Going against the grain
Tender and juicy, gleefully falling apart with each successive bite, a good brisket is one of those meals that folks associate with comfort, home, tradition, nostalgia … and football. This relatively inexpensive cut of beef has rapidly become a staple prized by sports aficionados, among whom cooking methods and rubs are debated as hotly as draft picks and defensive strategies. Regardless of whether it’s smoked over hickory or braised with garlic and onions, a superior brisket takes a lot of time and patience to prepare correctly. Thankfully, New Orleans is blessed with skilled chefs who are going against the grain, in a good way, offering beautiful brisket dishes that are sure to score a touchdown with your taste buds.
On the corner of Jackson and Annunciation is a brick-red shack that can be easily identified by the long line of devotees that appear daily for lunch. Owned and operated by Robert Bechtold, NOLA Smokehouse is fairly new on the New Orleans low-and-slow scene, but the almost constant acclaim can be easily understood after only one bite. Like any good BBQ joint, NOLA Smokehouse offers all of the usual suspects—think pulled pork, smoked sausage and boudin, pork spare ribs and, of course, brisket. With a telltale smoke ring (the envy of any serious smoker) and at only $10 for a half-pound, Bechtold’s juicy and flavorful brisket and burnt ends are utterly worthwhile and highly affordable, even when you add a mandatory order of corn spoon bread.
Known for their efforts to provide affordable, expertly executed cuisine, the folks at Boucherie definitely know their way around a brisket. Chef Nathanial Zimet is constantly wowing guests at his Carrollton-area restaurant, elevating simple Southern favorites into dishes to die for, like his Blackened Shrimp & Grit Cake with warm bacon vinaigrette and St. Louis–Style Ribs with a watermelon, cucumber and mint salad. Although the menu changes seasonally, there’s one item that (hopefully) will never disappear: the Smoked Wagyu Beef Brisket served with a mammoth pile of “garlicky” Parmesan fries. The rich flavor of this decadent meat and potatoes feast might even make you forget the game is on … wait, who are we kidding? These are Saints fans we’re talking about, although the food is sure to be a distraction,no matter how well the boys are playing that day.
To find this next brisket baron, you need only tune in to Twitter or Facebook and aim your steering wheel wherever Taceaux Loceaux might roll. Frequently found in front of hangouts like Dos Jefes Cigar Bar, 45 Tchoup, the Kingpin or even Children’s Hospital, this taco stand on wheels is always jumpin’ with an affordable menu that’ll make your mouth water. Any devoted @TLNola follower will tell you to sample everything you’re able, from “Carnital Knowledge” (with pork carnitas and pickled red onions) to their luscious avocado fries. But it would be a mistake to miss their “Messin’ with Texas” tacos that feature seasoned, slow-roasted brisket with shredded cabbage, radish, cilantro, crema and salsa picante on flour tortillas.
Finally, it’s time to take it back to the old school with a memorable meal at Tujague’s. Located on Decatur Street in the French Quarter, this iconic New Orleans restaurant was established in 1856, serving breakfast and lunch to the blue-collar masses who made their living hauling vegetables to the French Market or working on the mighty Mississippi. Although the menu has changed a lot over the past century and a half, a few dishes have stood the test of time—specifically, their house specialty: a boiled brisket of beef. A rich, meaty hunk of meat that’s tackled easily with only a fork is served with a heavy dose of horseradish sauce, tender potatoes and seasonal vegetables, all for only $15.