceed.
After being shown to our seats, the pleasant duo of waiters appeared: Fring and Sparrow.
Waiter one, Gustavo Fring, seemed as well mannered, professional and obsequious as he always was during his duty in Los Pollos Hermanos.
He had clearly earned his waiting stripes and was deep in the service game which he proved by carrying several plates of food on a huge tray next to his unwavering head.
Waiter 2, the pluckier and mystically whimsical looking Jack Sparrow, seemed to be Fring’s understudy as when we gave our order to Fring he stood simply alongside and nodded as if with each choice we had conjured a tantalizing charm.
Again, this was fine — sometimes, waiters gotta learn and sometimes cockroaches gonna get slammed.
We ordered our food and eagerly anticipated our New Orleans’ cuisine which we had heard was often spicy, always hearty and would, undoubtedly, be packed with flavour!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t really any of the above.
After last week, I would like to stress, again, here that, despite regularly demanding tea from earth people, I am not a snobby alien. There really just was something decidedly disappointing about both our food and our time in Restaurant X.
The pervasive disquietude effusing from Restaurant X’s walls seemed to even have got to the unflappable Fring.
When we were half-way through consuming our average food, he emerged from the kitchen balancing several plates of food on one of the his huge party-trick trays.
It was the majority of an order that a large table of about 10 human beings had been waiting for — so much so that their conversation had thinned into non-existence and they prodded nervously at their hand held devices hoping this would hurry along the more socially acceptable talking hiatus of food consumption.
For Restaurant X and its ragtag staff, it was probably the type of large order that once you wrestle control of you know you have cracked a bulk of the evening.
So, finally, along came Fring, sailing proudly from the kitchen, large tray in hand.
But then, something happened.
Half way between kitchen and table, Fring, uncharacteristically, lost control. Several plates of food, victims to the realities of Earth’s gravity, came smashing down on the floor.
Fring, a proud man, looked crushed. With a quiet dignity, he reported the blunder to a stressed and irate looking chef (a la, all chefs ever), we could see this sad moment transpire through the kitchen doors (just above the cockroach-shaped chalk outline). Fring set about clearing up the mess as we looked down at our food in shared embarrassment.
Minutes passed and with the mess having been promptly cleared up, I looked around for Fring; I wanted to try and aim some pointless smile of encouragement towards him. More time passed and I could still not see him: had he gone home in shame? Had he been put out to pasture? Was he sleeping with the fishes??
Who knows, but, he was never seen again. Only Jack Sparrow frequently emerged from the shadows to dote a little too much on our table.
This just added to the cocktail of comical and crushing experiences at Restaurant X. At times, underwhelming, at others, shocking but always with a slight touch of heartbreak that seems to be wrapped into the downward spiral of a restaurant falling from grace. In fact, there were several moments when I was adamant Gordon Ramsay would pop up from a corner, clasping and unclasping his hands, to start effin’ and jeffin’ in incredulity at his perceived blandness of the food and inefficiency of the service.
Maybe, then, he could ramrod Restaurant X back to its former glory: frighten away the cockroaches; rekindle Fring’s passion for waiting (perhaps so much that he would soon be carrying not one but two obscenely large trays, with ease) and set Sparrow free to gaze in wonder at the high seas rather than at the words coming from a patron’s mouth.
But, Ramsay did not come. We ate the food, paid the bill and, with reluctance registering on the stinge-o-meter, tipped an acceptable amount.
Why am I sharing this lengthy tale you may reasonably ask? Particularly as I am not going to share the name of Restaurant X. Well, I would say, do not let my tip die in vain! Allow this tale to serve as a warning: you can go wrong in the City of Smashed Baubles — not everywhere is a veritable hoot.
If only you had a maharishi of penny-pinching to guide your way and steer you clear of such unsatisfying encounters? Ha, that is I (that was the written equivalent of a selfie — despite earlier judgements, it seems I also exhibit the same shameless self ego inflation as the instagram creed)!
So, having dealt with the bad and the ugly let’s move on, with a spring in our step, to the good; to a place in the Bywater area where you simply can not go wrong: The Joint (unless, of course, you do not eat meat, in which case going to The Joint would be like choosing to don flip flops at a hoedown)!
The Bywater area is east of Frenchman street and all its surrounding madness. You can walk there from Dat Dog on Frenchman Street. Doing so will mean you can take in more of the NOLA’s gnarled streets and see that there are people who live there, all year round, with real-life houses, pets and personal lives. Such a transportation choice may sound crazy to American ears as it will entail a whole 30 minutes in which the only fuel you are burning is calories. However, that may be necessary given that the kilojoule loading you are about to conduct is akin to a whole squadron of Irish peasant workers flinging coal around in the bowels of the Titanic.
But, however you get there, just get there.
Inside, The Joint’s interior reminded me slightly of the college bar in the ‘apples’ scene of Good Will Hunting but that also a lumberjack’s canteen had somehow sprouted through the decor.
Unlike Restaurant X, rather than having an excessive 2 waiters, The Joint radically reduced this number to zero. We found this out as we had to hold ourselves mid-hover above a seat having been promptly told to go and order food before sitting at a table. This was said with the understandable weariness of someone who regularly has to enforce a policy that probably overall makes everything run quicker but invariably wipes the smile off new patrons’ faces as they enter.
We shuffled towards the counter, scanning the menu. Luckily, given we had to make decisions and support ourselves with two feet, it was not that complex — a range of barbequed combinations that had been marinated, pulled and brisketed shone back invitingly.
I ordered the excessive 3 meat combo (my choices being: 2 ribs, beef brisket and a quarter chicken) which with 2 sides (mac ’n’ cheese + potato salad) came to $16.50.
In my opinion, the chicken quarter was actually not all that. Not to worry, the rest of the meal was so good, I had to go back and collect a further piece of barbequed field data.
Therefore, after calibrating value to satisfaction, I would recommend getting ‘The W Special’ (described as ‘a little pork, a little brisket and 2 ribs’) with 2 sides (again, mac and cheese + potato salad — faultless) which comes to $14.
As long as you have no qualms with ruthlessly devouring forcibly rotund members of Earth’s animal kingdom, you will not be disappointed.
The tables sauces, being a bit watery and not particularly spicy, were the only things that did not exceed expectations in this place and, to be fair to the well marinated meat fodder, they weren’t all that necessary.
Drinks seemed good too — assorted craft beers for the ubiquitous $6 price took my attention away from the inventive range of cocktails so I can’t fully explain them here. Along with sodas, very sweet and not sweet ice tea was also available (after all, this is a cookout y’all!).
Out the back, there is also a cooler, canopied yard area in case you fear perspiring from overeating (a very realistic concern) and some benches out the front where you might spot a huge, rusty freight ship snoozing on the Mississippi water behind the train tracks.
At this point, I might say, I would definitely go back to The Joint. But I already did go back once, within the space of 5 days! Perhaps it was for the best that I would soon be leaving New Orleans, for my iron-clad fiscal resolve forged on planet Yorkshire would be continually tested here.
So with a sated wobble, I headed out of The Joint for the last time and into the night gazing out across Jackson St. Park towards the Mississippi.
Then…I wasn’t sure if my marinated brain was deceiving me? In the distance, were there two figures stood on the deck of one of those large floating vessels? I couldn’t quite be sure, I waved and through a meat induced haze, I think I saw Fring and Sparrow waving back. Perhaps, I like to think, setting out on a new venture, together, trawling oysters on the vast riverbed.