Visual Guide to Native New Orleans Plants

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By: Anna Timmerman
is a gardener and painter from Michigan living in New Orleans, LA. She cares for a variety of historic and culinary-themed gardens throughout the city, as well as a large urban farm owned by Xavier University. Her paintings reflect her interest in botanical forms and draw from a bright, colorful pallette. For more information visit www.AnnaTimmerman.com

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Big Easy on a Budget: Best Falafel in New Orleans ? in Arabi ?

Stella Maria's

I partially grew up in Greece, so I’m really picky about Middle Eastern food. There’s way too much mediocre falafel and gyro served in America. I also dislike when a place advertises itself as a Greek restaurant but it’s really Lebanese or Palestinian – though I understand how this is an adaptation to terrible Islamophobia and I support people trying to blend in for safety and success, it’s just personally disappointing to me. Anyway, Stella Maris isn’t trying to be anything it’s not – it’s just the best Middle Eastern food in town.

You gotta schlep out to Arabi, but it’s worth it. Make a day of it – go see a movie in Chalmette, visit the Walmart, take in the weird cultural experience that is St Bernard Parish. Whatever you do, definitely get the falafel at Stella Maris. The sandwich is better than the falafel I got last time I was in Greece, and it’s only $4.99! They’re not fried too much, they’re spiced perfectly, the chickpeas are ground in the right way. I liked 1,000 Figs, but everyone who is into eating-out in the New Orleans area knows that Stella Maris are the champions of falafel. There’s a good tomato-and-cucumber Greek-salad style garnish in it, with some finely chopped cabbage, and some delicious sauce. If you’re super hungry it might not fill you up but it’s a really solid meal. Served in a decent pita pocket.

falafel and Busch Beer...that's what we call fusion

falafel and Busch Beer…that’s what we call fusion

We also got a Lula Kebab sandwich ($5.99) that was real good. It had lamb and beef, with a lot of spices mixed into the meat. It was a nice compliment to the falafel, because even though their falafel rules, a meal just feels more satisfying to me with some meat in it. It had similarly delicious garnishes on it, and also came in a pita pocket. We got Faul as an appetizer ($3.59) which was amazing. It had a really complex flavor, like almost sour? Something I’m not great at in my own cooking is using spices well – it takes a lot of time and learning to do that. I feel like Stella Maris is really kicking butt in this regard, though I don’t know enough to tell you exactly how. All I know is it’s so cheap and so delicious! Check out Stella Maris.

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Big Easy Eating on a Budget: Sushi on a Budget…?

I work as a cashier in the French Quarter, and I never really know what to say when customers come in and ask me “Where do the locals eat?” The truth is, I think that not a lot of locals eat in the Quarter unless they have to. Most of the food there is sub-par, overpriced, and only really appeals to the uninitiated. But there are a few secret gems that attract hungry service industry workers. We’ve reviewed The Orange Store which is great and close to the Quarter, and Smallmart which is yummy and affordable and right on Decatur. Now for another good cheap Quarter spot – Jazz Sushi!

An unassuming spot in a unassuming mall

An unassuming spot in a unassuming mall

I remember a time when sushi was only for rich and adventurous people. In the 90’s there’d be jokes on sitcoms where some wholesome American would be grossed out by eating raw fish and the laugh track would go wild. Now even a lot of small towns have a place where you can get some sushi. Sushi from the grocery store used to be my favorite way to pamper myself back when I had food-stamps. It’s everywhere! But the popularization of sushi has resulted in lots of really bad sushi being made, and also a lot of fake fish being passed off as other, yummier species  so it pays to be picky about where you go and what you order. Even with sushi being much more widely accessible, but it’s not always affordable at all. Jazz Sushi has the deals!

Jax Mall

It’s in the mall you’ve probably never gone into

Jazz Sushi is conveniently located by Jackson Square in the old Jax Brewery building, which they’ve turned into a gross mall. But I’ll admit it doesn’t have a ton of atmosphere, unless you are into mall food courts (which do have their own strange all-American charm). But the folks working there are sweet, and their sushi is much much better than what you’d expect from a food court restaurant. The lunch specials are the best deal – it’s $8.50 but starts with a cute lil noodle salad, then miso soup, and then 2 rolls! That’s a good three course meal for $8.50, which you cant really beat.

Tuna Roll + Salmon Roll = $8.50

Tuna Roll + Salmon Roll = $8.50

They give you a bunch of rolls to choose from. My friend got salmon with avocado and tuna with avocado. I don’t usually get raw fish at sushi restaurants, not because I think it’s gross but because of the mislabeling issue that plagues the whole industry (even very high-end sushi spots!). I did try his salmon with avocado roll and it was really good. I got the snow crab roll and a classic california roll. They weren’t an incredible gourmet experience, but they were all multiple steps above most sushi you get in the grocery store which usually costs at least $6 per roll. Here you get two rolls, soup and a salad for $8.50! Even though New Orleans cuisine is the best, it does get old if that’s all you go out to eat, so I’m really excited to add Jazz Sushi to my repertoire of affordable good New Orleans restaurants.

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Big Easy Eating on a Budget: So many Figs, So Little Time

Free Walking Tours

I used to deeply resent most fancy restaurants. I think delicious gourmet food is really important, but if it isn’t accessible to poor people then expensive food is just an annoying tease for most of us. I still feel this way, but there’s one thing expensive restaurants can do to make me like them – have one affordable and yummy dish that people can get. You’ll probably still make money selling it, because people order it but also a cocktail or add fries or whatever, but if I’m poor and I want a touch of fancy cuisine I can afford it.

1000 Figs does this pretty well. My friend brought me there and I was at first deeply skeptical. It just seemed too rich for my blood! We got two falafel sandwiches, an order of fries, and a side order of brussel sprouts.

Free Walking Tours

Falafel Sammy $6
Fries with sauce $4

All together it came to $22, which is more than I like to spend on a meal for two people. The fries were $4, which I just can’t abide. Sure, they came with really good skordalia (Greek potato-garlic sauce) which was unexpected and wildly tasty, but I’m still on the fence on whether it was worth it. The brussel sprouts were $6, were cooked to perfection, and came with a salad that was great. Still, I don’t know if it fits the parameters of our blog exactly – sure, it was really good and not super expensive, but my vague idea for this thing I’m writing is to spotlight places where you can get a good meal you can really fill up on for 7 or 8 dollars. But also we don’t have a lot of vegetarian options and our whole meal was vegetarian at this spot, so I think it’s inclusion is worthwhile.

The weather was perfect so, we ate them in the park.

The weather was perfect so, we ate them in the park.

If you’re feeling a little flush with cash, by all means splurge on the sides. They’re good. But if you’re a working stiff who’s living paycheck to paycheck, skip all the sides and go straight for the deal – that $6 falafel sandwich. Sure, its not giant, but it’s not small at all. America is full of mediocre falafel but this is multiple steps above the crap most of us are used to. They’re not over-fried, they’re spiced well, and they feel like you’re eating more than just beans. The point of falafel, I think, is for you to fill up on garbanzo beans but feel like you’re eating something much more. Like so much good food, it’s a way of taking cheap ingredients and transforming them into something that feels almost extravagant. 1000 Figs does this. They put a bunch of really good vegetables on top, its almost a ‘slaw and almost a salad. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again – vegetables are often hard to come by here, so I really value a good serving of them when I’m eating out. Mostly I want my readers to patronize locally owned businesses that are affordable and delicious. 1000 Figs isn’t affordable overall, but has affordable options. If you are trying to mix it up (or you’re vegetarian) and you want a cheap good meal, their falafel sandwich is the way to go. Got any tips for other spots to review? Write us a comment and we’ll check them out!

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Big Easy Eating on a Budget: Moonwok(ing) for Mardi Gras

I work in the French Quarter. Though a lot of French Quarter service industry workers also party there, for me getting out of work means hightailing it out of tourist-hell. But what about when my friends are visiting from out of town and want the Full New Orleans Experience(TM)? Or when its Carnival and you find yourself in the Quarter a few days into your bender and you realize food is important? I’ve already written about Smallmart as a good food option for the Quarter, but the other affordable spot is Moon Wok.

Moon wok

Moon Wok is famous in my friend group for having the best cheap banh mi and good cheap pho. The fried tofu banh mi is delicious and only $3 + tax. Let’s face it, most people don’t know how to make tofu not suck. Moon Wok does more than make it not suck – its totally scrumptious. Because we always get the tofu, we tried out the pork banh mi this time. It’s only a little more expensive and it’s so good! Its got more mayonnaise than I’m used to on a banh mi, but it worked surprisingly well. The jalapenos weren’t overwhelmingly spicy, the vegetables were fresh, and the meat was a small step above than

Ban Mi Moon wok French Quarter

$3.50…not bad for when you gotta eat in the Quarter

Lots of people get pho at Moon Wok. I think the pho is decent and affordable at Moon Wok, but now that Pho Tau Bay moved from the West Bank to the Central Business District, its not really worth getting pho anywhere else. The atmosphere in Moon Wok is really cute and I like to dine in there.

Moon Wok French Quarter

Cozy for dining in.

But it was such a beautiful day that we wanted to eat two blocks away in Armstrong Park. Getting pho to go always seems not worth it, so we went for a grilled pork over vermicelli noodles.

Bun a Moon Wok French Quarter

Grilled Pork Bun $6.99

It ruled. I think the orange-sauce it came with could’ve used more fish sauce mixed into it, but apart from that I had no complaints. The pork was perfect, and it had enough bean sprouts and vegetables to allow us to fool ourselves into believing we were being healthy and good to ourselves as we sipped beers and feasted in the sun of a warm New Orleans winter day. The world is crumbling around us, New Orleans is being commodified and gentrified and Disneyfied a little more every day, but for an hour or so, in the park bullshitting with my friend, everything felt sweet and good. We need moments like that, if we’re going to survive the next four years of authoritarian insanity. Good luck out there.

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Big Easy Eating on a Budget: Creole Lunchbox, I know where you got your sandwich at

Where would New Orleans be without hustling tourists? It’s been an integral part of the local economy for a very long time. I’m OK with most of the hustles: shitty shoeshines, “I know where you got your shoes at”, the strange idea that getting wasted in the French Quarter will be the most fun you’ve ever had, “alligator sausage” that is 4% gator and 96% pork. Those are all fine by me. What I don’t like is when enough people accept the hustles that they start to creep outside the designated tourist zones.

Creole Lunch Box is in the back of M+M food store on Miro and Music street

Creole Lunch Box is in the back of M+M food store on Miro and Music street


The expansion of hustling actual residents comes from two places that I can tell – through AirBnb, we have tourists crawling all over our neighborhoods, instead of the usual places we expect them. Almost anyone you pass on the street could secretly be a tourist that bought their way into your neighborhood! With the significant post-Katrina transplant population expanding every year, the city also is full of people who don’t know how much crawfish should actually cost, for example, and are willing to pay more than someone who’s lived here their whole life. We have a ton of residents that function in many ways like tourists, especially in their susceptibility to being hustled. Just look at how much rent some of those folks pay to live in the average sinking black-mold infested New Orleans shotgun! There’s a sucker born every minute, and a lot of them seem to be moving here.
You need a knife and a fork for this kind of po-boy

You need a knife and a fork for this kind of po-boy


This brings me to poboys. A lot of the poboys in this town are a ripoff. They’re “large” but actually less than 12”, they’re poorly executed, and they’re $14! That works for a tourist but c’mon, I’m not paying that! Today we paid $10 for a poboy but it was a foot of insanely delicious, gravy drenched, almost gotta eat it with a fork-and-knife type of tastebud heaven. We went to the Creole Lunchbox, just two blocks from my friends house in the Eighth Ward. Run by a sweet dude named Chef Lonnie, this place is a stripped down gem. Inside the cinderblock walls of the Creole Lunchbox, some magic is being made. My friend got the surf and turf poboy and even though my food was delicious, I was super jealous. Grilled shrimp and thinly sliced roast beef with gravy on a loaf of french bread. Definitely worth getting.

Shrimp and Okra

Shrimp and Okra

I got the smothered okra with shrimp and sausage. It came with a decent roll and really great potato salad. I never liked potato salad before I started this blog but I think I’m really getting converted. I scarfed the potato salad down before anything else. The okra was served over rice that tasted much better than what they serve in most corner store soul food places. I think a lot of spots use the quick-boil white rice, which ends up tasting a little soapy to me sometimes. This rice, however, tasted almost like brown rice, but not in the gross dirt way that always happens when hippies cook brown rice. It was subtle and a tiny bit earthy. The smothered okra ruled. Delicious shrimp, lots of good chunks of smoked sausage, and the okra wasn’t slimy at all. The portions are great too – I’m going to be eating it the rest of the day. Chef Lonnie is a real sweetheart too. He has different specials every day, so it’s worth coming back on different days and seeing what he’s offering.

The Real Deal

The Real Deal

If you’re in the eighth ward, and are willing to shell out $10 for a real worthwhile poboy instead of a scam, then Creole Lunchbox is the spot for you.

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