The Barbecue Culture Of New Orleans Louisiana

Saucy’s BBQ is moving to Magazine Street from their current location in Metairie. They’ll be tacking up their sign in the former Ignatius Eatery, which has shifted into the former Rue de la Course.I’ve been lucky and haven’t had a lot of bad food in New Orleans, but there was that one night at Ignatius. Hopefully that was just a wrinkle in an otherwise good kitchen’s career.

I’ve never been to Saucy’s BBQ and it’s unlikely that I’ll ever go. My New Orleans eating is really precious and barbecue almost never makes the itinerary.

Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way; New Orleans will never be known for its barbecue. Yes, you can get respectable smoked meat from The Joint and Boucherie, but there has simply never been a long, sustained climate of barbecue appreciation in the city.

Excepting the cochon de lait po boy.

Many local eaters only experience this wonder, once per year at Jazz Fest. But when the books are closed on North American barbecue, this beauty will have her own chapter. It was back at the dawn of the double aughts that this now-legendary sandwich, first became available on the fairgrounds at the festival. Pit boss Wanda Walker would get up bright and early to load up bone-in pork butts on a big smoldering hickory fire and the crowd would start stamping and pawing at the ground as the smell of sizzling hog flesh wafted over the party.

Mrs Walker takes a big French loaf, splits it, then crams it full of hot smoky pork topped with cabbage and horseradish sauce. You can get her to douse it with her signature barbecue sauce too. It’s the rare type that actually has a bit of heat to it. Esquire Magazine named it to one of their annual best of American sandwiches lists.

It deserved the accolade.

Nowadays, New Orleans barbecue culture is taking some baby steps toward the spotlight. There are whispers around town of a guy doing smoked meat for lunch service at Dante’s Kitchen. As a brunch house it’s unparalleled but I’m reserving judgement on the barbecue. Finn McCool’s Irish Pub offers smoked meat currently, while right around the corner, 12 Mile Limit, Cole Newton’s new-ish bar, has or had a barbecue cook from Dallas back in the kitchen. I was just there but my Corpse Reviver #2 had me fully occupied.

I’ve had great pork ribs from the guy who sets up in front of Bullet’s Sports Bar for the Tuesday night residency of Kermit Ruffins. They were dripping with a sweet sauce that ordinarily would’ve had me running and screaming down the street but they were absolutely delicious.

Probably the most famous of all the New Orleans barbecue houses is Voodoo. The corporate, Louisiana based chain has recently set-up shop in Round Rock, Texas and apparently that will only serve as a launching pad for many more central Texas locations. Of all the wonderful restaurants in New Orleans we had to get an outlet of a barbecue chain? What crime did Texas commit in some past life that has caused this indignity to be visited upon our people. Are the lamentations of our womenfolk simply to be ignored?

As the fever for barbecue sweeps across the United States, it will be interesting to see if New Orleans gets carried along by this wave of love for meats cooked over slow fires. There have been smoke houses dotted around the city for decades, but it remains to be seen if they will always be a side attraction or if they’ll ever get to take the main stage in the finest city in the US for dining.

Update: McClure’s Barbecue construction is underway at 4800 Magazine Street. This is the outfit from Dante’s Kitchen veteran Neil McClure. He started hosting luncheon bbq pop ups at Dante’s and is now settling into his own brick and mortar.

About RL Reeves Jr

I'm a writer living and working in New Orleans, Louisiana.
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