As I waited at the barbershop, I picked up a magazine. The magazine had very few articles but instead focused on listing the “Top 5″s of New Orleans from the Top 5 nightclubs to the Top 5 places to get grits.
A bar called Parasol’s was listed as serving the #1 roast beef po’ boy in New Orleans. This was a big claim to fame as the roast beef version of this iconic sandwich was the original, though now it was possible to get anything from fried oysters to alligator sausage on a po’ boy.
Parasol’s wasn’t too far from where I was staying in the Lower Garden District. I walked into the tiny bar area to the raucous crashing of punk music. The man behind the bar nodded to me as he poured a beer for another patron.
“How you doin’? What can I get for you?” he asked, his voice barely audible as the power chords thrashed to the galloping rhythm of the drums.
“What have you got that’s dark?” I asked.
“Not a lot, man,” he said, “We’ve got Guinness or we’ve got this one from Wiseacre that I like called ‘Gotta get up to get down’; it’s a coffee stout.”
“I’ll go for one of those, please, that sounds good.”
“You got it.”
The stout was smooth, cold, and with a strong taste of coffee. It was an easy-drinker that could prove to be dangerous. One minute you’re having your first sip, the next you’re 8 pints deep and about to go home; the fresh air hits you, and your legs forget how to function properly.
“Any food?” he asked.
“I heard you guys do a good roast beef po’ boy,”
“Yeah, we do,” he smiled, “But I’m afraid we’re sold out of the beef. You want my recommendation? Get the firecracker shrimp. It’s spicy like how they do buffalo wings except we batter the shrimp then toss them in Louisiana hot sauce.”
I ordered it immediately. As someone who loves both seafood, hot sauce, and the process of deep frying, I couldn’t resist.
When the sandwich arrived it was much bigger than expected. Lettuce, tomatoes, and pickles dressed a French baguette that had been overfilled to the point of a fried shrimp avalanche. The batter was tinted red with hot sauce though had lost none of its original crunch. The smell of the hot sauce announced its vinegar base with a sharp stab to the sinuses.
The spicy shrimp combined with the refreshing coolness of the lettuce and tomato, taking away some of the immediate punch of the hot sauce which instead gradually grew with every subsequent mouthful.
I’m an advocate of travelling light. I had packed 5 t-shirts – all of which were black – and 1 light blue long-sleeve shirt. I was wearing the long-sleeve shirt when I looked down and saw that I’d managed to get myself covered in hot sauce. Oh well, I thought, I wasn’t planning on going anywhere and Parasol’s was my favourite type of bar; a dive bar. There were no tourists here (other than myself) and no pretence. Everyone seemed to know everyone and if they didn’t know someone (like myself) then they went out of their way to get to know them.