Heaven Is A Buffet: Super Grub
An introduction to the New Orleans food landscape
Greetings. For those SI.com readers who follow college football, you’ve seen enough of my columns to know that I’m even more obsessed with food than I am with college football. For those who only watch sports in which the players get paid over the table, here’s a brief introduction: I’m Andy Staples. I’m SI’s resident glutton. I tell my bosses all the time that I only took this job so I could travel the country and find new and better ways to wrap food items in bacon, yet they continue to employ me. I suspect this will continue until the Food Network wises up and gives me my own show or my bosses figure out that my cousin Randy is actually the college football expert in the family.
For the past 18 months, I’ve written about my food adventures on a blog called Heaven Is A Buffet. This was the name of my short-lived restaurant review column in the Independent Florida Alligator during my college years. (I have apologized in person to Heaven is a Playground author Rick Telander, and I will continue to apologize until he sends a cease and desist notice. Then I’ll change the name.) Posting on the blog was terribly sporadic because of the crushing guilt I feel when I write something that doesn’t appear in a publication owned by my employer. Now that Heaven Is A Buffet is moving to the Extra Mustard site, I will feel no such guilt in the future. Posting will come at a much more steady pace.
For the most part, I’ll write about food that actual humans can afford. My taste buds were trained at my grandmother’s table in Selma, Ala., so I lean heavily on comfort food. If you’d rather ponder foie gras and $17 craft beers, read GQ or the dining reviews in The New York Times. I write a lot about barbecue. (If I do review a pricier place, it’s either because it serves a giant steak or unusual pig parts.) If you dislike barbecue — or if you confuse barbecue and grilling — then we probably wouldn’t be friends. If you like pulled pork, mac and cheese, overflowing sandwiches and burgers that include ground beef and ground bacon, then you’ll have some fun here.
Heaven Is A Buffet has two commandments, and they are sacred. A man must have a code, and this is mine.
1. There is nothing on earth that can’t be improved by adding a few slabs of bacon.
2. There are precious few things in this world that can’t be improved by deep frying.
Today, in honor of the Super Bowl, I’ll be discussing New Orleans cuisine. Every day until the game, we’ll re-run a review of a NOLA spot from the old site. Next week, I’ll begin chronicling all my culinary adventures here. I hope you’ll join me.
Feed the beast
The terminal at the Louis Armstrong International Airport does not need an exterminator. Those of you who disembarked there on your way to the Super Bowl may disagree, but no amount of poison can kill the critter that just attacked you. Tom Robbins explained him best in an ode to beets called Jitterbug Perfume:
“The minute you land in New Orleans, something wet and dark leaps on you and starts humping you like a swamp dog in heat, and the only way to get that aspect of New Orleans off you is to eat it off.”
You must eat. The creature will not rest if you don’t. He will grind away until you submit and emerge, hours later, brushing particles of Café du Monde beignet sugar from every surface of your ever-expanding body. So feed the beast.
Feed him shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake and panee rabbit from Jacques-Imo’s.
Feed him cheese fries from F and M’s.
Feed him turtle soup from Commander’s Palace.
Feed him ribs from The Joint.
On your one night in the beads-and-vomit district — just the one, because you’ll have more fun exploring the bars of Uptown and The Marigny — get him drunk on Hand Grenades from Tropical Isle. Then take him to Krystal. Yes, that Krystal. Feed him Chili Cheese Pups until he curls up asleep on your hotel room floor. (True story: In 1999, after Hand Grenades and other assorted libations, I walked into that Krystal with $76 in my pocket. The next thing I remember is waking up on my hotel room floor, surrounded by Krystal wrappers, with $3 in my pocket. My companions from that night have assured me no tea was bagged.)
My job covering college football and college basketball takes me to New Orleans often, so I have plenty of experience eating away the creature. Throughout the week, I’ll offer a few more pieces of advice for those who can’t seem to shake the creature from their legs. By the time the Ravens and 49ers kick off, you’ll be 10 pounds heavier. But you’ll have kept the beast at bay.