Whenever I go to Kelly Jacques and Samantha Weiss’s bakery in the Faubourg Marigny area, I like to get coffee and a box of pastries that match my vibes that day. Oftentimes that means the cured-meat-and-cheese-flecked muffuletta breadsticks, jalapeño cornbread cookies, and kaya buns, a Singaporean-inspired morning bun set with a fragrant coconut milk and pandan leaf custard. Jacques and Weiss are such creative bakers, and everything they make is executed perfectly. I’m terrible at baking, so I love watching them do it so gracefully and successfully in the airy open kitchen. Whenever I’m there, I make sure to order a few things for later. You know who’s not gonna be upset about having a cookie at midnight after going out drinking? You.
Mondays are my only day off from the restaurant, and it’s definitely “me” day. My ritual is to get a pedicure at my favorite nail shop in the Lower Garden District, then pop next door to Lilly’s for lunch. New Orleans has a huge Vietnamese population, and in turn, a lot of Vietnamese restaurants, but Lilly’s is one of very few non-fusion Vietnamese restaurants in this walkable section of New Orleans. My chef friend Nini Nguyen told me that đặc biệt means “extra” or “special,” as the word lagniappe does here in New Orleans. So I always get Lilly’s Pho Combo (đặc biệt), which is full of beef flank, brisket, and meatballs, along with the crispy Saigon spicy rolls brimming with grilled pork and shrimp.
Fried chicken is the fuel of Carnival season for my friends in the restaurant industry. That’s when they introduced me to the famed fried chicken at McHardy’s: thighs heavily seasoned in a mystery spice mix (I taste garlic, onion, paprika, and thyme) that permeates the juicy meat and cooked in fresh oil for the crispiest skin. The 7th Ward restaurant is run by owners Kermit and Alvi Mogilles and their son, Rahman. And while their fantastic fried chicken is a must-order, their dirty rice and thin fried catfish (served with Crystal hot sauce and lemon, naturally) are just as much of a draw. This Black-owned business proudly displays its culture with Black art on the walls, a news rack of Black periodicals, and purple decor everywhere to show its ties to St. Augustine High School, a historic Black Catholic all-boys school whose colors are purple and gold.