Black Friday is not for the meek. There are doors to be busted, bargains to be bagged, traffic to maneuver and lists to complete.
Savvy shoppers know they must keep up their strength, and that means taking a break for lunch. Don’t assume, however, that you have to settle for food court fare or the drive-thru.
Here are recommendations for eateries offering quick and distinctive meals close to holiday shopping hubs, from the suburban malls to Magazine Street and the downtown New Orleans riverfront, stretching from the renewed Riverwalk, past the Shops at Canal Place and on to the historic French Market. All of these picks are also inexpensive, leaving more in your wallet for the shopping list.
6625 Jefferson Highway, Harahan, (504) 305-4039; oakovenrestaurant.com
This casual, family-friendly trattoria mixes Italian flavors of both the Old World and New World varieties on a menu that revolves around the blazing, oak-fed oven. Split a lamb meatball pizza and try small portions of the pork ragu pasta and fresh fettuccine.
6215 Wilson St., Harahan, (504) 737-3933; kozcooks.com
Koz’s channels the legacy of Gentilly’s long-gone Po-Boy Bakery, where the founder here, Gary “Koz” Grueing, worked for many years. The barbecue ham po-boy, with pulled ham in rich gravy, is a rekindled Po-Boy Bakery classic still found here. Get a whole loaf if you have enough company.
Metairie, near the Lakeside and Clearview malls
3501 N. Arnoult Road, Metairie, (504) 887-3295; chinaroseno.com
The regular menu has all the standard Chinese-American dishes. Ask for the “Chinese” menu, however, and you can take a much deeper dive into traditional Szechuan flavors, a hearty, often spicy and intricate cuisine. At the very least, try the Chinese menu’s potstickers.
3100 Kingman St., Metairie, (504) 885-6516
Tucked away on a side street near Clearview Mall, this traditional, homespun Cuban restaurant is a good call for generous plate lunches (Friday is chicken with yellow rice and plantains), a buttery-crusted Cuban sandwich, papaya and mango shakes, and the namesake dessert — crunchy, fried wands of dough dusted with sugar like Cuban beignets.
New Orleans, downtown and riverfront
634 Julia St., (504) 218-8043; eatlacasita.com
In the suddenly crowded field for downtown Mexican restaurants, this taqueria fills a middle-ground niche — inexpensive and accessible, but still full-service and accommodating. The small menu has large, well-composed tacos (try the brisket under a cap of broiled cheese) and a long list of tequila if you’ve shopped up the appetite for a cocktail. During the lengthy happy hour (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.), basic tacos are $2 and drink deals abound.
219 N. Peters St., New Orleans, (504) 525-4111; saintlawrencenola.com
Named for the patron saint of cooks, St. Lawrence has a view of the Shops at Canal Place across the street and a menu of gastropub staples like gourmet cheese fries (in this case drenched in a tasso and chicken gravy), wings (with goat cheese ranch dressing) and fish and chips. The swirling daiquiri machines dispense frozen versions of classic cocktails, including a light Pimm’s Cup.
The French Market
1100 N. Peters St., frenchmarket.org
While the flea market is a reliable source for stocking stuffers and small gifts, the food stands and dining counters can offer surprisingly satisfying quick bites, from an open-air oyster bar at J’s Seafood Dock to gluten-free gumbo at Meals From the Heart Café.
Gretna, near the Oakwood Center
349 Whitney Ave., Gretna, (504) 366-2489; kimsonnola.com
Practically on the doorstep of the Oakwood Center, the menu of Chinese-American and Vietnamese dishes goes on for days, covering both the standards and house specialties. Salt-baked dishes (try the squid or tofu to start) are not salty nor baked, but instead fried and covered with black pepper. The pho is restorative, and the Polynesian cocktail list makes for a fun round of throwback drinks.
615 Kepler St., Gretna, (504) 365-1225; dawabbit.net
A few blocks away, this casual cafe (also known as “Home of Da Wabbit”) is worth a detour for down-home New Orleans flavor and a few surprises. The hamburger steak and fried seafood are done to spec, but the smoked chicken plate and frog legs Provencal add different options across the menu.
New Orleans, Magazine Street
4128 Magazine St., (504) 304-3667; baierougenola.com
Bistro-style dishes at cafe prices makes this a creative and easy-going eatery. Start with the brie fries, which are hand-cut and enrobed with velvety, fonduelike cheese sauce. The burger and pork debris sandwich are each solid, and you can go a little bigger with entrees like shrimp and risotto or grilled fish.
Noodle & Pie
741 State St., (504) 252-9431; noodleandpie.com
This colorful, irreverent eatery offers the unlikely combination of Asian noodle dishes and good ole American pie. Ramen noodle soups will make you forget the dorm room staple with their deeply flavorful and restorative broths, and the kitchen continues with an array of distinctive flavors as small plates or shareable platters.
4933 Magazine St., (504) 301-4978; pizzadomenica.com
Worth a visit anytime; tap the bargain deal at this combination pizzeria and Italian tavern by coming for happy hour. From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. daily, it brings half-price pizzas and varying drink deals.