Street shot. 9th Ward. New Orleans

This is my once a year column where I look back at the previous 12 months of life in New Orleans’ 9th Ward and beyond. I take my lead from Benjamin Franklin and his superb Almanack that he published for 25 years back in the 18th century

The magic of our city, the finest in the US, was deeply damaged this year but we’re hopeful that in the next few months New Orleans can right itself.

My one fervent wish is that the Second Lines will resume. There is a Second Line economy that feeds, clothes, and houses thousands of New Orleanians. The people who earn their living via the Second Lines are suffering greatly and this century-old tradition needs to be celebrated – not abolished.

Without Second Lines it seems like the potholes are a little bit deeper and the endemic crime a bit harder to reconcile.

On to the almanack.

Orange Store fried catfish po boy on Rampart Street in New Orleans

Best po boy of the year: Orange Store on Rampart. Fried catfish. Taking a noon-day meal on the sidewalk of this battered curb-store is one of my great pleasures. And their impossibly crunchy, perfectly-cooked catfish has been my favorite po boy filling since the 90s.

Favorite nearly decrepit New Orleans hip hop website: Where They At Nola I’m not sure how long this ol’ site can hang on but it’s a great resource if you like reading about the early days of New Orleans hip hop scene.

Appalachia Red hogs on a ramble in north Alabama.

Bacon: I’ve been eating steady on an Appalachia Red pork belly that I cured and smoked in my back yard in the spring. That slab was a big boy. Hog farmer Henry Fudge has been raising pigs in north Alabama since 1971. The best chefs in the deep south swear by this man’s hogs and I could not agree more. I ate grocery store bacon at a buddy’s house a couple months ago and was shocked at how flimsy the strips were and how little flavor they had.

Schwegmann’s Grocery in New Orleans 9th Ward.

Loss of a local landmark: Schwegmann’s Grocery in the 9th Ward burned to the ground in March. The long-abandoned building hosted the first self-serve supermarket in the US. At one point Schwegman’s was the dominant player in the New Orleans grocery store scene. The chain would eventually shutter in 1999.

Kevin Bachemin’s Creole Sausage. 7th Ward. New Orleans.

Creole sausage: A friend gave me a big sack of Bachemin Creole sausage a month ago and I’ve been eating on it ever since. Kevin Bachemin’s meat market opened in the sixties and shut down after Katrina. It doesn’t look like it’s going to reopen. You have to know somebody to find his sausage but New Orleans is a small town and if you ask around the 7th Ward I’ll bet you can get a lead.

Little People’s Place in Treme hosted the gumbo pop up of the year.

Gumbo: I made 80 quarts of gumbo on a sidewalk in Treme two days before Mardi Gras Day. The 6th Ward of New Orleans is deep gumbo country with thousands of cooks all claiming that they are the masters of the gumbo pot. I cooked a hybridized Cajun/9th Ward style and the pot was empty after about four hours. It was the best bowl I had all year long.

Jim Davenport’s in Mountain Brook, Alabama

Pizza: Jim Davenport’s in Mountain Brook, Alabama, established 1964. When I was a teenager me and my buddies used to waltz into Jim Davenport’s with our fake IDs so we could drink Budweisers and act like we belonged. We never got turned away. Flavor memories are a funny thing. I had not visited Davenport’s since the 90s but on a recent trek through Alabama I darkened their door to good effect. The old joint has not changed one bit, and the pizza tasted exactly like it did when I was a young roustabout.

Adams Fruit Market in Raceland, Louisiana.

White beans: I drive out to Bayou Lafourche a few times a year to buy young white beans at Adams Fruit Market, an old roadside stand that’s been around for 60 years. They cook up really quick in the kettle and have a deep rich flavor.

Ramon Antonio Vargas

Journalist of the year: Ramon Antonio Vargas of the Times-Picayune. What a workhorse. Remember the old days when a strong journalist at the Times-Pic would crank out one well-wrought article per week? Times have changed. The new cats working in the field might file 2-3 pieces a day. Vargas is one of the best writers at our daily paper and is seemingly inexhaustible. This man is doing the hard work on the crime beat going after perverted priests with the same level of sweat-neck research that he puts in on cold-blooded killers and arsonists. Whatever the Georges are paying him they could easily double it and still have a hell of a bargain.

Cracklins: I’m not sure how the discrepancy of pricing between Cajuns’ and Mexicans’ cracklins gets figured out but I bought a pound of chicharrone (cracklins) at Taqueria Ramirez in Lexington, Kentucky and they cost half of what I normally pay out in Acadiana. Most importantly they were the best I had all year long.

Coffee Shop: I quit going to Coffee Science when the owner forgot that he was in the hospitality business. That’s ok. Old Road Coffee opened in Treme a few months ago and the veteran baristas there are among the best in the city. Great hang, great workers, the coffee is fine but there’s something special about sitting along Bayou Road with the morning paper watching Treme come to life.

Joey Jeanfreau’s Meat Market in Chalmette, Louisiana

Ham for your bean kettle: Jeanfreau’s Market has gotten super expensive but they sell vacuum packs of ham trimmings for a pittance. These tidbits are the parts that get trimmed off when the butchers are processing the big hams for deli slicing. These packets have a lot of tough chunks that turn silky after an hour in the pressure cooker.

Soup dumplings: Fat Dragon in Austin has the best soup dumplings I’ve ever eaten. They’re so good that the owner only allows one order per table and if you try to get tricky and sit at separate tables you may get a rousing “NO SOUP DUMPLINGS FOR YOU!”

Tet Fest at Mary Queen of Vietnam in New Orleans East.

Banh Mi: Once a year I drive out to Tet Fest at Mary Queen of Vietname church in New Orleans East and eat myself into a stupor. The prices have creeped up just a bit but it’s an incredible party and the Vietnamese folks running the affair could not be nicer. Get the banh mi with sticky Viet-meatballs and prepare for your eyes to roll back in your head.

La Fruta Feliz in Austin, Texas

Tacos: Carnitas and Chivo at La Fruta Feliz in Austin. Pork carnitas or goat. Your choice. I always get both. The corn tortillas are made from scratch and the little shoe box-sized restaurant also has the best fresh-squeezed watermelon drink in the city. These are Bejucos, Mexico-style tacos.

Big Chief Leonard Brooks of the Golden Spears Tribe second line in New Orleans

A second line for the ages: Big Chief Leonard Brooks of the Golden Spears Tribe. This was the final second line before Mayor Latoya Cantrell abolished the century-plus old tradition.

Burger: A tie between Charlie Brown’s bacon cheeseburger up in Lexington, Kentucky and J&J Grocery in Bessemer, Alabama. Both were a few cuts above the normal “great” burger that you run into a few times a year if you’re a dedicated trencherman. Charlie Brown’s is an old dive bar that saw its seedy neighborhood suddenly go chic over the past decade. J&J is a classic country quick mart 20 minutes from downtown Birmingham.

Picnic fried chicken. $5 will get you eight pieces of crunchy fried chicken at France Meat Market. Their little corner is one of the last places in the St Claude neighborhood where drug dealers and hookers are thick as thieves. That fried chicken is worth the gauntlet. Grab a fat styrofoam box and retire to your favorite nearby park. We love the End of the World.

Driving across the Huey P. Long Bridge on the way to Westwego Shrimp Lot

Local fish market: The Shrimp Lot in nearby Westwego is one of the United State’s great fresh fish sources. A couple dozen vendors set up flea market style and vend every manner of Louisiana caught fish, crabs, oysters and anything else the fishers can catch out of the Gulf and nearby rivers or estuaries. 15 minutes from downtown New Orleans.

Loss of a legend: Ronald Lewis, founder of Big 9 Social Aid and Pleasure Club, died in March. He was the owner and operator of House of Dance and Feathers, a small museum in the 9th Ward that is devoted to Black Masking Indian and Second Line culture. RIP sir.


Youtube Music channel: Fatshoolaces. Greasy, nasty, dirty, rusty ankles and ashy kneecaps funk. Put it on late at night when it’s time to dance in your living room

My most popular article of 2020: The Murder of Yella Boy

Archibald’s Barbecue in Northport, Alabama

Comeback: For years my last meal on earth restaurant was Archibald’s Barbecue in Northport, Alabama just outside of Tuscaloosa. When their owner and pitboss George Archibald retired the family took it over and tried their best to run it straight into the ground. I skipped my yearly visit a few years in a row but fortune drew me there earlier this summer and the old concern was firing on all cylinders. Welcome back to the land of the living Archibald’s.

Nashville Hot Chicken: On a recent road trip through Appalachia I drove a few miles out of the way to visit Bishop’s Meat and Three in Franklin, Tennessee. They’re new in a sense having only opened in 2007. The same family runs Hattie B’s which got its start in the kitchen of this bland, cookie-cutter building. I’ve been eating at the infamous Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack since the 80s and wanted to try something different. Bishop’s hot chicken comes to table scalding hot, and seething with red pepper. A side of macaroni and cheese further proved the cook’s mettle. Bishop’s is 515 miles from my home in the 9th Ward but that plate made the trip completely worth while.

New Orleans Lp of the year: Expect The Unexpected by 79rs Gang. Black Masking Indians, Big Chief Romeo Bougere of the 9th Ward Hunters and Big Chief Jermaine Bossier of the 7th Ward Creole Hunters blew heads off back in 2014 when they first formed their unexpected collaboration. It took the men six years to drop LP number two and it was well worth the wait. I haven’t heard modern Indian Gang music this good since Spyboy Shotgun Slim came out a few years back.

A chocolate turtle from NOLA Beans Cafe

Sweet treat: Chocolate Turtle from NOLA Beans on Harrison. Shortbread, pecans, chocolate. I don’t make my way to this chi chi neighborhood very often as I have everything I need right here in the 9th Ward but lawd that turtle is a good one.

Boudin: Billeaud Grocery in Broussard, Louisiana put the best link of boudin I had all year long on my table. It was hot with red pepper and they were not shy with the onion. The Billeaud family have been making boudin since the 19th century.

Documentary: Ridin’ The Dog. 1989. Studs Terkel provides the voiceover on this vérité-style documentary film. Take a ride on a Greyhound bus across the US and marvel over how a bizarre cast of characters reveal their lives to the filmmaker.

Gerald’s Donuts in Arabi, Louisiana


Best donuts in da Parish: Gerald’s in Arabi is a little down-at-the-heels, 24-7 donut diner that serves up dirt cheap, super sweet, hot out of the fat, donuts to a revolving door of St Bernard Parish blue collar folks. Coffee’s strong too.

Harry Crews

The book that stuck with me: In 1978 Harry Crews wrote an autobiography of his early years growing up in Georgia and Florida called A Childhood. Crews grew up dirt-poor and way back in the country where poverty made men hard as flint.
How rough were the menfolk? “I knew for certain it was not unusual for a man to shoot at his wife. It was only unusual if he hit her,” he would say. Crews gives a vivid accounting of the grotesqueries of rural life. His was a bloody, violent childhood and it’s a wonder he survived to become one of the great southern men of letters.

This website just turned 11 years old. We have published 5,309 articles over this time span. That’s an average of 40 articles per month, every month, for 11 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>