Where to eat, drink in New Orleans
Heading to New Orleans soon? Trying to figure out the best places to eat in the area? Whether you’re looking for some jerk wings or an incredible pork belly sandwich, we’ve got you covered right here with a list of the tastiest destinations to hit while you’re in town.
Bourree at Boucherie
1510 S Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA 70118
This review of Bourree at Boucherie originally appeared Oct. 19, 2015.
When I realized I was booked to spend three hours in the Atlanta airport Friday en route to Baton Rouge (via New Orleans, because flights into Baton Rouge are outrageously priced on LSU home game weekends), I resolved to fire my travel agent*. But when I landed in Atlanta, I noticed another New Orleans flight was taking off in 45 minutes. The standby gods smiled upon me, and I was on the plane. Of course, I also had a broken phone and a Genius Bar appointment that could not be moved to an earlier time. That meant I had four hours to kill. In the early afternoon. In New Orleans. SI was going to buy a very good lunch.
*My travel agent is me.
One of my favorite places in New Orleans is Cochon Butcher, which I'll get to in more detail later in this post. This is not to be confused with Cochon, chef Donald Link’s upscale celebration of the pig. Cochon and Butcher share a wall and a driving force, but the lower priced, laid back Butcher offers the superior dining experience. This idea of a lower-priced, casual restaurant attached to an established eatery has become a trend in New Orleans, and for that I am grateful. I chafe at the term “foodie,” because it connotes a certain pretension that I lack when stuffing my face. I just like to eat. I also like a deal, which is why the downscale spots appeal to me. With that in mind, I set out for Bourree at Boucherie. Boucherie is a well reviewed, highly regarded spot that fuses flavors from Louisiana and the deeper Deep South. North Carolina native Nathanial Zimet runs the place. At some point, Zimet and partner James Denio decided they wanted to open a place that serves wings and daiquiris. Bourree was born of this noble ambition. Wings cry out for libation, and fresh-fruit daiquiris can slake a thirst enhanced by jerk sauce.
On my visit, I ordered those jerk wings. I also ordered the mango barbecue wings, the Kim-Chi and lemongrass wings, the fries and the pork cracklins. Those who frequent truck stops probably know that last item better as pork rinds, but these are not the stale husks available at the Flying J. These tasted like they came off a pig smoked that day, and after a small bite, I set them aside to snack on while driving to Baton Rouge. I had come for wings. Alas, because I was driving, I did not come for daiquiris.*
*I did, however, have a small taste of the Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, which is not the sugar-and-grain-alcohol swill you drank at the college bar with all the slushee machines on the wall. This one mixed passion fruit, Earl Grey tea, simple syrup (sugar) and lemon with quality rum.
We'll start with the fries, because you'll get them first and you'll finish them before your wings arrive. They're fresh cut. They're not too big. They're not too small. (Think McDonald's in terms of surface area-to-volume ratio, but cut hours earlier instead of months.) They are covered with a Cajun seasoning that will make you want to stuff great, heaping handfuls in your mouth. Do not fill up on fries, even if that feels like an unreasonable request.=
If prioritizing, skip the mango barbecue—which cools the palate but is the least adventurous of the trio—and order just the jerk and the Kim-Chi with lemongrass. The jerk sauce explodes on the tongue thanks to peppers (presumably Scotchbonnet) and sugar. That spicy-sweet combo is ideal for developing a thirst for daiquiris or beer, but it still finished second to the sweet-sour combo of the Kim-Chi wings. The wings at Bourree are smoked and then finished in the fryer, and the smoke adds even more complexity to tiny chicken parts that most places are content to deep fry, dunk in sauce and serve.
Were I a local, I can imagine dropping in on Bourree early on a Friday afternoon and then washing down wings and fries with beer or Hurricane Carters while watching the people pass by on Carrollton Avenue until the sun sank beneath the horizon. Then the weekend would truly be ready to begin.
930 Tchoupitoulas St, SUITE B, New Orleans, LA 70130
This review of Cochon Butcher originally appeared March 30, 2012.
It was New Year’s Eve 2009. I had just landed in NOLA, and I needed to find a place to eat. I checked Urbanspoon, but in a city as gastronomically dense as this one, a list of hotspots only complicates matters more.
So I decided to follow my nose.
I wandered around the Warehouse District reading menus in windows, but nothing struck me. Then I smelled something. The odors of roasting pork and toasting bread formed a cloud that grabbed me by the nostrils and yanked me into Cochon Butcher. The woman behind the counter recommended the pork belly sandwich, and then she mixed me an Old Fashioned. I finished off the meal with a peanut butter and jelly cookie. From that moment, I was hooked.
I’ve probably been back a dozen times since. That sandwich remains my favorite thing between two slices of bread. Some places might double down on the decadence, but a meat as heavy and rich as Butcher’s crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside pork belly requires accompaniment that lightens the mood. The cucumber and the mint do just that. Want to go heavy again? Get the pancetta macaroni and cheese.
Because the pork belly sandwich is always on the menu, it doesn’t feel like cheating to order the special every once in a while. The best of these—if you’re lucky enough to visit when they’re making it—is the pit ham and debris sandwich. This is less greasy take on a New Orleans classic, and after one, you’ll never wait in line at Mother’s again.
When I want to take someone to lunch in New Orleans and look like an insider, I take them to Butcher. Its next-door big brother, Cochon, gets more publicity, but Butcher—also home to the late-night Swine Bar—feels like a secret spot even though anyone with a working nose can find it.