$20 and Under: Adventures  in Eating
Jan 06 2021

$20 and Under: Adventures in Eating

By: Kim Ranjbar

The alarm goes off, and you roll out of bed. Maybe you have time to take the dog out for a walk or a half hour on the stationary bike, a quick shower, and a cup of coffee before you slide in front of your computer for another day working from home—that is, if you're one of the lucky ones still working. Day in and day out, it's the same old routine with nothing to break up the tedium, nothing to stop the monotony. There are no live concerts to attend, no festivals to mark on the calendar, no sporting events to tailgate. So, on top of the anxiety, depression, and worry is an almost unbearable level of boredom that makes the days, weeks, and months bleed into one another, making it feel as if time has slowed to a snail's crawl with nothing but a blurry smear to mark its passage.

Pork Floss Cakes from Wishing Town Bakery [Kim Ranjbar]

The only way to break out of these doldrums is to do something different, to break the routine. It's a new year with a new president and new possibilities on the horizon. While many of the pre-pandemic diversions continue to be unsafe, there are still things we can do to get out of our own ruts. We can try reading fiction instead of non-fiction, watch sci-fi instead of the news, exercise in the evening instead of the morning, or even try a completely different type of workout. And, while it's comforting to order the same sushi rolls from your favorite Japanese restaurant every Thursday night or get that large pepperoni pie from the oh-so-familiar pizza joint on the corner, why not try a dish you've never tried before? It's entirely possible that the flavors and textures will be unlike anything you've had, creating an entirely new experience, and regardless if it's good or bad, it will offer that much-needed change of pace, breaking up the seemingly endless dreariness, while at the same time making a memory.

One of the simplest ways to expand your dining adventures is to try something new at a familiar place. For example, since it opened, you've probably visited Wishing Town Bakery in Metairie, or possibly enjoyed their foodstuffs previously from their Yami food truck. It's certainly hard to resist another order of their minipork bao or a slice of the green tea mille crepe cake, but instead of falling back on the familiar, why not sink your teeth into a pork-floss cake? Both savory and sweet, it's an airy, rich chiffon cake frosted with mayonnaise and covered in fluffy pork floss—almost like a chewy, salty, pork-flavored cotton candy. Plus, at Wishing Town's most reasonable prices, you can have your pork bao and eat pork floss cake, too!

Iskender at Anatolia Mediterranean Cuisine [Kim Ranjbar]

Though it's one of the best-known dishes of Turkey, Iskender kebab is certainly not commonly found fare in New Orleans, despite the city's many Mediterranean-style restaurants. At Anatolia Mediterranean Cuisine on the corner of Eighth and Magazine Streets, they offer this iconic meal of thinly sliced lamb döner kebab smothered in a spicy tomato and pepper sauce served atop torn pieces of pita and a generous, tangy dollop of yogurt. Though opting for this dinner will set you back almost $18, the portion sizes at Anatolia are uncommonly lavish, and the Iskender comes with rice, salad, pickled cabbage, hummus, and more warm pita bread. You can easily split it with your DC (dining companion) or save half for tomorrow's lunch.

Over the years, it has become increasingly common to encounter goat on various restaurant menus, especially in South Asian or Caribbean cuisines. Just think of the curried goat at Jamaican spots like 14 Parishes and Boswell's, or the wildly popular version served atop sweet-potato gnocchi at Nina Compton's Warehouse District restaurant Compère Lapin. If it's your first time or 41st time eating curried goat, you should still try the Herndon's interpretation at French Quarter spot Palm & Pine. Chef/owners Jordan and Amarys Herndon have taken that extra step with a dare-we-say addictive rendition that is delightfully on the spicier side of life, tossed with fideos, and topped with mango yogurt, a generous sprinkling of puffed rice, and Elmer's Hot-N-Spicy CheeWees.

Naan and Appam at Plume Algiers [Kim Ranjbar]

Indian cuisine is a rare commodity in the Crescent City restaurant community, and when a new one pops up, both fast fans and noobs alike should be lining up to give it a try. Such is definitely the case for the new Westbank house-turned-restaurant Plume Algiers, launched by Carrollton Market alums Tyler Stuart and Merritt Coscia. Their menu is always changing, but it is also always offering unique (novel particularly to New Orleans) tastes of Indian street food at awfully reasonable prices, from the rabbit naan with caraway butter ($10) and savory coconut appam ($2) to tandoori pork with apple and ginger chutney ($12). We promise you've never tasted anything like this before.

It's been a long time coming, but in the past couple of years, the city has been miraculously blessed with a couple of Persian food pop-ups. Although this cuisine is found readily in places like Los Angeles or Washington D.C., it has all but been a dream in New Orleans—until now. One such installment is Sabzi (@sabzipersianpopup) that has been popping up at breweries around town, such as Second Line and Miel Brewing, and most recently at Happy Raptor Distilling. In keeping with safety precautions, Sabzi has only been offering pickup, but you can go online and order dishes such as "ash reshte," a festive noodle soup made with fresh herbs, chickpeas, and pinto beans (a dish frequently served to celebrate the New Year); dolmeh, or stuffed grape leaves with rice and lentils—a much tangier, tomato-ier version than you've ever tasted before; and "kashk-eh bademjan," an eggplant dip devoured best with thick, herbed hunks of "barbari," or Persian flatbread.

There's a whole world of exciting new flavors to explore, all of which are not all that far from your doorstep. What are you waiting for?




$20 and Under

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$20 and Under: Adventures  in Eating