Big Easy Eating on a Budget The Humble Hot Plate
Ok, I know that Styrofoam is really bad for the earth. It never goes away, so someday our great great grandchildren will line the walls of their subterranean burrows with hundred year old to-go food containers. This will help shield their soft underbellies from the daily threat of radiation. Styrofoam sucks, but it does allow for my favorite New Orleans culinary delight – the hot plate. In this environmentally unfriendly and aesthetically displeasing packaging, you can find some of the best food this town has to offer.
This weeks review is of the hot plates from Broad Avenue Supermarket. For the past few months this has been one of my absolute favorite places to eat out. Located directly across from the more well known Triangle Deli at St Bernard and Broad, this place isn’t the prettiest from the outside. The billboard on top of the building is rented by the USDA and usually pictures a family happily exercising or eating vegetables together. It’s hard to eat vegetables in New Orleans, but the hot plates at Broad Ave Supermarket provide nutritious vegetable options while still giving some good southern soul food that makes me feel like you better start exercising (I never do though). The USDA would be proud.
The options change every day, so I’ll just run down a list of what’s worth getting and what is’nt: This place serves my favorite red beans, with big fatty flavorful chunks of meat. You’ve got to eat around the occasional bone but that’s how its supposed to be! The white beans are similar but with a thicker, less brothy sauce. Both are super hearty and filling. Get them on top of white rice – this trip I went a little wild and got them on top of the fried rice, and it wasn’t a good move. Too many clashing flavors. The fried rice on its own is vastly superior to most corner stores fried rice. It’s kind of peppery
Two of my favorite things to get here weren’t being served the day we went. The shrimp with okra is always worth getting. The okra doesn’t have the sliminess that a lot of people can’t handle, and the shrimp are delicious. I feel like I can taste the difference between shrimp farmed in Asia and shrimp wild caught in the Gulf of Mexico, and these are definitely local. The other dish they didn’t have was stewed mustard greens. It comes with little bits of pork (like the cabbage, which they serve more often and unfortunately isn’t as good) and is really good for you. The mustard greens have some of that bitter spiciness that authentic greens are supposed to have. So good!
The stuffed pepper isn’t worth it. I prefer stuffed peppers when the meat is more than just a bunch of ground beef, and when the pepper is kind of soft. These were hard and tasted alright but didn’t really do it for me. The mac and cheese is creamy and perfect. We didn’t get the baked chicken this time, but its soft and comes apart under your fork and, if you get there early, it’s not dry at all. From waiting in line and watching what other people order, I think the baked chicken is really popular.
That just leaves the spaghetti squares. Some people in New Orleans call this “lasagna,” which is strangely inaccurate for a place with a long history of authentic Italian cooking. I like to call it spaghetti squares because at most places, that’s what they are – baked spaghetti in red sauce with a melted slice of American cheese on top. Different places do it better than others, but Broad Avenue Supermarket does it really different. They almost turn this Italian food into lo mein or something – little bits of beef, flat Asian noodles, chunks of green pepper. No marinara sauce. It’s not the usual approach but I think it’s really good, I almost never go here without getting it.
My friend got the gumbo when we went here. I think they do a pretty good job, though if I were you I wouldn’t get it with crab – it’s almost impossible to get any meat out of small gumbo crabs that have been slowly heated all day in a pan. When you make gumbo at home, by all means load up on crab, but I feel like in this situation it just takes up space with inedible shell and meat that has been cooked into nonexistence. Apart from that, it’s decent gumbo that is a step above most take-out places attempts at it, and at $3.69 for a small, it’s worth trying out.
So get over your environmental qualms about Styrofoam boxes and try out some hot plates. 2 items for $5.49 and 3 for $6.99 is a great deal, and a 3 item plate will be much more than most people can eat in one sitting. If you’re looking for a good place to eat what you buy at Broad Ave Supermarket, I recommend biking down to Esplanade and picnicking in one of the parks that are on the way to City Park.
Did you try this place or LB Saints (which the last post was about)? Do you want to let us know about your favorite cheap place around town? Let us know in the comments section below and you’ll hear from me next week about another great cheap spot to get food in New Orleans.