Meet up with your girlfriends from a lifetime ago for a weekend in New Orleans. Spend long enough (two seconds) in the French Quarter to realize you're at an awkward post-pubescent-esque stage of life where you're too old for Bourbon Street but too young for home garden tours, only reinforced when you see your friend's hotel dresser has gummies on it, whereas yours has vitamins and tea. Consider the fact that maybe you're closer to home tours than previously thought.
Come to find one of your pals has booked you on an outing you'd never take on your own; a bicycle food tour of the city.
Show up and learn the bike comes with a cupholder, along with the knowledge that New Orleans has no open container or cycling-under-the-influence laws. Begin to think maybe this bike tour isn't such a terrible idea.
Cycle out of the French Quarter and into a neighborhood with zero signs of tourists and tourism. Park the bikes in an underpass, and walk towards a market that looks similar to a million other markets you've passed in your lifetime (spoiler: it is not).
Try the gumbo and learn to pick crawfish. As the slow Cajun heat begins to crawl up the back of your neck, dampening your hairline further and further by the second, realize you have absolutely wasted 36 years of your life eating anything besides these two dishes.
When it's time to move on have your friends & tour guide pull you screaming and kicking out of the restaurant as you yell "I live here now!"
Move on to another food stop with the expectation you peaked early in the New Orleans food journey (spoiler: you did not). Show up at Loretta's, and wait in a long, long line. Grab a table and a coffee in a styrofoam cup, soaking in the energy of this restaurant which emits a special neighborhood magnetism full of personality, sincerity, and hospitality.
Sit down with a crab beignet beignet dipped into a homemade remoulade sauce, and watch your life completely change in front of you as you taste one of the best things you've ever eaten. ever.
Watch as Ms. Loretta herself comes out to meet her customers, greeting you with a hug, as she takes a moment to publicly thank the entire restaurant for showing up and waiting patiently, as the line is longer than usual today.
Look around at her cancer survivor's journey, her display of faith, and her story as the first black woman to own and operate her own praline company in NOLA; these stories adorning the walls of her restaurant as a living memory album, and consider it likely takes a special, soulful person to create such special, soulful food.
Debate whether you live here now or at the Cajun restaurant, and begin to think home garden tours with crawfish and crab beignets might not be the worst way to spend a lifetime. In fact, it may very well be one of the best.
Finish the day with a Sazerac from the St. Roch market in a to-go cup, as you've discovered drinking it al fresco at a bimbling 5mph cruising on your bike through the neighborhoods of the city is the best way for it to be enjoyed, smiling as you become consumed by the irreplaceable energy and flavors New Orleans has to offer in the places you may unexpectedly go.
Food Source Guide:
Loretta's Authentic Pralines, There are two locations, but go to 2101 N Rampart St, New Orleans, LA 70116, and order the crabmeat beignets & her iconic sweet praline beignets.
I am sad to share that since my visit to New Orleans, Ms. Loretta has passed away. Her family carries on her radiant legacy of positivity, faith, determination and unmissable food in her wake and in the continuation of her restaurant.
Allie Brown & Ms. Loretta Harrison
Cajun Seafood: 1479 N Claiborne Ave, New Orleans, LA 70116. Full of locals and incredible Louisiana style food
St. Roch Market: The best sazeracs in the city
Bike Food Tour: Confederacy of Cruisers
Written and photographed by Allie Brown