How to feast at Jazz Fest
April 29th, 2012
02:48 AM ET
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Andreas Preuss is a Supervising Producer at CNN. He's based in Atlanta, but New Orleans is his happy place.

For the next two weekends, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is ground zero for music lovers, food enthusiasts and anyone who wants to soak up the culture of South Louisiana. There's a lot to offer on all these fronts. For me, as a native New Orleanian, it's the best two weekends on earth.

You really can't go wrong at the Jazz Fest; there are food booths setup in strategic locations around the site at the New Orleans Fairgrounds. Locals know how to navigate the field and for visitors it's a bit of delicious hide and seek.

One of the best ways to meet and eat is by sitting with some fellow festival goers. There are small tables set up around the food booths – and they can quickly become a sort of buffet of what people are eating. You hear a lot of "What's that?" and "Where did you find it?" and the inevitable "Wanna try a bite?" I tend to be nomadic in my Jazz Fest feasting. And just like exploring the city itself, there's a new food adventure around every corner.

The ultimate in food portability

My favorites usually center around the sandwiches - the ever present po-boy. They are portable and can easily be stowed in a bag or pocket. I can grab one between sets, eating and walking, even though some sauces may be trickling down my arm. I have plenty of napkins usually stuffed in my pockets.

A perennial crowd favorite is the Cochon de Lait po-boy. It is indeed a succulent slice of Jazz Fest heaven: slow roasted pork with spicy remoulade sauce and slaw between two crispy slices of French bread. Another big hit is the fried soft-shell crab po-boy. They are so popular, that the vendor hands out tickets to purchase them. It's quite a scene seeing those delicious sandwiches emerge with the fried crab legs sticking out of the bread slices; I usually eat them first.

The longer the line the better the food?

That is indeed a mantra, but it also signifies a herd yen for safer and more popular food items. The fried soft shell crab po-boy booth always has lines as does the crawfish bread vendor. There are actually several booths for Crawfish Monica: a cheesy, creamy pasta dish brimming with crawfish tail meat.

The long lines can be easier to navigate when a big touring act is on stage. Or just put in the time, meet your line neighbor and get their food tips.

Can I get a healthy, low-cal meal out here?

There are options. Vietnamese food fits the bill as does crawfish sushi. There is even a vegetarian muffaletta – the Italian specialty sandwich, piled high with cheeses and olive relish. And even though Jazz Fest or any New Orleans visit is a great excuse to break a diet, there's nothing wrong from taking a break from saucy, spicy, fried or boiled food - for a little bit anyway.

I tend to stay away from soupy dishes, because who really wants to eat gumbo when you are in the blazing sun with no shade? I would never diss the soups, but I have my issues.

Dressing to eat

Wear your best loose fitting clothes and not just to adjust your waistline, but it gets hot, humid and sweaty at the Fairgrounds. The color to avoid is white, and don't debut anything new. If not this will be you: hot sauce splatter on your shirt, roast beef gravy on your pants and drops of boiled crawfish juice on your shoes.

One should never let clothes get in the way of a good meal. Napkins can take care of all those beautiful sauces running down your arms. But do not let preservation of a favorite shirt stop you from the feast.

Have fun, enjoy and get out there. The locals are always quick to guide you to their ultimate meal, but create your own experience and you too will have your own Jazz Fest favorites.

Previously - What to eat, drink, do and avoid in New Orleans

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Filed under: 100 Places to Eat • Creole • Events • Fair Food • Jazz Fest • New Orleans • New Orleans • Regional Sandwiches • Sandwiches


soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Christina

    JazzFest is a ton of fun and has terrific food, but be prepared for absolutely NOWHERE to sit! And lots and lots of mud. Zero shade. And the crowds for the big musical acts are huge and you can't even get relatively close unless you go hours before the start of the act.

    April 27, 2014 at 6:32 pm |
  2. The Choobs

    Don't forget to top it all of with a beignet from the Cafe Du Monde booth, usually over by the Gospel Tent...an awesome combo, powdered sugar and gospel!

    May 1, 2012 at 9:03 am |
  3. jj

    Forget the food, feast on the music!

    April 30, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  4. HK

    Gotta start the day with a crawfish strudel!

    April 30, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  5. Dr. Ricky Bobby

    If you couldn't pet it before it was cooked, it ain't worth eatin'! Shake and bake!

    April 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
  6. vtxrider

    1st morning tradition: eating crawfish bread for breakfast in Economy Hall. Then, pheasant and quail gumbo, Wally Taillon's jambalya, and when it gets hot, a WWOZ mango freeze. Great music, food, and people!

    April 30, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  7. DAVE

    FRIED CHICKEN AND GREENS

    April 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  8. jim

    Nothing like dead pig on a bun. Right up there with dead cow on a bun. Radiated dead shrimp are probably tasty too. How does one abstain from blood and eat meat?

    April 29, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • I think your parents neglected you

      too bad, listen pour your sadness elsewhere

      April 30, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  9. mike

    Make sure to eat up all that deformed shrimp...

    April 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • really

      a nice up beat article and you need to act like an a$$

      April 30, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • Aubrie

      Actually Mike is right... Lots of media hiding this fact. Read an article YESTERDAY written by a Louisian fisherman, that he pulled in over 400 pounds of deformed shrimp with NO EYES... Lots of other problems as well.... Thank you B.P.!! You're the ass for keeping your head in the sand....

      April 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
      • no I'm not

        don't need to be bombarded with tragedy every day

        your the ass

        May 2, 2012 at 6:56 am |
      • Gulf Lifer

        mike & Audrie, you are perpetuating a myth that leads one to believe you are also creationists. Show me the proof or STFU.

        May 2, 2012 at 7:15 am |
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