Eight Great Street-Food Vendors in New Orleans

lucky dogs

Lucky Dogs.

There’s not much actual street food in New Orleans. It’s not a city overrun with carts, stands, and tweeting trucks. Maybe it’s just too hot to eat in the street. Or it could be the slow pace of life—why eat on the go when you can kick back and linger over a meal? My personal bet is that it’s due to the difficulty of eating an overstuffed po’boy with a cocktail in your hand—even if legally you can drink in the street. Nevertheless, these eight picks reflect the best quick snacks you can eat standing up or on the go in the Crescent City.

1. Hansen’s Sno-Bliz

Patience is key at this 70-year-old concrete-block family business that serves the closest thing you’ll find to snow in New Orleans. The line runs out the swinging screen doors, but once you finally enter you’re lulled into a hypnotic trance. The patented Sno-Bliz machine hums and jackhammers enormous frozen blocks of ice into the fluffiest cold treat imaginable. Methodically, the sno-balls are layered—ice, then syrup, then both again, and one last time—to ensure that the handmade flavors fully coat yet don’t deflate the ice. The cream flavors are truly outstanding, especially cream of coffee, cream of nectar, and the amazingly named cream of ice cream. Open March through Labor Day. 4801 Tchoupitoulas St. (504-891-9788; snobliz.com)

2. Verti Marte

French Quarter residents rely on Verti Marte 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s the kind of deli where you truly just want to get your food and get out, unless of course Angelina Jolie is browsing the chips display up front with her brood. But in the back is where the real beauty lies. Huge deli fridges contain every type of local specialty—jambalaya and red beans included. The people behind the counter cram as many fried shrimp and fried oysters as they can into loaves that are much softer than regular New Orleans French bread; that combination plus a spicy mayo is sensational. 1201 Royal St. (504-525-4767; vertimarte.com)

3. Que Crawl

Since Nathaniel Zimet launched Boucherie, his restaurant without wheels, it’s been tough to track down his big purple truck. But when you find it, it’s a true gift, serving spicy boudin balls, succulent cochon de lait po’ boys, and crisp grit fries (picture French fries made with grits instead of potatoes). Usually, the truck appears just when I need it—at 2 A.M. mid-concert at Tipitina’s, when I’m totally overcome with hunger. People are passionate about Que Crawl; I even witnessed a foodie riot one night, after the truck had closed (around 4 A.M.) and a gang of ravenous music-goers began pounding on its sides, demanding to be fed. (quecrawl.com)

4. Lucky Dog

How many hot dog carts can boast that they’re the inspiration behind a story line in a Pulitzer Prize–winning novel and also the topic of an entire work of nonfiction? Probably just Lucky Dogs, the ubiquitous, hot dog-shaped carts in the French Quarter. Do they serve the most delicious dogs? Not particularly; but there’s nothing like them when you want to soak up the booze from a long night out on Bourbon Street. Even better than the dogs are the vendors who serve them. I’m convinced there’s an HR policy that you must be an absolute character to man one of these carts, which have roamed the streets of downtown for more than 50 years. And every time a vendor pops open the bun warmer, I secretly hope that a cat jumps out—just like in A Confederacy of Dunces. Throughout the French Quarter (luckydogs.us)

5. Central Grocery

For just $7 each, the muffulettas here can easily feed two people. Some say even four, but I’ve never been able to stop at just 1/4 of this phenomenal sandwich—salami, ham, provolone, and a spicy olive salad spiked with garlic and accented with little cauliflower florets. Served on an enormous sesame-studded round Italian loaf, it’s the New Orleans version of a hoagie. Line up through the grocery aisles to order one, and take it with you for an impromptu picnic in Jackson Square or along the nearby Mississippi River. 923 Decatur St. (504-620-0174)

6. Roman Candy

Since 1915, the Cortese family has used mule-drawn candy carts to circle the city selling chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry taffy, hand pulled and wrapped in white wax paper. Even if you’re not a taffy lover, there’s such nostalgia and charm surrounding this whole operation that it’s hard to resist buying sticks and sticks of the sweet treat. The carriage pops up all over; uptown, downtown, you never know quite where to find it. (romancandy.gourmetfoodmall.com)

7. Taqueria El Chaparral

Taco trucks sprang up all over the city after Hurricane Katrina, providing sustenance for New Orleanians who were too busy rebuilding their businesses, homes, and lives to cook, and for the influx of Mexican immigrants who came to fill the huge need for construction labor. The trucks disappeared as quickly as they had come, but El Chaparral put down roots: It moved from the parking lot of a gas station into the attendant booth, from which it still serves pillowy tortas, pulled-pork carnitas, and a whole host of other Mexican dishes that never really had a place in the local culinary fabric before the storm. 2013 S. Claiborne Ave.

8. Sucré Gelato Truck

New to the scene, this gourmet food truck started cruising the streets of New Orleans in the summer of 2009, hawking more than a dozen different flavors of gelato, plus a few sorbets. Captain Kate, decked out in a blue bouffant wig, dispenses scoops of the rich treat, which is made using local ingredients including milk from Smith Creamery, sugar from a Louisiana mill, and seasonal produce. My pick is the café au lait gelato, and I pray for the day when the truck will regularly carry the dainty French macarons sold in Sucré’s brick-and-mortar shop. Multiple locations, including Frenchman St. in the Marigny and Audubon Park (Twitter: @SucreGelatoVan)

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