A hunk of brisket at VooDoo BBQ & Grill begins its journey suspended over a bed of pecan and oak logs. Coated in a dry rub of local spices, the meat slowly turns on a rotisserie rod for up to 16 hours, its skin crisping while the inside stays a warm pink. The chefs smoke all their beef brisket and pulled pork over logs from Louisiana-based trees to lend them the region's unique smoked flavor, even at the risk of confusing passing botanists. They lightly coat grilled sausages, chicken, and burgers in three signature sauces inspired by the state's Cajun recipes. To complement their menagerie of smoked and grilled meats, they sling a variety of southern sides such as corn pudding, greens, and potato salads. At each of the 13 locations, the aroma of roasting meat fills a space of dark-stained wood and wrought iron; dining rooms awash in a palette of reds, greens, and oranges buzz with the sounds of jazz and blues.
Gris-Gris Seafood, located just one block from the Metairie parade route, serves up creative creole cuisine. A few specialties are crispy fried shrimp heads and surf 'n' turf po' boys that combine fried shrimp with hot roast beef and gravy. Crawfish are a big deal here—they show up in creamy soups, savory cakes, and other dishes—and the cooks have their own special technique for boiling them: they use woks rather than pots, allowing for consistent heat distribution and even cooking. For dessert, try the Metry beignet—a deep-fried honey bun with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup, and powdered sugar.
Turquoise and red frames decorate NOLA's walls with colorful borders as abstract as the artwork they house—all funky points and angles, as if they themselves were melted over the Cajun grill’s red-hot fire. In the kitchen, chefs soak pickles and onion rings in buttermilk before tossing them into fryers and arranging them around cool-ranch dipping sauces. Diners scoop up charbroiled oysters on the half shell and wrangle with poor boys loaded with crayfish and shrimp at glossy wooden tables spread throughout the laid-back dining room. Inside, guests can watch games on flat-screen TVs hanging from the ceiling, and on the outside balcony, they can recite soliloquies from Romeo and Juliet.
East of Italy serves up a menu of flavorfully fused Cajun and Italian plates, tantalizing taste buds with a unique dining experience. Local noon-time noshers can excavate layers of stacked sandwiches such as the Italian Special, a gravity-challenging product of gastronomy that tops pepperoni, ham, and salami with mozzarella cheese, black olives, and red onions before snuggling them between signature baked bread ($6.95). Dinnertime brings generously portioned plates such as the fettuccine alfredo, with garlicky notes paying tribute to an Italian classic ($10.95), and the lobster ravioli, dressed with a creamy pesto-cilantro sauce to nod toward stateside flavors ($13.95). Slice savorers can sink teeth into an array of nine pizzas ($11.95–$16.95) that includes the meatlovers, topped with pepperoni, italian sausage, ground beef, chicken, and ham, and the pesto chicken, sprinkled with pesto sauce, grilled chicken, and flavorful veggies. Creative types can catalyze their inner cook by building their own pie sans sauce gun or cheese saw using a list of both standard and premium toppings ($6.95+). Today’s Groupon is also good for East of Italy’s happy hour (daily from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.), which features a bevy of $5 martinis, unlike other venues' miserly hours where drinks cost twice as much.
It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon on the outdoor patio at Poppy's Time Out Sports Bar & Grill sipping on strawberry daiquiris, marveling at the vast Mississippi River, and watching sightseers as they make their way across the Spanish Plaza. Servers dart about and replace empty glasses with frozen daiquiris, potent hurricanes, and 17 varieties of local and international beers. Others duck into the kitchen to reemerge with plates of fiery wings, juicy specialty burgers, and crispy-seafood po' boys. Twenty-nine television sets hang from both the exterior and interior walls of the lively pub where they showcase thrilling sports games and inspiring commercials in which inquisitive dolphins learn about the importance of car insurance.