Dining Out in New Orleans: The Big Cheezy and The Creole Creamery (with Izzy)

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One last trip out in this series before I hit the road. It’s all dairy all the time on this run…

Dining partner: Izzy IMG_0334

Occupation: Poet, librarian

You can find her: Scanning the book she recommended to you at the library, curled around a book of poems, blowing your mind with her tattoos.

I always feel a mad rush to see everyone I know and everything I love before I leave town. Maybe part of me doesn’t quite believe I’m coming back. But there’s a feeling of finality that makes me crave comfort food. And for me, that usually means ice cream.

For my friend Izzy, however, that means gooey cheesy things, and a few months back someone came up with the bright idea of building a grilled-cheese-centric sandwich shop called The Big Cheezy right next to the law enforcement corridor at Broad and Tulane.

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Because you need this after traffic court.

The Orleans Parish District Court, the traffic court, the central lock-up and the parish prison are all easy walking distance from here, which means working at The Big Cheezy is officially the most politically connected job in New Orleans. Their clientele is a mix of judges, cops, clerical workers from the court system, all on their lunch breaks, all hungry, and all likely to remember your face when you come in to deal with that moving violation and tell the judge, “Your honor, I didn’t know it was illegal to run through that plate glass window with my head out the sunroof.” And the judge will be like, “Don’t you work at Big Cheezy?” And you smile and say, “Yeah, and you always order the Flying Dutchman.”

Bam. Case dismissed.

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The Flying Dutchman: Melted gouda and smoked turkey with a side of waffle fries and tomato soup. Enjoy, Your Honor.

It’s a tiny little spot, this one, but it packs in good value. Izzy and I both went for the Flying Dutchman, though the Big Cheezy, with three different cheeses on Hawaiian sweet bread almost had me. The room is small, and adorned with photos of grilled cheese sandwiches in various states of meltiness.

There comes a time when a New Orleans restaurant passes from “local eatery” to “institution.” I’m not sure when it is, but all the places in the latter category have to start somewhere. Big Cheezy is just getting started, but you can’t help but notice that they already have some of the marks of a New Orleans staple: a good, simple menu of things they do extremely well, again and again, and a classic bit of comfort food that they cater to exclusively. If you want a grilled cheese sandwich, where are you going to go except the place that specializes in them.

You do one thing better than anyone else, and people will keep coming back for it.

Which is why, after dinner, we went to the Creole Creamery.

This is a great town for desserts. Pastries. Cannolis. Bananas Foster was invented here. But if nothing will do but ice cream, I usually find myself on Prytania Street for a couple scoops from the Creole Creamery.

Located in an old McKenzie’s Bakery building (and still bearing the neon sign on front), the Creole Creamery offers up a rotating cast of around 30 flavors per day, from Red Velvet Cake to Cafe Au Lait to Mexican Hot Chocolate to Salted Caramel. (You can find a list of every flavor they’ve ever had here)

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Or you can just get a sundae shaped like a clown, because why not?

The walls are pink pastel and you turn into a kid instantly when you wait in line. I rarely order more than I can finish, but I usually order more than I should finish. Izzy and I took a seat at the counter on the far end and ate our sundaes and talked about the coming year. We came to new Orleans at almost exactly the same time, we’ve both moved away for a bit, we both came back. We’ve both put a wringer of a year behind us, and the one to come is feeling more and more like a gift. For her, there’s the library, the comfort of her own space, and a deeper understanding of the city. For me, there’s the road, and the certainty that a bit of clarity will come from letting the kid in me out to play.

We have faith in these things, and that’s important. Summers are hard in New Orleans. We take comfort where we can find it.

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The Big Cheezy is located at 422 1/2 S. Broad Street, just off Tulane Avenue. They are open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. They have a website here, and a twitter page here and a facebook here.

The Creole Creamery has locations at 4924 Prytania Street (noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday thru Thursday, noon to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday) and 6260 Vicksburg St in Lakeview (2-9 p.m. Monday thru Thursday, 2-10 p.m. on the weekends). They have a website here, a twitter here and a facebook here.

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