You can eat like a king anywhere if you can pay a king’s ransom. But one blessing of New Orleans has long been how well you can eat on the cheap. Is that still true, in our age of trendy concepts and avocado toast?
I set out to find out, with a quest for the $5 lunch.
Five is a magic number. Fast food chains understand this. I wanted to see what local mom-and-pops could do in the same price range.
To begin, let’s give thanks for the corner grocery and seafood market, where hot bars and deli counters give you homey Creole flavor by the ladleful. One example: North Broad Seafood, aka the Blue Store, for pints of gumbo or beef stew or red beans and rice in our price range with the indelible taste of a New Orleans Monday.
How about po-boys with prices that still live up to the name? Look to markets worked into neighborhood side streets, holdovers from a different era. Adams Street Grocery Uptown shows the way, with roast beef on six inches of French bread that fits our quest with room to spare.
There’s banh mi, the Vietnamese po-boys, those reliable deals. John and Mary Food Store near Bayou St. John is a clutch, inconspicuous addition to my bargain banh mi list.
And let’s give thanks for the evolving American immigration story, if only for selfish foodie reasons. New Orleans is now flush with Latin flavor, including those miracles of Central American thrift – pupusas and baleadas, homemade, hearty food on a close budget. Check out Fiesta Latina and La Orquidea, both in Kenner to see just how far a lunch dollar will go en espanol.
These are examples of what’s possible. The $5 lunch is still with us, for a meal that can go deep on the cheap.