All of the Food in New Orleans Is the Best of All the Foods. How Is This Possible?

Illustration for article titled All of the Food in New Orleans Is the Best of All the Foods. How Is This Possible?
Photo: Damon Young

Before flying there for Essence Fest in July, I’d never been to New Orleans. Since then, I’ve been there twice, once for Panama’s bachelor party, then Sunday and Monday of this week to speak at Tulane University.


Between the three separate visits, I’ve been there eight days total. In those eight days, I’ve probably eaten 20 different meals. Somehow, each meal contained food that was the best of the foods. Not just the best food I’ve ever had—but the best of the foods. Naturally, this leads me to conclude that all of the food in New Orleans—not just the food I happened to eat—is the best of the foods.

If, for instance, I would have eaten a bowl of cereal Monday morning, it would have been the best goddamn Frosted Mini-Wheats ever. If by chance, I would have been in the mood for celery and grabbed some from Rouses Market, it would have been orgasmic celery. Pornhub celery. I would’ve slapped the shit out of that celery’s daddy.

Prime example: Look at this.

Fucking. Adult.
Fucking. Adult.
Photo: Damon Young

It is a picture of the breakfast I had Monday morning. I ate stupidly and angrily and amazingly the night before, so I decided it was time to get something sensible and simple and healthy-ish. I needed to be an adult. I needed to remember that I have responsibilities.

I was staying at the Ace Hotel, so I decided to eat there instead of choosing to venture out (again) and allow myself (again) to be engorged (again) and ensconced in shame and regret (again). Because adult. Because responsible. Because I’m a fucking parent.


This meal was supposed to come with bread. I asked if I could substitute the bread for a salad—because, again, adult—but was told that though I could get a salad, it would be a separate charge. Do you think that stopped me? Do you think my parents raised an upcharge-hesitating-ass nigga? Hell fucking no. “GIVE ME THE SALAD THAT I’LL HAVE TO PAY EXTRA FOR BECAUSE I CAN’T SUBSTITUTE IT FOR THE BREAD EVEN THOUGH THAT WOULD SEEM TO BE A SIMPLE AND INTUITIVE SUBSTITUTION TO MAKE!,” I said politely to the server. I even took a picture of this God-fearing meal to show my wife, just to prove to her that she married a responsible man.

The food came. I made certain to gulp some of my adult kombucha before eating to assist with my digestion. I started with the salad because adults do the difficult things first. I can eat dessert when I die. I took a fork full of this salad, expecting it to be and taste like every other side substitute analog side-chick salad I’ve eaten in hotels before. And this mundane-ass, Republican-ass salad was the BEST SALAD I’VE EVER HAD! It was the best of the side-chick salads. The Eric Clapton of salads. It tasted like I’d just swallowed Coachella. Which is an awkward analogy to make, I know, BECAUSE IT IS NOT THE SORT OF THING THAT PEOPLE SAY ABOUT SIDE SALADS.


The grits, also, were amazing. And the bacon and eggs did what bacon and eggs do. But that fucking salad, man. I expected all the crawfish and shrimp and crab and alligator and po’ boys I ate in New Orleans to be amazing, and amazing they were. They lived up to expectations. But what kind of sorcery is happening in a city where even the throwaway meals—the side salads, the bread bowls, the celery stalks, the carrot sticks, the ice cubes—are also the best of the foods? WHO THE FUCK WOULD EVEN THINK TO MAKE A MAGIC SIDE SALAD?

New Orleans, that’s who.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


Yesha Callahan

I came here expecting to see pictures of food from Court of Two Sisters or Parkway Bakery & Tavern or Neyow’s Creole Café or fucking Dooky Chase...and here’s a goddamn salad & some grits.