”eating New Orleans” takes us to the Lower Garden District--more specifically to a neighborhood known as the “Irish Channel.”
“The ‘Irish Channel’ was originally home to many of the Irish workers who came here in the 1830’s to dig the New Basin Canal, completed in 1840. This area of small cottages and ‘shotgun’ houses, located on narrow lots, continued to be inhabited throughout the 19th and 20th centuries primarily by blue-collar workers, who could afford the more modest prices (see February 26, 2011 for more on shotgun houses). The houses here are smaller than those in the Garden District and Uptown, but what they lack in square footage, they more than make up for in fine decoration and charm. Their close proximity creates a feeling of community and coziness, where neighbors can still share a cup of coffee or a moment of gossip over a backyard fence.
“Today, the Irish Channel is one of the most eclectic neighborhoods in the city, with residents drawn from every walk of life and every income level. Many families are multi-generation-al, having raised children and grand-children here, while others are among the city's newest arrivals. Located along the strip of high ground facing the Mississippi, the ‘Channel’ has gone from being a less-than-desirable address to being one that's extremely valuable, if for nothing else than its elevation…” (makeneworleanshome.com).
We are here to have lunch at Parasol’s, a restaurant visited by Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and, according to New Orleans Magazine, the home of one of the ten best roast beef poor boys in the area.
“From the outside of this Irish Channel establishment, one would think dive bar. That assumption is confirmed as you enter the place. The bar is small, dark, smoky, and dingy in a good way…Sometimes lost in the whole deal is the back kitchen serving up some killer food. The kitchen crew serves up a variety of poor boys and traditional sides such as fries, wings, onion rings, etc. But what most people come here for is there roast beef poor boy. They claim to have the city’s best poor boy. That is a statement used by many who serve the famous sandwiches, but few can actually deliver on that. All of their poor boys may not be the best, but the roast beef is indeed the best one that I have eaten in a city full of wannabes” (thecajunfoodie.com).
As far as I can determine, Guy Fieri visited Parasol’s while it was being managed by Jeff and Jamie Carreras who have since moved around the corner to open Tracey’s on Magazine Street. The new owners, John and Thea Hogan have promised “to keep as many things as possible the same. ‘I know how New Orleans people are after having been married to one for a while,’ he (John) said. ‘You don’t mess with their stuff.’…’We want it to be the same fun neighborhood place that it is known to be. Funky and rickety…Everyone will recognize it when they go in’” (Brett Anderson - Times-Picayune).
We arrived shortly past 12:30 p.m. one weekday and the bar/ restaurant was virtually empty. The bartender asked if we were there for a drink, and we explained that we wanted lunch. Well, we could eat either at the bar or upstairs in the dining room.
The dining room it would be, although calling this place a dining room is perhaps an overstatement. The walls were painted a—let’s face it—ugly share of green. The table covers were green-and-white-checked plastic. And, if that’s not Irish enough, the men’s and women’s room were labeled “leprechauns” and “fairies,” respectively.
Orders are placed at what is more a window than a counter through which one can see the cook (in this case, Ricky, on the right in the photo above) preparing the sandwiches.
We passed on ordering a beverage from the bar, but we wondered if all we had to do was to open this door and place our order to the bartender on the floor below.
Our plan was to share the roast beef poor boy, but there on the specials board was a most intriguing item—a pulled pork poor boy.
OK. It will be one of each along with a side of fries (house-cut and twice-fried).
Ricky was kind enough to take a little time to join Kitty Humbug in this photo after bringing out the poor boys. K. Humbug was grateful for this consideration and wanted to be sure to recognize Ricky for his thoughtfulness.
The roast beef poor boy (top sandwich, photo on the left and in the photo below) was an improve-ment over that of Parkway Bakery’s. As described by Brett Anderson in the Times-Picayune in an article comparing Parasol’s and Tracey’s roast beef poor boys:
“Parasol’s sandwich was a masterpiece by comparison. The fall-apart beef came in a juicy, medium-thick layer between toasted halves of bread. A light painting of garlic butter on the bread signals the signature touch of the Hogan era, one that amplifies the beef’s flavor without overwhelming it.
“The crowds at Tracey’s and Parasol’s suggest there is plenty of room for both of them on Third Street. But in the neighborhood battle for roast beef poor boy dominance, Parasol’s comes out on top by living up to its legend.”
Well, it was good but it still seemed like pot roast to me—just served on a great crusty French loaf (Leidenheimer’s).
The superstar was the pulled pork poor boy. The lightly smoked and very juicy meat was topped with a layer of slaw. And there was a healthy measure of something spicy, either the dressing on the slaw or a Carolina-style BBQ sauce without a heavy vinegar presence. I could easily eat these on a regular basis.
As we were finishing, John Hogan came walking through the dining room. “Are you the owner of this fine establishment?” I asked. When he replied in the affirmative, I raved about the pork poor boy and he explained that this was one of the few changes made to the menu after they purchased the business. This needs to go on the regular menu and not just be offered as a special.
Just before we left, a couple joined us in the dining room. One of their menu choices—the Irish Sundae—a mound of potato salad topped with roast beef debris and horseradish. Yummo.
I am beginning to conclude that, just as I can’t find Texas brisket that I like, I won’t find a roast beef poor boy that “knocks my socks off.” But the pulled pork—that’s another story and justifies Parasol’s 4.0 Addie rating.
To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.