As you’ll recall from last week, there is no truth to the old wives’ tale that it’s impossible to get a bad meal in New Orleans. I know because I found one. Two, if you include Ursula’s disappointing entrée.
So, what do you do the next day? You’re in New Orleans for only a few more hours, lunch is approaching, and you have a ship to catch. Well, you could wait until boarding and then eat meals for which you’ve already paid but, hey, this is New Orleans! I’m not going to let one bad meal ruin it for me. This called for extraordinary measures, which means we would have to resort to the tried-and-true.
We checked out of our room at the Hilton Riverwalk, left our bags in the secure hands of the bellhop station, and hiked to our favorite place for oyster po-boys. That would be Johnny’s Po-Boy on St. Louis Street, ironically just a short walk from the previous evening’s disappointing Maspero’s.
Johnny’s is a rather unique establishment. Cash only. Few tables. Long lines. Surly staff. Wondrous po-boys, especially the fried oyster one. We dutifully got into the line that extended beyond the entry and wound up the block and waited our turn. Entering Johnny’s I noticed, gasp, a table! With two chairs! I sent Ursula scampering to claim it as I continued to thread my way through the throngs up to the counter. New Orleans cuisine was now minutes from redeeming itself.
But, then, disaster struck.
“Whadaya want?” asked one of the aforementioned surly staff.
“Oyster po-boys. Two. One easy on the —”
“Ain’t got no oysters. Out. Whadaya want?”
Now, let me get this straight. Here I am, standing in a restaurant (of sorts; I think) famous for its oyster po-boys. I’ve just waited the better part of forty-five frappin’ minutes. It’s just coming up on noon, meaning you’ve only been open a little over three hours. And you’re out of oysters? Are you flippin’ kiddin’ me? I supposed I could have composed myself and ordered the fried shrimp po-boy, but that’s not why I came there and battled lines and crowds. I collected Ursula and we departed. Ship cuisine was starting to look pretty good right about now, and that’s sad considering where we were.
Then serendipity stepped into our lives. We were forlornly discussing our ever diminishing options when we happened upon a restaurant that looked inviting, intriguing, and, according to the street-posted menu, in possession of po-boys. Oyster po-boys. Fried oyster po-boys. And how can you fail in New Orleans with a name like, “Huck Finn’s?” Huck Finn’s is located at 135 Decatur, and you’ll soon see why I can enthusiastically endorse this establishment.
This place had rooms. This place took credit cards. This place had friendly, smiling, helpful wait staff. This place had myriad tables and a plethora of comfortable chairs. This place had ambiance.
But, once bitten, twice shy.
“Do you have oysters for po-boys?” Ursula asked the hostess.
“Of course,” came the reply, and off we went.
The price was a couple bucks more than Johnny’s, but at Johnny’s the fries are extra so it works out to about the same. So, how’s the taste?
If I closed my eyes, pretended I was in an uncomfortable folding chair seated at a dirty table, and imagined I was shoulder to shoulder with other hungry patrons, I’d swear I was eating an oyster po-boy from Johnny’s. Yes, it’s that good. Better, even, in that the remoulade sauce on the side was exquisite.
The po-boys certainly hit the spot, and we really weren’t hungry, but we were so impressed that we opted for the blackened alligator. Tasty. Nicely blackened. A bit on the chewy side, indicative of insufficient tenderization, but other than that very passable. I was also pleased at how close my own homemade blackening seasoning came to the taste of the seasoning used in a New Orleans eatery — no difference as far as I could tell. I love it when I get something like that right the first time. Remind me sometime and perhaps I’ll give you the exact ingredients and quantities to make your own for a fraction of the cost of a store-bought name brand.
Our tastes for good New Orleans cuisine finally sated, we made our way back to collect our bags and rolled them over to the ship. That evening we were treated to a nice sunset, and in the opposite direction of the setting sun we witnessed pink cotton candy clouds above the Mississippi River.
We were finally on our way.