I was driving by the Grove and the Original Farmer's Market at Third and Fairfax, when the urge for an oyster po'boy from The Gumbo Pot struck. I hadn't had one of these in eons, almost for a year, in fact, since just after the opening of the Grove shopping mall. Not that I have much against the Grove, mind, it's just that the parking at the Farmer's Market has gotten oh-so-very-terrible despite the ginormous parking structure erected where Circus of the Stars used to be held. Not only are the old biddies in their giant Cadillacs in the open lot now, but so are the women who refuse to learn how to drive their Escalades, tourists who have no clue as to how to get to the parking structure, and the frustrated few who just want to run in, get lunch, and leave, but end up circling like vultures for any spot at all. Like me.
As I was making myself dizzy, going around in circles, all I could think of was the po'boy--a not-too-crusty white roll split in half, with some of the fluffy innards pulled out, and ever so lightly spread with mayonnaise, filled with a tumbling of tender shrimp deep-fried in a cajun-spiced breading, a fat squiggle of spicy remoulade, a hefty handful of romaine chiffonade, then topped with the thinnest of tomato and lemon slices. You press down on the sandwich half, bite through the freshly toasty bread, into the cool and crunchy salad, then down to the perfectly cooked shrimp that are crunchy, tender, sweet, and juicy. Aaaah. Add a side of sweet potato slaw or red potato salad, and a basket of sugar-dusted beignets, and you have no finer meal on the east side of the Market. Sorry, Du-Par's. Sorry, Tony's. Sorry, Charlie's.
After fifteen minutes and possibly $5's worth of gasoline later, I finally found a spot perfect for a runaway vehicle on Fairfax to come and slam into my car. No matter, I was famished. I went along the side entrance, only to find it haphazardly blocked with yellow caution tape. DO NOT USE THIS ENTRANCE!! Pray tell, why not?? I found the next three entrances similarly blocked, but managed to find one open by the stalls of fresh fruit (lovely mixed fruit bowls including starfruit and coconut!). Joyously, I skipped along to the Gumbo Pot, only to find it closed. Closed? At 12.30pm on a weekday? Unheard of, for a place that regularly entertains a line of customers that stretches to the steps of the World's Most Earnest Yet Horrific Display of Amateurish Oil Paintings. Not only closed, but there was that caution tape again, blocking off not only the Gumbo Pot, but Charlie's, Tony's, and the rest of the kiosks. In the corner is a man with a giant blowtorch, holding it to the floor, which is absent of the familiar chrome and formica'd patio tables and chairs. "CLOSED FOR RE-ASPHALTING", read a sign that I find. Drrrats.
Oh well. There's always Loteria, the taqueria, for soft corn tacos, filled with beautifully sauteed fresh zucchini and corn, smoky cochinita pibil (pulled pork), chargrilled chicken, or earthy mushrooms with crema, and served with minty green rice and soothing, stewy black beans. What the--? Also. Closed. Expletive deleted. And defeated. I would go get a quick sweet potato dug out from the wood fired barbecued pit at the Bryan's Pit Barbecue, but that is closed as well. What's left? I'd go to Kokomo, but I resist after that last encounter on the patio, which is decidedly lovely, but prone to be filled with self-important cigar smokers with attitude. Tusquella's is better than you would think a counter service seafood bar would be, but there are too many tourists right now. The Chinese place in the corner is not the same since they pulled down the bilingual menus in English and German. As I pass by The Refresher, a cute little Sixties throwback that only sells soft drinks (not even juice!), I come to Pampas Grill. Oh yes! I find its appearance a bit unappealing as it is buffet style, and sterile, but there is no fault with the food. A bit pricey, perhaps, as it is sold by the pound, but mostly worth it. The salad of palm hearts and tiny pear tomatoes is cool and sweet, the green salad is spring and alive. The butternut squash is meltingly tender and vividly tangerine in colour, and the plantains are faultless--crispy and brown on the outside, creamy and pale within. I choose the roasted chicken legs which are frenched and look like fat little quail. The meat has been marinated in olive oil, and predominantly salt and oregano, and it is succulent, tender and flavourful. I would eat it here at the Market amongst the drying asphalt, but as I walk to find a table I realize that there's a reason for the renovation. The asphalt seems to be caving in under my feet, or is that my imagination? It is in rather poor shape, isn't it? Oh well. Time to head back to work anyway.