Did you ever notice that while you are right in the middle of eating one meal, you almost always start taking about eating something else? It can be something you ate last week, or when you were a kid, or had while you were on that road trip that was otherwise completely forgettable. Or, it can be a wistful or lustful (depending on the meal) description of some anticipated dining experience in the future. In our case, it was a combination of both.
FG1: (Biting into taco) I was at the Farmer's Market last week and had the best Po' Boy sandwich.
FG2: (Licking sauce off her fingers) Really? I love a good Po' Boy. Was it oyster? Those are the best.
FG3: (Reaching for quesadilla) I loved eating in New Orleans. The food there is amazing.
FG1: (Mouth full) Mmm hmm. Couldn agree wiff you mo! Wuv it.
FG2: (Getting last bit of sauce) The beignets and the chicory coffee! I'm having a craving just thinking about it. (Opens up burrito as she says this)
FG1: (Picking up her share of the burrito) They have those at the place in the Farmer's Market!
FG3: (Polishing off the last short rib taco) We have to go there.
FG2: (Swigs Diet Coke and sits back contentedly) Definitely. I'm in!
FG1 and FG3: (Also swigging) Done!
Episode 2: So So Gumbo
And this is how we found ourselves meeting up a week or so later at The Gumbo Pot, one of the better known and well regarded* spots in the market. Our membership had expanded by one with the addition of my sister, and we eagerly perused the menu.
I will confess that I eat here pretty often, and I always order the same thing: An Andouille sausage po' boy. The sausage is peppery, juicy, sliced in half, grilled to perfection, then nestled in a huge roll with a healthy smear of lovely mayonnaise, cool crisp lettuce and a couple of tomatoes. Given the size of the bun, I almost always pile all the meat onto one half and the whole thing comes right into balance. I had this sandwich the first time I ate at the Gumbo Pot, and I've never even bothered to order anything else. Today was the day.
Between us, the table was soon loaded with red beans and rice, Gumbo Ya Ya, shrimp po'boys, corn muffins, sweet potato slaw, jicama salad, crab cakes and my sausage sandwich, of course. The anticipation was palpable.
FG4: (after tasting the gumbo) It's OK. Not great, but OK. Ours is better.**
FG2: (after biting into her shrimp sandwich, wrinkling her nose, opening up the sandwich, counting the shrimp and peeling back the lettuce) We need more of the sauce for this. It's not working without it.
FG4: (putting down her fork) This sweet potato slaw is nothing special. It would have been better with carrots.
FG 1: (savoring her sausage sandwich, but now feeling quite guilty about recommending this place) Mine is really good. You guys should try this.
FG3: (Putting down her sandwich and reaching for a spoon to try the crab cakes) Hey! These are actually tasty!
(All are momentarily relieved)
FG4: (Momentum builds) The red beans and rice are good, too. (It is soon dashed again) But that cornbread is so not worth the calories.
FG2: (Coming back with sauce, adding it, eating a bite of crab cake, a bite of red beans and rice, and a forkful of the jicama salad, and pausing to survey the available options from there) How about I grab us a taco sampler plate at Loteria Grill?
ALL: (Enthusiastic with relief) Great idea!
She returns bearing a plate of 14 of the most flavorful little bites of food*** you can imagine, along with a jicama salad, bright with chile, lime juice and crunch that puts the bland oversauced prior example to shame. We dig in happily, order our beignets to go****, and call it a day.
Foodie Girls Final Verdict: Go directly to Loteria.***** If you do pass Gumbo Pot, collect an Andouille sandwich and an order of crab cakes. It'll give you something good to eat while you plan your next meal.
* Zagat rated 19! 4 stars on Yelp! A pretty long line for a Monday!
** This is fact, not opinion.
*** Except for one that was distinctly reminiscent of chewing old plastic. We spent about 5 minutes trying to guess which inner organ it came from. This discussion added to the overall disgust level, and we moved on.
**** Hot, puffy and covered with powdered sugar, but for my money a far better New Orleans dessert is the maple pecan praline at Littlejohn's. They are known for their fabulous English Toffee, but their pralines are out of this world!!! Best bite of sugar in LA.
***** Their tacos kick some Kogi butt as well.