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Where Y’Eat: At Jazz Fest, Every Food Fanatic Needs a Plan

Cultural Exchange Pavilion at Jazz Fest
Courtesy of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
Cultural Exchange Pavilion at Jazz Fest

Planning a day at Jazz Fest can be a high-stakes proposition for those who take their music seriously. There is so much to take in, so much talent in one place, often performing on overlapping timetables. Enjoying one experience here can mean foregoing another potentially life-changing performance over there. .


For the food fanatic at Jazz Fest, things are a little different but no less intense. Ask people like this what they saw at the fest that day, and they’ll start going on about crawfish Monica, catfish Amandine, and mango freeze before getting around to any of the acts.


For this type of festival goer – and let’s just admit it, there are a lot of us out there – it pays to get organized too, even if we don’t go quite so far as crafting a spreadsheet for our day of eating. Things are a bit easier for us than for the music obsessed, if only because the line-up we’re after tends to stay much the same from year to year. For instance, one of my headliners each year is the cochon de lait po-boy, a choice that’s as predictable and traditional for me as Trombone Shorty closing out the fest on Sunday.


I know going into the festival grounds that the deep, dark pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo from the Prejean’s booth will be part of the opening set, and there is no surprise when a fried pastry crawfish sack, oyster patty and seafood beignets get together on my plate. That’s not some spontaneous jam session, but rather a trio I know will come along at every fest.


In fact, sometimes it seems like eating around Jazz Fest is more of a reunion than a revelation, at least once you’ve worked your way through the roster and can pick your perennial favorites. A perfect example is the Creole hot sausage po-boy from the Vaucresson family, who have been part of Jazz Fest from year one.

And this year there will be a revival with the return, blessedly of crawfish bread.

It’ll be a busy day too. As the music obsessed race between Jazz Fest stages and watch the clock, we the tireless Jazz Fest food fanatics have to manage our appetites, keep our hands clean and always be prepared for the possibility of an entrée encore.

Ian covers food culture and dining in New Orleans through his weekly commentary series Where Y’Eat.