There is perhaps no greater sign of Louisiana's culinary heritage than the mélange of aromas that wafts from a pot of simmering gumbo—a cornerstone of creole cooking from as far back as the time of the Louisiana Purchase. Nearly every recipe calls for some kind of roux, a traditional French sauce that consists of butter, oil, or some other fat mixed with flour. Beyond that, the specific spices and ingredients vary wildly, but most versions of gumbo fall into one of three general categories. Seafood gumbos feature oysters, crawfish, and other catches simmered with okra and vegetables, whereas filé gumbo uses a spicy herb made from ground sassafras leaves to highlight the savory flavor of andouille, poultry, ham, or smoked links. The third variant is known as gumbo z'herbes, a vegetarian recipe traditionally served during Lent.
Despite its indisputable creole ties, gumbo can't actually be traced to a single cultural tradition; the version using filé powder, for instance, originally derives from Native American cultures. Either way, the name itself comes from the West African term “gombo,” which means “okra”—a plant native to Africa that the French colonists of Louisiana likely introduced to North America in the early 1700s.
The family-owned Toarmina's has served up its signature sweet sauce and gullet-stuffing, 24-inch pies since 1987. The menu boasts traditional pizzas ranging from the small one-topping ($8.99) to the two-footer with three toppings ($24.39)—a favorite at giant-division ultimate frisbee leagues. The casual eatery's aromatic ovens also cook up deep dish ($11.99–$13.99) and specialty picks such as the steak and cheese ($12.49–$28.99), which blankets melted mozzarella and american cheese over steak, mushrooms, onions, and golden italian dressing, and the veggie ($11.49–$25.99), a garden party of mushrooms, black olives, diced green peppers, and onions.
Wild Coney & Grill serves up American diner staples with a Mediterranean twist, sliding diners a menu full of hot dogs, gyros, and burgers. Coney Island dogs ($1.95) arrive doused in traditional chili, mustard, and onion toppings, and buns and firmly gripped fingers struggle to contain the seasoned ground beef and the laissez-faire political leanings of the loose burger ($2.25). The gyros supreme meal ($7.75) pairs pita-enveloped lean lamb and cucumber sauce with a fresh, vegetable-rich mini Greek salad and fries. The restaurant serves hearty breakfasts all day, bearing heavy platters of the Wild breakfast special ($5.75), weighted with three large eggs, two slices of bacon, sausage, one slice of ham, and an astronaut-collected cube of jellied sun.
Voted No. 4 in the Top 10 Birthday Chains for Kid Birthday Parties in 2010 by Parents magazine, Pump It Up pulses with inflatable play sets and actually encourages kids to bounce off the walls. Within the indoor playground, a stalwart staff oversees the neighborhood of bounce houses and air-filled playthings, such as a classic bounce castle and slick inflatable slide that cushions children's heartfelt reenactments of Cool Runnings. Throughout the week, families can pop in for open play, or tote along their own mini entourage for birthday-party packages complete with private rooms and complimentary invites. Parties come as straightforward packages or as themed events that place the birthday child in structured story adventures where they take on the role of a mighty and clever superhero or pirate captain that drank too much saltwater.