Defender Picks


While there are still out-of-town vendors pushing healthy festival grub, famous local restaurants such as Drago’s and Ernst Café have a presence at this year's NOLA Food Experience. Joining the seafood sensations are up-and-comers such as Booty’s and NOLA Pho Life, as well as street food faves Crepes a la Cart. The portable grub experts' menus span the gamut from veggie-friendly to bacon crazed. 


Those seeking a dozen or two chargrilled oysters to enjoy on the grass will be thrilled with Drago's offerings, which accomplish restaurant quality results with a fraction of kitchen space. However, some fest goers want a more filling meal, one better suited to a day's worth of drinking that spills into the night. 


Booty’s Street Food (800 Louisa) is the perfect pick for a festival, since their typical fare is made for on-the-go eating. Unlike NOLA Pho Life, Booty's and Crepes a la Cart both boast brick-and-mortar spots. 


Booty’s Chef Greg Fonseca said that the key to good fest food is balancing portability with taste. “We wanted something that was really reflective of our menu, which is perfect for festival food because it’s street food. It’s really transportable, it’s easy, it’s fast, it’s full of flavor,” said Fonseca.


On the menu is their Moros Y Cerdo, black beans and rice with pork and chimichurri. There is also a Latin Banh Mi, roast pork, ham, cabbage and pickled peppers on French bread.  The third item is a Korean taco with roast pork, house kimchi, cabbage, and chicharron, and the fourth option is an Elvis Empanada, with chocolate, peanut butter, banana and bacon.


Booty’s best seller at the fest has been their Latin Banh Mi, “I really love Asian, food, I really love Banh Mis, it worked really well,” explained Fonseca.


In the spirit of Voodoo, the Elvis Empanada offers a sweet homage to the musical legend.  “Well, this is something we do at the restaurant periodically. I do the seasonal dessert empanada,” said Fonseca. “On seasons when we don’t really have anything to work with, this is my go-to empanada. It’s Elvis because of the chocolate, the peanut butter, the banana and the bacon. It personifies Elvis. We figured you know what, Voodoo, music, it’s a perfect match.”


Another year round street food favorite among locals, Crepes a la Carte (1039 Broadway) jumped on the bacon bandwagon with their Nutella and Bacon Crepe. There is also a light veggie crepe with spinach and dill sauce, a banana and nutella crepe, and a bacon and cheese crepe.


NoDef sampled the sweet and savory crepe, and the rich hazelnut spread cuts the saltiness of the bacon, cooked to perfection. It’s important in such a crepe for the meat to be chewable, yet crispy around the edges. Crepes a la Cart hits the mark.


Venturing away from the bacon craze is Nola Pho Life, and festival pho is ambitious, but not impossible. NoDef saw the piping hot dish served up in a portable bowl with the full accouterments. 


Nola Pho Life offers customers a wealth of fest-friendly Vietnamese options. Banh Mi sandwiches come in Vietnamese grilled pork or tofu, served on a French baguette with housemade aioli, pickled carrots, cucumber, fresh jalapenos and cilantro.


There is also their festival Cha Gio, a crispy Vietnamese eggroll stuffed with pork, shrimp, taro, glass noodles, mushrooms and carrots, served with a housemade pineapple chili sauce.


Jennifer Nguyen, who said she is better known by “Jenni-pho” (pronounced Jenni-foo) said this year, they decided to bring in some options for non-meat eaters.


“We added on a tofu banh mi,” said Nguyen. “I noticed last year that there were a lot of vegetarians, and I didn’t have that option here for them and I felt kinda bad, so I said, ‘ok well let me bring in the tofu banh mi.”



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