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.
2021 was a year spent writing, and patiently waiting for the Second Line culture to return to the streets of New Orleans. Thankfully after a few months of purgatory to start 2021 the social aid and pleasure clubs have returned.
With Sunday Second Lines back on the calendar the potholes are easier to ignore, and the malaise that had settled over our fair city has begun to lift.
It’s about time.
Best French bakery in Louisiana: Poupart in Lafayette is an ode to the old bakeries that used to dot the French countryside. On my treks through Acadiana I always dash in for a big paper sack of their sweet goods.
The best quote I read all year long: I want to stay bitter. I use it; I feed on it. That’s why I put myself in jail like this to train for a fight.I want to be mean. All I want to think of is destruction.Then nobody can take from me what’s mine.The only way they’ll get the title from me is to kill me..Marvin Hagler
Mardi Gras Indian Queen of the year: Diane Honore of the Yellow Pocahontas
Worst New Orleans cultural idea of 2021: $15 second lines at the Broadside…and sponsored by Winn Dixie.
Best singer I heard out of Terrebone Parish, LA in 2021. Diamond Joe.
Best Chili Bun of 2021: Dixon’s Market
Donkey of the year: Pebbles, a buddy’s pet donkey and brood mare. She has one donkey foal per year and is just so loving and sweet. I only get to see her once a year but she always clears a spot on her busy calendar for me. A reliable friend is worth her weight in gold.
Historical home of the year: Mother Catherine Seals house in Lexington, Kentucky. Seals founded the Temple of the Innocent Blood in the lower 9th Ward of New Orleans back in the 1920s.
Myth buster of the year: In my travels across Louisiana it soon became clear that bell peppers are not an essential part of the Holy Trinity. more
Grocery Store Of The Year: Poco Loco in Austin, Texas. A wonderland of inexpensive groceries. I always stock up here before I come home to New Orleans 9th Ward. Louisiana groceries are incredibly expensive compared to our border states.
Best fishmonger in greater New Orleans: Amy holds court at Westwego Shrimp Lot, 20 minutes from my home in the 9th Ward.
Best muffaletta outside New Orleans proper: Gendusa’s in Kenner puts out a monster muff – and breaking from tradition – hot out of the oven with lovely blister marks on the bread. Swing by on the way to the airport for your flight and your fellow travellers will hate you with every fiber of their being.
Best oddball grocer in greater New Orleans: The Salvage Store is a wondrous tour through discounted, weird groceries. Everything is a jumbled mass, and the pricing is from the 80s.
Worst food truck meal of the year: Talad Thai and Lao Street Food. Just unimaginably awful. I would take two $20 bills and set them ablaze before I revisited this abomination.
Best po boy of the year: I was shocked at how good Commander’s Palace fried shrimp po boy is. We ordered it on a lark and it was one of the best of my 500 po boys series. Chef Meg Bickford is firing on all cylinders at the Garden District mainstay. This sandwich could be served at one of New Orleans glorious curbstores and nobody would be the wiser. High praise indeed.
Best Thai food in greater New Orleans: Secret Thai’s Nam Touk put some serious fire on me. I ordered it one notch from the ultimate in chile peppers and it was just right. And I got three meals out of one of their enormous platters.
Best donut in New Orleans: Buttermilk Drop, and it’s not even close. I wish I could do an intervention for the poor misguided souls that brag on District. Get the classic Buttermilk Drop (a heavy hitter in donut hole form) and you will never darken the door of District again.
Best strawberry poundcake: At the Lloyd Price memorial service in the great man’s hometown of Kenner, Louisiana, the musician fed his fans from beyond the grave. The hotplate was good but the poundcake was the best I ever ate.
Balize, Louisiana, was once described as being filled with “swift and riotous life, sudden and violent death, wild men and wilder women, red liquor, keen-edged knife and crashing pistol, all night orgies that ended with a string of murders at dawn.” Tristan Baurick is merely quoting an ancient newspaper article but this man’s string of reportage on Louisiana’s environmental woes led us to declare Baurick as our news reporter of the year.
Greatest loss for New Orleans music scene: The death of Bennie Pete.
Best onion rings: The Ranchero, a weathered roadhouse in Clarksdale put a singular platter of onion rings in front of me back in the fall. Scratch ranch for dipping and a brace of excellent waitresses made this place solid gold.
Cheeseburger of the year: Taqueria Doña Juanita put out the single best cheeseburger I ate all year long. It’s not cheap at $9 and they could be less stingy with their fries but this was one fine sandwich. And they’re open til 4am.
Driver of the year: Leo Prinsloo, just watch the video.
Best Asian market: Hong Kong, a Costco-sized, economical supermarket just across the river from the east bank of New Orleans. Their selection of obscure soy sauces alone makes this market woth the trip.
Best gritty dive bar: La Perla in Austin. The final gritty holdout on the infamous 6th st. The tiny, shabby joint is as blue collar as the smokiest dive in rural Mississippi. I can’t imagine how long they’ll hold out as the developers have completely taken over their neighborhood.
My biggest smoke of the year: 15lb hog leg on the Weber Smokey Mountain
adios from the 9th Ward of New Orleans