People who live on the East Bank of the Mississippi River in New Orleans love to denigrate folks who’ve settled down on the western side of the Big Muddy. We’re not sure why. We love driving onto the ferry in nearby Chalmette for a day excursion to Harvey or as we are fond of calling it “Cosmopolite City.”
There’s nothing particulary cosmopolitan about scruffy little Harvey, a so-called “census designated place,” that is little more than a seemingly endless run of welding shops, muffler repair joints, and the occasional run-down thrift store.
But back when Moses was young the founder of what is now modern day Harvey had grand designs for the little community and one of those plans was the original city name: Cosmopolite City. It was a grand plan laid low by the panic of 1837 and the once-burgeoning town never recovered. Harvey, a proletarian name for a working class bump in the road was settled upon and Cosmopolite City was tossed into the dustbin of history.
Why do we sail across the Mississippi a few times a year to visit Harvey? For the sublime food at the recondite Bamboo Cafe, a humble little Vietnamese joint tucked away in a quasi-Brutalism-inspired strip mall.
You can stretch a $6 bill in Harvey long enough to snare a meatball po boy that is a shareable size for two hungry eaters. This sandwich could easily run you $15 on the East Bank of the Mississippi. The good cook starts with a hot loaf of Hi Do Bakery bread and then commences to cramming it with all the standard Vietnamese accoutrement; carrot, cucumber, cilantro, before ladling a handful of sticky, slightly sweet, scratch meatballs that could stand up against the finest in Ho Chi Minh City.
Eggrolls come three to an order and are served volcano hot and crunchy with sides of whatever sauce you inquire of from the kitchen. The ladies running this tiny cafe could not be sweeter, and are more than happy to accomodate if you need a thimble or two of fish sauce, soy sauce or spicy chiles.
On a recent visit the patio was packed with elderly Vietnamese men reading newspapers, scanning cellular telephones and drinking iced coffees choked out with condensed milk. Chain smoking is not only tolerated but encouraged. The atmosphere is louche and amiable.
A nice breeze off the nearby bayous and estuaries wafted through as we finished our meal. You could squint a little bit out the back door of the cafe and practically see the once grand plans of Cosmopolite City off through the spring time haze.
1530 Lapalco Blvd
Hours of operation
always call ahead
Craving a deeper understanding of Harvey, Louisiana? Read Richard Campanella’s Original designs for Gretna, Harvey and Milneburg were sophisticated, enlightened