Monday, November 25, 2013
Shacking Up in the Big Easy
3449 River Rd.
Everybody loves The Big Easy.
Whether it was a the Sugar Bowl, your buddy’s bachelor party or that all-important “business” conference that just happened to be held one block from Bourbon Street, you’ve been here, stumbled through the grimy streets of the French Quarter and bought the House of Blues t-shirt.
Lord only knows, Suit757 knows the back alleys of the Vieux Carre Better than my home town.
So I always get excited when New Orleans makes an appearance on the old Suit757 itinerary.
Even if I’m only on the ground for four hours -- like today.
That’s just long enough to hop in my rental car, conduct my meeting and go find something to eat before heading back to submit to the TSA crotch-gropers at MSY.
As you might imagine, in one of the world’s great eating cities, I’ve been to all the touristy places like Acme, Felix and Crescent City Brewhouse.
I’ve been to all the popular places like Mother’s, Tujague’s and Galatoire’s.
More times than I can count.
Been there. Done that. Bought the shirt.
What gets me excited now is finding those hidden joints in the seedy neighborhoods outside the French Quarter where the locals go to for good food and beer.
Think about that for a minute.
New Orleans is one of the great culinary destinations on earth. The folks who actually live in this city know good food when they taste it.
I’ll happily defer to their judgment on which local joints are serving up the best authentic Louisiana fare.
The Rivershack Tavern hard by the Mississippi River levy somewhere between downtown and the airport is just such a place.
This is the type of place where if you contribute an old fashioned tacky ashtray to the décor, the bar tender will give you a free drink.
The bar stool I was sitting on was supported by the legs of a golfer.
The bar stool next to me featured the legs of a hooker -- complete with her skirt down at her ankles.
The Rivershack gives real meaning to the slogan, “Tacky, yet unrefined.”
A 100 year old ramshackle dive patronized by bikers, blue collar guys stopping by after their shifts and old guys from the neighborhood hiding out from the misses, you won’t find too many tourists in here.
Or Suits for that matter.
It’s the type of place where everybody knows everybody. Except me, of course.
With such a loyal clientele of drinkers, Rivershack Tavern would probably do good business even if it didn’t have some high-falutin’ chef whipping up creative Louisiana cuisine in the kitchen.
But this is New Orleans, where top notch food is revered as much as Drew Brees -- even in a funky blue collar dive like this.
I kicked off my only meal of the day (so don’t judge my 3pm gluttony) with an appetizer of “Buffalo Shrimp”, a huge plate of generous sized gulf shrimp lightly fried and drenched in a spicy wing sauce.
My entrée of red beans and rice arrived simultaneously.
This classic New Orleans dish is a special reserved for Mondays only.
No Monday morning blues here. I felt damn lucky to snag this quintessential staple of Creole blue collar cooking.
The beans were rich with flavor and creole seasoning and mixed with fall apart braised meat from some sort of tender, tasty animal. I’m guessing pig or rabbit.
Best of all, the dish was topped with a giant link of smoky sausage charred just right with tell-tale grill marks.
At $8.95 this meal was a bargain!
Maybe the food here is just a loss leader to tempt folks into the place for drinking.
Because at $5-$7 per beer, the Rivershack wasn’t exactly giving the alcohol away.
Ever since my visit early this year to the Czech Republic, I’ve been a fanatical advocate for fresh-from-the-tap, unpasteurized Pilsner Urquel, from the Czech city of Pilsen -- the very first pilsner ever invented.
The difference between the skunky, pasteurized Pilsner Urquel crap in the green bottle and Pilsner Urquel on tap is like the difference between Hilary Clinton and Kate Upton in bikinis.
They wear the same label, but the impact on the senses couldn’t be more different.
Following my obligatory unpasteurized draft of Pilsner, I moved on to the local brews.
Nola’s Hopitoulas offered a rare taste of hops here in the bayou where beers tend to be more subdued.
I capped off the afternoon with a bottle of Abita Turbodog, a thick, rich, dark, manly brew that would scare the hell out of your “Bud Light Lime Only” girlfriend.
As I knocked back the last few drops from my Turbodog and paid my tab, I felt proud of myself for venturing out of the tourist comfort zone.
Sure, you can get yourself a hell of a New Orleans po-boy at Mother’s or Acme downtown, but the Rivershack proves sometimes the best food is served to those who know good food best -- the folks who actually live here.
Rating: Bought the Shirt!