Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans

2012/05/10 22:32:35
Cruisin' the Mississippi Delta Tamale Trail
-as seen on chibbqking
Hello fellow Roadfood folks. Great trip reports on here as always. A roadtrip down to Nawlins last Fall made a trip to the Delta finally within reach for me. I wrote this for my blog, which I do for fun, but love sharing my trips here since others are always doing the same. Enjoy the ride. I very much enjoyed the Chicago style stand tamales as a kid and then found out they were just a cheap imitation of hot Delta tamales. That then lead me to a google search which sent me to the Tamale Trail, a project by the good ole folks at Southern Foodways. Since that day I've been patiently waiting to make the trip down the trail. What an experience, this is a trip I would rec to anyone from college kids to retired couples, especially those interested in music, culture and of course food.

The Mississippi Delta

Already expertly analyzed on the Tamale Trail site, I'll just share some personal thoughts and experiences and add in some other eats and traditions/ways of life found in Mississippi. We stayed at the Ground Zero Blues Club which is a popular live music spot with a restaurant/bar and lodging upstairs. Owned by Morgan Freeman this was a great place to stay and I would say thee place. Prices were great and the rooms were nice. They're right above the venue and very reasonably priced. They took very good care of us, making sure our stay was a fun one. It's also right in the heart of town and not off in never ending fast food highway land.

Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale

This is the spot to see some of the great music acts that come thru town. It's also not far from some real deal juke joints, no pics, but try and stop in one. Morgan Freeman and others are trying to revitalize the area and the locals are all in. There's great people everywhere, I didn't come across one rude/stupid person while down there. Unlike locals in other tourist spots, the people of Clarksdale appreciate the fact your visiting and want you to come back.

The view as you enter the club/restaurant

We got in a little later and just caught the end of a show but we stopped back in early Friday afternoon for some drinks as "The Mississippi Bluesman" Grady Champion was setting up for his performance later that night. The Bourbon Mall in Leland (seen upthread) was on the must get too list but it burned down and hasn't reopened. They do however have a lunch/dinner menu at Ground Zero and fried tamales are on that. I hear the rest of the menu is great and it looked nice. The tamales were a good indicator, very tasty and perfect with a few cold ones.

Fried hot tamales from Ground Zero Blues Club

We actually started our day over at Miss Del's General Store where my friend got some coffee. The ladies over there told us breakfast needed to be had at the Rest Haven. It was on the list and thus we knew where we were headed for our first bite in the Delta.

Popular Lebanese Breakfast joint in Clarksdale

This was the perfect place to start the trip. Located on Highway 61 Chamoun's Rest Haven is a staple of the Delta and a good reflection of what the area is. You might not expect Lebanese food in the middle of Bluesland but the area is a southern melting pot of African, Italian, Chinese, Lebanese, Jewish, Mexican and more.

The view from a booth

The menu has all of the regular options for a traditional southern breakfast but it's also got the Lebanese portion or you could go with both. The friendly young lady at the general store rec'd the Kibbie omelet so that's what my friends went with while I got one piece of fried Kibbie, four grape leaves and fries. Kibbie is usually ground lamb (they use lean beef) with bulgur and it worked really well as an omelet stuffer with cheese. My solo piece was good but a little dry without any sauce to drown it in but the warm fresh pita was nice and the grape leaves I thought were great. They're served warm, filled with ground beef and similar to the tamales in that they're greasy in a good way. These had bacon taste inside giving them great flavor. I should of got a bundle more for the road.

Kibbie & Cheese Omelet with hash browns

Fried Kibbie with grape leaves

Also famous at the Rest Haven is their pie. The only argument about who's is best is whether its the chocolate or coconut from here. In which case you gotta try both. They come topped with "mile high meringue" and it's simple to see why people come from Memphis as well as all over, some up to twice a month to eat these.

Chocolate and coconut creme pies from the Rest Haven

Right after Rest Haven it was on over to another famous Lebanese spot in the Delta.

Famous MS BBQ spot in Clarksdale

Abe's Bar-B-Q is known for their BBQ sandwiches and was packed around 11a when we went in for a takeout. Abraham Davis arrived in Mississippi in 1913. He started his BBQ joint in 1924 and today it's one of the states oldest restaurants. A true American gem, it's a place that defied segregation and set an example for others on how it should be done. Both life and bbq. The pork sandwiches are the main draw and best ordered large, which includes more meat and a middle bun.

Abe's famous pork sandwich

At Abe's they smoke the butts over pecan wood until ready. They then put them in the fridge overnight and slice it thin the next morning. The sliced meat goes back onto the griddle producing many crispy browned pieces throughout the sandwich. I usually prefer no cole slaw but had to have it the locals way and was glad I did. Some of the best slaw ever, simple with the perfect kick of pepper, worked great with the meat. We also got the tamale tour started here with a half order (6) and they too were very good. Nice representation of what was about to come.

Abe's Tamales

Across the street from Abe's: The Crossroads where Robert Johnson sold his soul

Now it was time to get down to business as we had 10+ spots planned for the Tamale Trail. I had thought The Ranchero was rec'd for theirs but they didn't sell them. I did however end up getting a half slab of their famous Ranchero Ribs. Not bad but just not my style. They would of made for great leftovers and some MS style fried rice with the meat pulled off and cut up.

Ranch ribs from The Ranchero in Clarksdale

So next up on the trail was the world famous Hick's in Clarksdale. We got there right as they were opening and it was an experience getting to meet the man and his wife. Both terrific people who made us feel like we were longtime regulars. Read more about them HERE.

World Famous Hot Tamales found here

It was only around noon time when the man himself was out at the counter with a beer cracked opened. After a few questions with Mr. Hicks we were in a full blown conversation. Topics ranging from the Cubs, he's a fan and wants to know whats wrong? (Ricketts it now seems is also an idiot) to the most famous people he's met. He counts former President Clinton and the late Dale Earnhardt as two of his biggest fans. In fact he's good friends with the entire Earnhardt family and they, Junior included, like so many others around the world get Hick's Hot Tamales shipped thru fed-ex. I'm not sure if Bill is allowed to eat hot tamales all day anymore, his leash has been tightened since his meeting with Monica. Mr. Hicks gotta crack outta that.

Mr. Eugene Hicks, unofficial mayor of Clarksdale

After trying a half dozen it was easy to conclude as to why Hick's Hot's are world renowned. Easily the most unique tasting of all the spots we went to these were fantastic and had me thinking about something he mentioned earlier. Mr. Hick's is tired, he learned how to make tamales at 13 when a local neighborhood man taught him how. Then the neighbors said his were even better than the mans that taught him how to make them and Hick's Hot Tamales launched off. He wants to retire but he cant find anyone that can do them right, it's a three day process making these and he's ready to sell but only if he knows his recipe and legend live on. Intriguing...

Hick's Hot Tamales

I did take note of PIGMON's comment on how the tamales get more mushy as the day goes on and these were the most sturdy of the many we had. You could pick one up and it would stay intact for at least a little bit. The texture was different as was the flavor. Even though this was just our 2nd tamale stop we got a dozen to go and some rib tips too. The tips could hang here in Chicago, he dashes them with the secret tamale spice before they come off the smoker. Then the tamales, well I'm ready to drive back for more, if that doesn't work out there's always Fed-Ex.

Delta Eats

As much as I wanted to stay and further explore, it was time to leave Clarksdale and make our way down south en route to Nawlins. But not without stops along the way. I saved some shops for my next visit but we still managed to do quite a few. First stop, Cleveland. Sadly many of the spots featured on the tamale trail in Cleveland are no more. John's Homestyle Hot Tamales was one I was really looking forward too. It was in a little house turned kitchen but as we rode up it was gone. I think in the end four of the spots we had on the radar were no more. A stop into a random small grocery store due to a sign (they were out) lead us to another place were tamales are served out of a home by a husband/wife team. We rode down the block into the neighborhood but the "yellow house" was locked up, maybe they were on vacation.


Exploring the Tamale Trail

One place featured on the Southern Foodways trail was still open and had a flow of customers. We stopped into Delta Fast Food and I ran in for an order. Another cool little spot. Read more about them HERE.

Cleveland, MS

Gentle Lee Rainey, the proprietor, was working his store when I went in. It reminded me of a place now long gone in Lincoln Park called Kozy's (Where Tavish Bar is today). You can get everything from baby groceries to made to order food here, fireworks, beer, baseball cards and all that other good stuff too, like some hot tamales.

View from inside (notice the Koolickles to the left)

Saltines are a common side with a sack of hots in the Delta. At Fast Food they have a longer cut cracker which is the perfect size to make a sandwich out of your tamales and crackers. These were really tasty, like PIGMON and anyone who enjoys these snacks, I found them all to be good eats. There weren't any I didn't like.

Delta Fast Food Hot Tamales

We drove on after another place was closed and headed to Greenville for a few stops. Along with Hick's we all agreed that Hot Tamale Heaven in Greenville were the most noticeable in the goodness factor. They've been a family business since the 70's operating carts outside the market and stands with drive thru's serving their famous family recipe. Read more HERE.

Hot Tamale Heaven

Next up was one of the more memorable stops I've ever been to while on a foodventure. My buddy had his laptop in the car and what a great thing that is to have on a roadtrip revolved around food. He yelled out "were not far from Maria's Hot Tamales according to Google" Me being the organizer I said, sweet lets check it out. So we turned onto a street in a neighborhood with nothing else around as far as retail and I thought to myself, dammit! another one that bit the dust.

I mean it says this is the address but there's no signs of tamales...

Well onto the next one we thought. Until I convinced my friend driving that it's not all that crazy to just drive into some random peoples driveway with out of state plates while in Mississippi .

Well look at that! a tamale shack in back

I walked up to it but no one was inside. So my buddy gave me a number and said call this and see whats up. I dialed and it rang twice before what sounded like a very old man answered "HELLO" I said hi and explained we were looking for some tamales "WHAT?" "We were wondering if you had any tamales" "Tamales? YA, when do you need them?" "We were thinking now" "WHAT?" Mr. Thornton my buddy explained is heart of hearing but after about 10 minutes going back and forth, in which I could hear him from his yard, he understood we wanted some hots and he said no prob but needed 45 minutes to make them and we should call back then. Two minutes later he stepped out his back porch and was wondering if we were the people that were just talking to him.

"Come on in guys, lemme show ya"

He was very happy to have us and invited us to come inside his hut and stay while he made us a batch. At 94 years old he might of moved a little slow taking very small steps as he moved forward and also has hearing problems but other that he was as sharp as a fresh made prison blade. He served in the Navy during World War II and his handshake was something else, full of strength. He started making tamales after convincing a neighborhood friend how to teach him how to out of necessity after he lost his job. He didn't want the tamales mans secret recipe just to learn how to make them and then he came up with his own special recipe. He's da man.

Proud of his publicity he has all the articles framed on the wall

We sat there drinking beers as he made the bundle and it was special and we all knew it. The stories of him and his wife of 56 years who he obviously adored or of how only one other person who had his recipe for a while because "I had cancer in my tongue and the doctor made me stop making tamales, I was none too happy" were amazing. So he told his best friend, now dead, how to do it while he wasn't allowed. $8,000 will get you the recipe, lessons and everything else you need to make his famous tamales and it might be worth it just to hang with Grandpa Shine and hear some of his stories. They are also available at a local supermarket which paid him for showing them his secrets and spice concoction which he calls "tutti frutti" He said he had to do that a few years back as he got older, needed someone else to make them routinely.

We talked the whole time about all sorts of fun things, I wish I got more vid

As hard it was to do we eventually had to take off. Mr. Thornton was thrilled we stopped in and wouldn't even let us give him the cash for the tamales, but we made him take it to buy some beer. He thanked us time after time and asked us to stop by again as he wrote down our info on a piece of paper. What a great guy, an experience I'll likely never forget. If you do the trail call him and or stop by, he'll love it and so will you. Read more about his story HERE.

Maria's Hot Tamales cooking away, spicy smelling scents fill the air!

We went looking for Maria's because Scott's Hot Tamales, a walk up window, doesn't open until 5p (at least on Friday's). The same goes for Doe's Eat Place which we also stopped over at but never made it back since there was no way we would eat a steak so that stop was saved and I have plans for that. Scott's were very good too, just like every other batch in fact. But what I liked about theirs was the heavy spicing which they seemed to put into the cornmeal before they are made. Scott has been making tamales since he was a kid, when they got back from school his mom made them make tamales. More on them HERE.

Scott's Spicy Hot Tamales

So as the clock neared night we needed to get moving and planned to spend the night in Natchez but not before a couple more stops. J's Hot Tamales we were told was a famous place that used to be an old gas station/corner market where some of the states best tamales are made. It eventually was torn down and turned into a modern day gas station but with that came the tamales which are still served in the food to go display case inside the gas station.

Greenville, MS: Hot Tamales for those hungry while filling up the truck

These were nice too and since it was later in the day, the most mushy with lots of liquid in the aluminum foil they come wrapped in. Like every other stop, I'd happily eat J's all day too which placed in the last ever Hot Tamale Contest back in 2005. They need to bring that back. Make sure to save some room for their famous peach cobbler too.

Bundle of Hot's from J's Corner Market at the gas station

Peach Cobbler and hot tamales, best gas station eats I remember

So that was it for Greenville as we needed to head over to the small town of Louise, MS for something I've always wanted to get. I mentioned how this area is a melting pot and when the Chinese came to Mississippi in the 20's they started controlling the grocery business' opening up local spots where they lived. Nowadays there's still a bunch of Chinese owned and operated grocery stores throughout the state. Next trip I plan to explore these further and you can read more about them HERE and also I'm sure over at Southern Foodways.

Clarksdale, MS (Video Story HERE)

We were headed to Louise so I could finally get my hands on the famous 'Hoover sauce' of Mississippi. Sold exclusively at Lee Hong Company Grocery Store (and by mail and maybe some other Chinese grocers, ha, but you gotta meet the man) It was like reaching the promised land when we pulled up around 7p that evening as the sun was setting. I had called a couple times earlier making sure they didn't or weren't planning on closing early as we ran a little late.

Louise, MS

Located in a small town of 315 people right there at the end of Main street is longtime citizen Hoover Lee's grocery store. It's him, the sauce guy as he's called who created what is now a well known southern sauce, he's got a summary on Wikipedia and has been in numerous publications. A quick Google search will lead you to stories, recipes and all sorts of info on the former mayor of Louise who's been in Mississippi since 1934.

Mr and Mrs. Lee running their grocery store

We stopped in and as we said hello and went over to the sauce Mrs. Lee asked if we were the ones who called earlier a few times. I told her it was me and she gave a big smile and said "we been expecting y'all" Mr. Lee was full of good vibes asking "where y'all from?" and loving it when we told him Chicago. The sauce was first put together in 1975 when Mr. Lee was playing around trying to make his own Chinese BBQ sauce. As he played around he handed it out to friends and brought dishes to pot lucks made with it and eventually said screw this "Im'a sell it at the store" Its a Far East meets the American South marinade that works great on meats.

The famous Hoover Sauce found in Mississippi

We got to chat with the Lee's and it was a great time. He knew we were headed down for the Saints game and told us how his son has season tix and heads down there from Louise for every home game to tailgate and watch them live. He told us "Ya he leave every Thursday and stay down there until Monday, I told him, you must have yoself a really good paying job der huh?" as he laughed away. His wife was so sweet and she was so excited we were exploring the area asking us about Ground Zero in Clarskdale and how she loved it. They too insisted we back and I will soon, I want to spend the day over there and marinate some meats and cook them with the couple. Available by the quart and gallon, I got one of each. I have yet to try the sauce but plan on experimenting this week, this looks good.

An all American day in the Delta

We rode out after picking up the sauce and were headed to Natchez for the night. As we rode I thought about how sweet it would be to get a dinner with Uncle Hicks, Grandpa Shine and the Old Mississippi Sauce Moss at a place like Doe's Eat Place. What an experience that would be. We got into Natchez around 10p after a push by me to get us to Fat Mama's for some tamales. They were the only place other than fast food and the casino that stayed open until 10 and we got there a little after. They serve drinks til 11 and made us a batch of hots. Good again and the margarita's, although frozen, were refreshing after a day of eating Mississippi. There's a nice deck to have food and drinks at there too. Off to the casino, maybe some other entertainment with some tums too. After that bed before rolling into NOLA Saturday morning.

Fat Mama's Hot Tamales in Natchez, MS

Ground Zero Blue's Club
352 Delta Avenue
Clarksdale, MS 38614
(662) 621-9009

Chamoun's Rest Haven
419 North State Street
Clarksdale, MS 38614
(662) 624-8601

Abe's BBQ
616 1/2 N State Street
Clarksdale, MS 38614
(662) 624-9947

See the Tamale Trail for address' and updates on hot tamale shacks.

Lee Hong Grocery
1294 Main Street
Louise, MS 39097
(662) 836-5131
Eating BIG in NOLA
-as seen on chibbqking
So after spending Friday on the Tamale Trail as we made our way down the Mississippi River, we slept in Natchez and rode into New Orleans arriving around 11a Saturday morning. The reason for my visit was a bachelor party weekend with Da Bears. The food and most of the time spent in the Crescent City was marvelous, the game not so much but hey now we know week one was a fluke anyway. But if theres anyplace you could care less about a loss once the game has ended, it's Nawlins. First order of business Saturday was, of course, food. Since we had a car I had a few local loved spots picked out that were reachable with a vehicle although most of these stops are a short cab ride too.

First stop in the 504, Two Sisters Restaurant.

a diamond in the rough

Not to be confused with the tourist bait that is 'Court of Two Sisters' this is a somewhat DL spot for those of us not from around this way. But those in the know do know, so your likely to see people of all sorts. It's in a neighborhood that still has plenty of visual images of the damage Katrina did. There's a church next door and a few houses still occupied while the rest of the area is still boarded up. I found this spot thru Southern Foodway's 'Gumbo Trail' website and it didn't disappoint. Read more about them HERE. The gumbo is available as a special on Fri. and Sat. only so this trip was my chance. What a way to start the day. Best bowl of anything I've had in a while, the broth was seasoned to perfection. I'll for sure be back even if I gotta cab it.

Beware before eating, this might make you move to NOLA

Two Sisters is what Pope Yes claims to be. The meat off the ham hock was sublime and along with that there was a bunch of other good stuff up in there. We saw a another Bears fan who's a state rep from the Southside in there enjoying what he said was "his favorite spot to eat at down here". Really great ultra friendly service too but even if that was awful I wouldn't be able to stay away from their gumbo. Fueled and filled I hit up Bourbon street to meet with some peops for a few hours before my dream meal which we had reservations for at 6:30.

2nd Stop on Day one was Mosca's

Avondale, LA

Mosca's has been on my must get too list for ages now. It's been in many publications and is loved and rec'd by my family members who know how to eat. We were supposed to go there when we were all down there for my sisters college graduation pre-Katrina but my dad never made reservations. The hurricane took what was the entire 10 foot wide kitchen space but they, like so many others are back at it and that's important for the people. Both the longtime customers and staff. The unassuming roadhouse has been a part of the community/swamplands since 1946 when they moved down there from Chicago Heights to open a restaurant. In a article it explains "He wanted to get out of Chicago Heights," Johnny said of his father. "It was too Mafioso. Then he wound up in New Orleans. Turns out it was the same thing." Haha.

The bar area on your left and dining room on the right

Now in it's 3rd generation, the gangsters are long gone but the food and wonderful aromas remain the same. The Sat. night we were there I'm almost positive we were the only non locals being the only people in there without a Louisiana accent. It's a small space and they're only open from 5:30-9:30 five days a week so reservations are a very good idea. It's a little trip (about 25 mins) from the heart of the city. It's also a place to go to with a few folks, the menu is small but the dishes are large and very shareable so you need a few people. We had three but I had to order a little extra. It was so good, there were no leftovers.

Fresh baked bread comps of the house and a white bean soup

The bread was fresh hot out of the oven and a great little snack to go along with the cocktails but be sure not to eat but a piece or two if you must. Everything is prepared to order and you are asked to give at least 45 mins for your dinner to be ready. Well worth the wait, all the food arrived one dish after the other and everyone just kind of jumps in when it does. First up the oysters Mosca aka "Best Thing I've Eaten [Lately]"

Oysters Mosca, one of a few signature dishes

Fresh local oysters with the house seasoning and lots of garlic, topped with bread crumbs and baked. I forget the price (market) but there were 12 oysters in there and while the dish wasn't cheap you wont think twice about the price after you eat. You can taste the Chicago roots as this was similar to a shrimp de jonghe but their special seasoning techniques here are as good as anywhere. You wont ever forget the taste and wont be at peace until the next time you try it. That goes for all the dishes we ordered including the shrimp Mosca.

Fresh local shrimp w/ shell sautéed with Italian seasonings and white wine

They didn't have the Cornish Hen on menu that night but it turned out ok because we already ordered a ton also having to pass on the crab salad and Italian sausage and roasted potatoes. But what we got is what I think people that arent regulars need to try. The shrimp were indeed as good as they look. The recipe description might be simple but I bet not too many can duplicate what they do. Especially when it comes to their Chicken a la Grande. The flash pictures might not be pretty but these are the only ones I got in which you can see and this dish was a perfect 10.

Mosca's Chicken a la Grande

Fresh chicken sautéed with rosemary and special seasoning, whole garlic cloves and white wine

Available in half ($18) or whole ($28) there's only one way to go. The chicken prices are cut up and cooked in a bath of garlic infused goodness. Eat this and you wont have any vampires near you for an eternity. Our waitress rec'd we also get an order of Spaghetti and Bordelaise and that was a great call which went well with the chicken. She took wonderful care of us and the other 3 or 4 tables she was working and kept stopping by to make sure we were good on drinks while clearing space and so on. Flip a coin both the oysters and chicken were the best dish I had on this trip. Dinner for three with drinks for me was $220 with tip.

Dinner at a Louisiana Legend goes as planned...Legendary

I already know this will be a meal I'm fiending for on a cold winter day in Chicago. In fact sitting back here posting these pics has me thinking how I would bury a man if it meant a meal from here right now . After dinner it was back to the hotel, where I had to shower and brush my teeth twice to get all that garlic out and then it was off to Bourbon street. No more food for the night after that gut pusher but plenty of booze, sorry but no pics of boobs.

Sunday morning it was over to Cafe Du Monde to start the day.

Saturday evening was a wild one all around with the Bears fans invasion along with a UFC fight at the convention center and a rave with 7,000+ in the Warehouse district that went on until the crack of down. I heard them across the street from our spot at the Garden Inn when I retired. The neighborhood over there has quite a few places hopping. The beignets and some fresh squeezed orange juice did the trick for me before it was time to Bear down but that only turned into a big WHO DAT nation chant from there on in.

The classic French Quarter breakfast

We did some drinking at a tailgate and the Saints fans were great. They got love for the Bears who they say along with the Cowboys come down to New Orleans with the biggest fan base each year they play there. Got to eat some great eats like muffaletta and shrimp creole and of course they were doing Chicago style hot dogs for the game. Me and a few others said screw it as far as $250 for a decent seat pricetag wise to go to the game and instead went to a neighborhood place where my sister used to hang that I went too on my last visit.

New Orleans Uptown Neighborhood Bar

Milan Lounge was a local haunt for my sister and some of her Chicago college friends as well as many ex Chi City folk. It's decked out in Cubs gear and they show all the games. I guess I didn't take into account all the locals from there that were Bears fans would be at the game. It was all regular customers there to watch their beloved Saints. Nonetheless they were still nice about keeping the High Lifes and shots of Jameson coming though not too talkative to us. We watched the first half here and got out, the place was dark and smokey as can be and we needed a breather. Cool spot though I could see myself here often if I lived down there. Every space that wasn't needed for sitting and walking room had cases of beer stacked into it.

The view from inside with Harry Carey watching

We watched the second half at the more comfortable Fat Harry's on Charles ave. While Milan Lounge was like an old corner bar you used to find in Lincoln Park, Fat Harry's was more like the current ones. They had plenty of TV's, lots of different fanbases and it was packed but we were still able to stand at the bar and watch the game and drink some good local brews. We left close to the end, I bought the local Saints ladies next to us some shots for their win and went looking for jambalaya at a spot one of them rec'd on Magazine street. The place was closed on Sunday's (lots of spots are) but we did stop at the Magazine snowball stand.

SnoBall stand on Magazine Street

New Orleans and the rest of the south love their snowballs like Chicago does their Italian ice. They also serve Philadelphia water ice here and I got a mango one of those which was just like Annette's in LP. They were out of crawfish pies and hot tamales but did have another New Orleans locally loved eat Ya Ka Mein. I've actually been enjoying this beef noodle soup with Chinese/Korean creole roots at Hamburger King on Sheffield in Wrigleyville for a while. In that thread New Orleans and the origin of Ya Ka Mein is discussed and the soup also made an appearance on Bourdain's 'No Reservations' "Cajun Country" episode last month.

Ya-Ka-Mein on Magazine street in New Orleans

Typically this dish is noodles, slow-roasted pork or beef, hardboiled eggs, and green onions served up in a rich heavy soy broth which the meat was simmered in but everyone's gotta recipe. It's hangover food and was great after the loss and lots of alcohol which it soaked right up. The beef was super tender and better than anything I was expecting. Totally unexpected this was a great unplanned stop since I was hoping to get to try some Ya Ke Mein while down there. Many popular spots are closed on Sundays but the famous Parkway Bakery & Tavern is not.

The famous New Orleans Po' Boy stop overlooking Bayou St. John

I love oyster Po' boys and had an alright one from Johnny's the night before but wanted to try more. Different variations like a roast beef. The Parkway's been around for ages and claims to be NOLA's first po' boy shop and is said to have the citys best roast beef one. It was damaged by Katrina but reopened and the current owner is a great guy who obviously has alot of loyal customers, the place was packed with tons of Saints fans and a few of us Bears fans too. You wait in line to order (unless sitting at the bar) and your name is called when ready. There's seating inside and lots of picnic tables outside.

Waiting in line (L) View from the inside (R)

Aside from the soup I didn't eat anything and needed to chow down so I deiced in line I would order for all. The owner as I mentioned is really cool, perfect for his place as he talks on his microphone from the kitchen. Due to the long line, he announced to the bar people "no more phone orders, we gotta get these folks in line fed" and that brought a big cheer from the crowd. He also said "Chicago is good for one thing, we get our corned beef from Vienna Beef and always will" So then along with a roast beef, shrimp and also a gravy I added a corned beef po' boy. They had a framed set of pics of the old Vienna factory and a letter from the Company Prez hanging on the all. The order took a little bit which was fine but the owner insisted we try some "surf and turf" as I waited. While they're known for their roast beef many locals will tell you their shrimp is best. You can get both as a po' boy filling and I will next time.

Top: Surf N' Turf (L) Roast Beef (R) Bottom: Shrimp Po' Boy (L) Inside of a corned beef (R)

There's two types of roast beef po' boys. One being the traditional way with slices of roast beef covered in gravy and the other is debris style. They serve them debris style at Parkway and that's when they let the beef cook until its fall apart tender and does so in the gravy they cook the roasts in. I thought this was great and the bread was outstanding too, messy but it held up. The shrimp one was STUFFED. No way to eat it without munching on a few of the fresh lightly battered beauties from the Gulf they load on there. The owner told us they're from his cousin who's a fisherman in Biloxi. Corned beef was great too, they cook the Vienna Beef product until they're just about to fall apart. I wish we had a legit po' boy shop. I also loved the gravy bread Po' boy if for anything nostalgia and the fact it finally filled me up.

New Orleans style gravy bread sandwich

The gravy breads are the leftover gravy with plenty of bits and pieces of beef. Similar to a gravy bread here in Chicago. They give you a couple six inch rolls already with a little gravy in them and a cup of gravy on the side as well. He explained these are on there for the folks who need to feed 3 or 4 kids and cant spend $20 every time while doing so. A couple of large gravy breads can feed 4 maybe 5 kids. Dessert was a couple of homemade puddings. Bread pudding with rum sauce and banana pudding. Excellent and now time for a little nap before Sunday night begins.

Rum sauced bread pudding (L) Banana pudding (R)

After a nice sleep and refreshing swim and shower at the Hilton Garden Inn it was time to head out. We drank at a bar on Bourbon with the bachelor but it wasn't long before he was gone, in more ways than one. So seeing as how I was hungry and hadn't yet had any fresh oysters, Bourbon street wasn't a bad option for that. We rolled into Desire to catch the 4th quarter of Sunday Night Football and have some fresh shucked oysters with beers. It's connected to the Royal Sonesta Hotel. Good stuff, classic New Orleans.

Fresh shucked oysters

We sat right at the oyster bar and watched the guy get at it. They just throw some papers on the bar and let you make a mess. The horseradish was righteous and I could of slurped on these all night long. They went great with Abita Andygator from the tap and some NFL football. The bread pudding from here was dandy as well and the jambalaya good too. They have a full menu.

Bread Pudding from Desire Oyster House

My buddy was seeking the cities best jambalaya like I was doing the gumbo but lots of the stops weren't open on Sunday. Coop's Place off the French Quarter stays open late all week and despite its location it's loved by locals and of course tourists too.

Famous stop on Decatur Street

The inside is like your neighborhood tavern, lots of wood, theres seating at the bar and tables although it does get packed and the people working there can be snarky. It's still worth it in my eyes. Pricewise and taste we got alot out of this late nite dinner on our last night in town. The menu is loaded with Cajun goodies and we went with three entrees to share and were just able to finish everything up. Fried chicken over red beans and rice was classic stick to your ribs southern cooking and the crawfish and made in house tasso pasta was exactly the same.

Red beans and rice with fried and Crawfish tasso pasta

The house specialty jamablaya made with Rabbit and Sausage was top notch and we made that a supreme which is with shrimp and housemade tasso too.

Rabbit & Sausage Jambalaya

That was all she wrote for Sunday night. I was feeling the heat by the time midnight rolled along. It was a long two days but looking back at it, damn I ate well! We didn't leave the city until about 12:30p which made it 48 hours spent in NOLA. We also squeezed in two great spots on Monday that were closed on Sunday.

Warehouse District Butcher shop from the people of Cochon

I was happy to see that this place was right by our hotel when we arrived on scene and made a note of it to get back there Monday before skipping town. Thanks to jimswside's post on Butcher in this thread this spot was on my list and as everyone else seems to do, we loved it.

The inside: Butcher to your Left Food and drink orders on Right

Emeril hasn't been seen around town since then, I'm just saying

I wish I lived next door to this place

Breakfast was a muffaletta and Cuban sandwich before heading over to another place for lunch. We grabbed them to go and ate them on the hood of the car parked in front. All meats are cured in house and you could taste it in the quality of both sandwiches. Besides the meats being phenomenal the bread was just as good too.

The muffaletta sandwich people need to be taking back on the plane

Best tasting Cuban sandwich outside the Sunshine state I've had

So as sad it was it was time to head out but not before one more locally loved stop long on my list. Liuzza's By the Track is a neighborhood tavern by the New Orleans racetrack famous for their food and regulars. I've been meaning to get here, this trip I did.

Popular locals spot in the Fairgrounds neighborhood

We stopped in here for lunch and I was happy to finally make it. Even on a Monday at 11:30a it had a couple reg's at the bar and by the time we were thru quite a few groups eating and drinking.

As we enter

Liuzza's was featured on the HBO series Treme. The shows creator David Simon tries to be authentic as possible in re-portraying the city and as Liuzza's describes themselves they are the "Quintessential neighborhood joint". It also turned out they too are featured on the Southern Foodways Gumbo Trail and of course that was what I went with to start. More on their recipe HERE.

The world renowned house gumbo at Liuzza's

Although alot of gumbos in New Orleans are thick, Liuzza's does a thin broth one. The recipe is the owners mothers and he calls it a Creole gumbo and its loaded with flavor. It's filled with andouille, chicken, shrimp, okra and the thirteen or so special spices that pack the punch that will make you wanna order another bowl right after your done with your first. The other house specialty is the BBQ shrimp Po' Boy. I had to have this since I hadn't got any BBQ shrimp on this trip yet. They stuff a French bread pistolette with shrimp sauteed in lakes of butter. This was outstanding, you cant ever get enough of the BBQ shrimp sauce but the bread too. I soaked up every last drop with each and every crumb.

BBQ Shrimp Po' Boy and we were off, headed back home

Two Sisters Restaurant
223 North Derbigny Street
New Orleans, LA
(504) 524-0056

Mosca's Restaurant
4137 Highway 90 West
Avondale, LA 70094
(504) 436-8950

Cafe Du Monde
800 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 525-4544

Milan Lounge
1312 Milan Street
New Orleans, LA 70115
(504) 895-1836

Parkway Bakery & Tavern
538 Hagan Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 482-3047

Desire Oyster Bar
300 Bourbon Street
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 586-0300

Coop's Place
1109 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA 70116
(504) 525-9053

Cochon Butcher
930 Tchoupitoulas Street
New Orleans, LA
(504) 588-7675

Liuzza's By the Track
1518 N Lopez St
New Orleans, LA 70119
(504) 218-7888
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/11 07:19:53
All I can say is "WOW!".
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/11 07:39:18

All I can say is "WOW!".

Took the words right out of my mouth.  Craving Tamales like crazy now..
ann peeples
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/11 08:11:46
Great stuff,  KingT!
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/11 08:47:07
Great Report-
I've seen your blog before.
Seems you visited alot of the places i went to between both visits in 1999 and this past February.
I went to Chamoun's back in 1999-twice- they  certainly were a haven as they were the only place other than fast food that was open for breakfast on a Sunday morning.
Didn't care much for Fat Mama's Tamales but they did have a good Margarita.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/11 08:50:25
I have no words beyond WOW!
carlton pierre
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/11 09:01:15
Wow! is correct.  Excellent photos!!   I'm hungry and inspired to cook all at the same time.  Loved the tamale pics.
Knoxville TN is a small hotbed for tamales.  I believe it started with two sisters who had a very small joint called Mary's Place.  Only big enough for one table.  The two sisters ( both have passed and I think Mary's may be closed now) father learned his tamale trade in Greeneville MS and they moved to Knoxville and created a dish locally known as The Full House.  That's 2 tamales in a bowl of chili.  Man is that good!  I've seen it in Memphis but not called by that name.
I think Sundancer may have arranged a radio interview some years ago with Mary's surviving sister at the time.
carlton pierre
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/11 09:04:05
Is it possible that New Orleans is the best single roadfood city in the country?  I was there a few years ago and had my first real Po' Boy and ate at Pascal's Menali and had their famour barbecued shrimp.  All the pictures make me want to go back for more.
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/11 14:22:01
Yes, absolutely a great report.  LOVE that picture of the Crossroads, with its stark background and menacing sky -- the devil will be here any minute.  Very dramatic, and done by an artiste!
Root-Beer Man
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/11 16:36:10
This was a great report! Makes me want to get back down to NOLA even more than I already want to. Guess I know where we'll be going this summer.
Filet Mignon
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/11 17:18:07
Again--WOW--as a roadfooder AND a blues fan--this was a trip that warmed the cockles of my heart--whatever that means--anyway---GREAT report--and --where is your blog?--would love to check it out!
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/11 17:37:57
Great Report!
What I want to know is----How did Tamales wind up being such a big thing in the Mississippi Delta? They're supposed to be a Southwestern thing! 
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/12 12:09:25
A lot of folks from Mexico migrated to the Delta to work in the fields during harvest season and local folks learned to make the tamales from Mexicans.  Now locals can make them better than the current Mexicans that come to work in the fields. 
Filet Mignon
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/12 14:09:56
Littleman--"better"--or just "different"--i know that if you go to Mexico the tamales don"t look --or taste-like they do in the south--there are 100's of
Tamale" big-small-corn husk- bannana leaf---and the sauces!!!--Don't get me wrong--i love southern style tamales--but the  Yucatan style are AWESOME!--sorry--just hate that "Better"or "best" label most of the time---for me--l have never had a tamale i didn't like!--though it took me a while to get use to Ok and Texas putting chili on them! :)
Fire Safety Admin
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/12 14:36:29
It appears the BB, TTM and WJ have some competition.  Very nice write
I have driven thaty road many times but obviously I have missed these wonderful places.  Tamales are one of my favorite foods.
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN
Michael Hoffman
Double-chop Porterhouse
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/12 15:06:02
Absolutely wonderful! Thanks.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/12 16:02:03
Fantastic trip report.  Thank you for sharing.
Double Cheeseburger
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/12 16:10:43
I don't eat tamales too often that are not southern style or Delta Style as I call em.  Have you been to the Tamale Trail.  It's a great source of info on Delta tamales.  They are found in all the Delta towns like Rosedale, Clarksdale, Greenwood, Greenville and Cleveland.  There are tamales scattered around also on the coast and in Jackson, MS but most come from the Delta.
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/13 11:14:45
Ok - Mosca's=heaven.
Rabbit & sausage jambalaya- shut the front door.
BBQ shrimp po'boy- I think I actually drooled on my keyboard.
Well done, I say, well done.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/13 14:29:52
I grew up in California and ate plenty of Tamale's, In fact I think they had them on the school lunch menu. I've never tried a "southern" tamale but hopefully will get to try one someday. Great report!
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/13 18:39:37
THANX! for the intro to the Southern Foodways Alliance web sites!
Double Chili Cheeseburger
Re:Roadtrip thru the Mississippi Delta down into New Orleans 2012/05/22 15:43:22
What an absolutely fantastic report and tremendous pics KingT!
Parkway is the place I discovered La Gold hot sauce and Hubig's pies. This was before Katrina and before Parkway got kind of famous.