I always love an excuse to explore New Orleans in a new way, to somehow look at a familiar neighborhood through fresh eyes. The most recent outing of Dishcrawl New Orleans, playfully themed “Bites of Bywater,” provided the perfect opportunity to break out of the culinary rut I’ve been in lately.
Dishcrawl is a start-up I can really get behind. The national brand, which also operates in other major cities around the nation, utilizes social media to attract hungry followers and a local ambassador to organize food tours of specific neighborhoods. Think of it as an eat-and-meet; you buy a ticket based on the neighborhood and learn where you'll stop only just before the tour starts. The idea behind the mystery is for 'crawlers to keep an open mind and stop in restaurants they might otherwise overlook. Eaters meet the chefs and learn about their food, as well as where it comes from, and interact with each other. Tickets are limited to 25, and guests are seated at long, communal tables to encourage socializing.
The restaurants chosen for the Bywater event represented the up-and-coming area perfectly; a storied nabe being reinvisioned by locals and transplants alike. From South American street food to kale salads to free-flowing wine, “Bites of Bywater” truly encompassed the nature of the neighborhood.
Booty’s Street Food
It’s always great to go to Booty’s; it’s the only place on the crawl I had been to before. Their take on international small plates is always good, and the portion sizes are perfect for ordering a plate (or two) for yourself or several plates to share with a friend. In particular, the pork tacos were a real standout, with the cilantro and lime giving them extra added punch.
Just across the street was our next destination, chef Jonathon Lestingi’s Oxalis. It’s a great fit for a food tour; the menu is heavy on dishes designed to be shared, and the bar is stocked with nearly 30 brands of whiskey. The kale salad was especially excellent, with all its ingredients locally sourced. (See, New York Times...New Orleans really does have kale!)
The brightly lit and wide-open atmosphere of Maurepas Foods was certainly a change from the intimate and candle-lit atmosphere of the first two stops. Shrimp (with carrot yogurt sauce) and house-made mint ice cream sandwiches were served, with both dishes incorporating local ingredients. The ice cream in particular really hit the spot, a perfect blend of sweet, creamy and crunchy with just a hint of salt.
Bacchanal Wine Bar
The night ended at one of the oldest buildings in the Bywater, the 200-year-old location of Bacchanal Wine Bar. I'd always heard good things about Bacchanal, but had never been before. The place oozes atmosphere: The backyard features a live band most nights with dimly lit seating sprinkled through a grove of trees, the first floor of the building has more bottles of wine than you can count, and the upstairs has a great seating area with wide windows that are almost always open. The food fits the wine theme; expect bread and cheese boards. The relaxed nightspot was the perfect way to cap off a fun evening of restaurant-hopping. Next on the Dishcrawl menu: Brunch in November.