Downtown New Orleans is a flat out loud place. Music almost continuously emanates from clubs and bars. People in the midst of celebration crowd the streets. Enjoyment always seems to be going full force here. The ongoing excitement and distraction is why many people to come here for Mardi Gras, music festivals or just a vacation.
One of my best experiences in New Orleans was not at a bar guzzling a hurricane or making lascivious compromises with my self esteem in the name of beads. It was not jazz club hopping or searching the city for the best jambalaya. It was at 6:30am when the city was still waking up. The streets were empty except for the humming of street sweepers and the breakfast cooks having a smoke. It was perfectly quiet.
I meandered over Canal, up Bourbon and down St. Ann until it led me to Cafe du Monde for a quiet breakfast of pillowy beignets and cafe au lait. When I walked in, it was anything but quiet. Cafe du Monde never closes, so they were locked and loaded, ready for anything. Not sure why I was surprised, they’ve been doing this for 140 years.
I grabbed my sugar-coated beignets fresh from the fryer and coffee then climbed the stairs just outside the cafe to watch the sunrise over the Mississippi River as groggy New Orleans began to wake up. It was a magnanimous way to spend a quiet morning.
This quiet doesn’t last long, and then New Orleans is back to its nonstop celebration. Oh, and then there’s lunch.
Tucked away in a small hole in the wall on Decatur Street is Fiorella’s Cafe. Their menu has many of the cajun staples, but I came for the fried chicken. Every order is made only when ordered, so I had to remind myself what patience really means while eagerly awaiting my plate of crispy fried goodness.
After 25m and several uncomfortable stares at my neighbor’s po’ boy later, my chicken had arrived accompanied by red beans and rice. The crust was perfectly crispy, not greasy, protecting the moist and juicy dark meat inside. I am a fan of white meat, yes, and it has its place. But when it comes to fried chicken, there is nothing better than chewing on a flavorful drumstick. By the time I hit plate, I was sucking the bones dry.
Now most of the time you hear me rave about all the delicious food I ate. And yes, the fried chicken was excellent. But I could have done without the red beans and rice. They were a bit too lard-y for me.