Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mid-City Adventures

Mid-City is pretty spread out, but navigating it is definitely doable with the help of the Canal Street streetcar line. Again, as with Magazine Street, make sure you have your walking shoes and a bottle of water and off we go! (Note: there's a whole other area of Mid-City for the exploring around Esplanade and the Fairgrounds. I don't know enough about it to discuss, plus Mid-City is so sprawling that I needed to focus on what I consider the best beer bets in the area.)

You can pick up the Canal streetcar downtown very easily, just look for one of the waiting shelters on the neutral ground. The ride is not as picturesque as the St. Charles one, but you’ll pass by where the new VA hospital is going to be built (when you pass the intersection with Galvez, have a moment of silence for the beloved and departed Deutche Haus), and Betsy’s Pancake House (which I’ve not been to, but I hear it is quite good) and the Eat Well Grocery that will sell you a perfectly acceptable bahn mi sandwich with a can of soda for $5. Eat Well is at the corner of Broad, and once you move through that intersection, be vigilant, your stop is coming up soon.

The stop you want is North Jefferson, which is the next traffic light after Broad (about 6 blocks up- look to the left during this stretch, you’ll see Chickie Wah Wah, a music club/bar/place to get noms from Taceaux Loceaux- fun times! Also smoke-free.) Once you get off, cross Canal to North Jefferson (don’t cross back over the tracks to the other side, that’s South Jefferson. HOWEVER, there is a new Irish pub there called The Holy Ground that’s on the corner of Canal and South Jefferson. Their Facebook page boasts a “wide variety of beers on draft” but I haven’t seen a list online or been there yet.)

But today we are heading up the north side to a spot called the Bayou Beer Garden. It’ll be to your right after you cross Bienville and it’s a great spot to sit outside and have a refreshing and delicious beer. They have a pretty decent beer list, and fun fact- this was the NOLA Brewing Easter Keg Hunt final destination this past spring. Definitely a nice spot to kick back at after a bit of streetcar travelling and walking.

OK! Once you have a beer or two (or more, I don’t judge, and you’re not driving!) keep heading up North Jefferson, which at some point will cease being the parkway and begin being Hagan Avenue. Just stay straight on, and at the corner of Hagan and Toulouse, you will find the pinnacle of po-boys, Parkway Bakery.

Either squeeze in at the bar and order or go up to the dining room area where you wait in line to put in your order, but get you some Parkway. Roast beef is divine and messy, Fried shrimp is another solid choice. Or put ‘em together for the surf & turf. My personal guilty pleasure is the fried potato po-boy with roast beef gravy. Order whatever you get “dressed” (which means lettuce, tomatoes, mayo, and pickles) and remember, a po-boy not on French bread IS NOT A PO-BOY. Also, the sweet potato fries are divine. (Note: closed on Tuesday)

You can sit inside or outside the restaurant, or stroll over to the bayou and sit there and eat. Once you are finished, it’s time to walk that po-boy off and maybe do a little shopping. Keep heading in the same direction you’ve been walking in, either up Hagan or up the street right next to the bayou, Moss Street. A couple of blocks up you’ll come to a much busier street, Orleans Avenue. Hang a left (without crossing Orleans) and you will soon come to the American Can Company, a converted factory that now houses apartments as well as some retail (and the Crescent City Farmer’s market on Thursday afternoons). One of the shops there is the Cork & Bottle, another of the finest beer shops in New Orleans! Jeremy “BeerBuddha” Labadie used to help out with the beer ordering, placement, and sales strategy, so it’s laid out really well. They also have an excellent wine selection, if you have an interest in that kind of thing. There’s an adjoining wine/cocktail bar called “Clever Wine Bar” that opens up at 5pm, it’s a pretty mellow vibe and they have a no corkage fee policy on wines bought next door, and you can get yourself a cheese plate to nibble on as well.

OK, time to think about a little dessert. Head out of Cork & Bottle and take a left onto Orleans until you get to North Carrollton; hang a left. Note: you can keep heading up Orleans - or turn right onto North Carrollton - and hit City Park, which has many interesting things including the New Orleans Museum of Art, and a dog park, and many trails and ponds and often a festival of some sort. But for now, I just want to get you some lemon ice.

Heading down North Carrollton (if it helps with your bearings, you’re actually walking back toward Canal Street) there’s not much to see unless you need home improvement supplies or groceries or the hibachi experience, in which case you’ll pass a Home Depot, Rouse’s, and Little Tokyo, in that order. Once you cross over Bienville, you’ll note that the area has turned into what is known as “Restaurant Row” starting with K-jeans (great for casual seafood applications) and a few storefronts down, you’ll see Angelo Brocato’s and once you enter, you will truly know excellence. (Note: closed Mondays)

You will see display cases full of delicious looking pastries- if you order a cannoli, they will fill it with ricotta on the spot. Their gelato always looks delicious. But for me, my love of Brocato’s is with their fruit ices. A lemon ice on a warm New Orleans afternoon or evening is a popular favorite, but I also love their seasonal flavors - peach, blueberry, and blood orange are particular favorites of mine. Have a seat and enjoy. Take a cannoli and some cookies to go.

The next stretch is a bit of a long walk, so put your feet up and have a beer at the Red Door to rest up. I can’t speak to the quality of their beer, but they should have something passable, like an Abita Jockamo or Restoration, or Bayou Tesche or NOLA. The also have a full bar, so you have some options. Take a load off, digest, and prepare for for your next Mid-City adventure.

Crescent Pie and Sausage has some of the best food in New Orleans. Once you are at the corner of North Carrollton and Canal where the Walgreens is, you basically want to cross so you’re diagonal from the Walgreens. Head down South Carrollton away from Canal until you get to a traffic light (3 blocks) - that’s Banks. Hang a right onto Banks, and walk for another three blocks until you get to Crescent Pie and Sausage Company. They’re open continuously from 11:00am-10:00pm (till 11:00pm on Friday and Saturday), closed on Sunday. Once you get there, you can sit inside or outside, and they have several local beers on draft and a great craft bottle/can list. They’ve done beer events as well, partnering with NOLA Brewing and Southern Star on different occasions. They have some fun cocktail specials available as well- check the board by the bar.

As to what to eat, I honestly don’t think you can go wrong here. As you can see, they love their pig. But there are good vegetarian options as well. The jambalaya is wonderful (the small is a pretty big serving, FYI) as are the meat/fish/veggie pies. They smoke all their sausages and meat in house, so the sausage plate, the redneck brisket, the merguez plate.... everything is so good. They have a spicy sausage po-boy that is pretty damn spicy. Their mac & cheese is great. Their desserts are all housemade and delicious. They do a Lindeman’s Framboise-creole cream cheese ice cream float that looks amazing. Tuck in and enjoy the food with the accompanying craft beer. Damn, I just made myself hungry.

Time to walk it off! You’re going to head back down Banks toward South Carrollton, and cross it. Continue down Banks for four blocks till you get to Finn McCool’s at the corner of S. Telemachus. Duck in for a pint- it’s a jovial neighborhood bar atmosphere and a good time. After Finn’s, take a right down South Telemachus and walk one block to Baudin and you will see a nondescript looking corner establishment with a green awning - you have found one of my favorite bars in the city, Twelve Mile Limit. Buzz at the door to get in, settle in at the bar, and enjoy creative craft cocktails at the best prices in town, in addition to a small but excellent selection of craft beer. The jukkebox is FANTASTIC, there’s a pool table, and they serve great BBQ AND doberge cupcakes! Basically, there’s no real reason to leave this place.

But when you do (sadface!) just walk up South Telemachus to Canal Street (4 blocks) and catch the streetcar back downtown- there’s a stop right there at Canal and South Telemachus- you’ll see the sign. If you’re still looking for food and drink, Mandina’s right there on Canal has Creole-Italian favorites and serves one hell of an Old-Fashioned cocktail. Otherwise, stumble back to your hotel room and collapse, rubbing your belly and elevating your sore feet. (Maybe that’s just me? You may be made of sterner stuff.)

Next up: Downtown!

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