Every experience I’ve had with New Orleans has been an undeniably positive one. The people, the music, the food—the Big Easy never ceases to warm my heart and delight my taste buds. With that in mind, I give you NOLA Foodie Finds, with food trends I’d like to see more of in SA.
Whiskey-Centric Dining: I’m going through a whiskey phase; my friends can attest. As such, Oxalis Bywater grabbed my attention. “We’re a whiskey-focused restaurant that just so happens to serve amazing food,” boasts its website—and fortunately, the new-American menu by chef Jonathan Lestingi, purportedly designed to complement the restaurant’s impressive whiskey repertoire and cocktail program, did not disappoint. In spite of my disparaging remarks on pork belly from “Foodie Finds: Barcelona” (August 3, 2013) I’ll amend my criticism to praise Oxalis’ Bywater Bossam ($10). This delicate nod to Korean-Cajun fusion features a bright green leaf of butter lettuce folded around popcorn rice, savory kimchi and crispy, thinly sliced pork belly.
Diverse Street Food Offerings: Just across the street from Oxalis, still in the up-and-coming Bywater neighborhood, Booty’s Street Food has compiled a rotating menu that sources street fare and cocktail inspiration from across the globe—complete with geographic coordinates of each dish’s origin. The bright, beautifully renovated space beckoned us for brunch, where arepas ($11) hailing from Cali, Colombia, yielded a sudamericano spin on Eggs Benny with corn cakes in place of English muffins. An order of tsukemono ($6) from Nara, Japan, delivered perfectly pickled Brussels sprouts and other veggies with a snow pea salad. Adding fried tofu for $3 more completed the experience.
Award-Winning Seafood: Should we talk about how Sea Island won the 2014 voter’s choice poll for Best Seafood of SA, or should we agree to never speak of this again? No later than the very day we visited Peche Seafood Grill in the Warehouse District did the admirable eatery win two James Beard Foundation awards—one for best new restaurant in the U.S., and one for Ryan Prewitt, honored as the top regional chef in the South. Highlights like spicy ground shrimp with house-made noodles, fancy fish sticks in local beer batter and cured salmon with horseradish and daikon radish slivers confirmed the Foundation’s selections.
And, What We Utterly Lack: Perhaps my top takeaway from this trip is that San Antonio needs a Country Club. Located back in the Bywater, don’t expect to find white-gloved waiters or a golf course here. The Country Club is a bar, restaurant (order the chicken and waffles) and clothing-very-optional pool. Before you start to feel weird about the fact that your mimosa isn’t the only thing that’s bottomless in this joint, know that the friendly, tank-topped staff show zero tolerance for creepy behavior and that your fellow open-minded patrons won’t judge you, whether you keep your skivvies on or let it all hang out.