“How far is it?” I asked Laura, the easy-going, pretty blond bartender at Johnny White’s Corner Pub in New Orleans.
After a solid day of walking up and down every street in the French Quarter (it’s about 24,000 steps in case you track those sorts of things), I plopped down on a stool in front of her to get off my feet and wet my whistle.
While Laura was pouring me a Strawberry Harvest Ale, a gift from the Abita salesman sitting to my right, I had asked her where I should go to get a taste of something really special, something only locals know about.
She thought about it for minute, and said “Liuzza’s, By The Track. They have a BBQ shrimp po’boy that’s not like any other, but I have to warn you, it’s rich. Really rich.”
That’s OK, I can handle rich, but perhaps I should walk to the house of richness to offset some of the calories.
Secretly, I was hoping it was far enough to burn substantial calories, but not too far to reach by foot. I was without wheels and didn’t want to bother with cabs or buses.
Laura said she thought it might be 5 miles, give or take. Abita sales guy thought I shouldn’t walk there, especially alone — too dicey.
Laura rolled her eyes and said it was perfectly safe — especially in broad daylight.
“Just go straight up Esplanade Avenue until you get to the corner with a Washateria. Turn right there, and it’s down the street on the right.”
Who calls Laundromats “Washaterias?” Anyway, there Liuzza’s was, just down the street from the washateria, only a couple blocks from the race track.
That race track, by the way, is where the annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is held (this year’s April 26-May 5 headliners are Billy Joel, John Mayer & Fleetwood Mac.)
It’s not much to look at from the outside, but that, to me, is generally a good sign, especially in New Orleans.
The inside is cozy and tidy, with all kinds of paraphernalia relating to horse racing, from old black-and-white photos to the flat screen TV tuned to … horse racing.
Even the statute by the door is a reminder that this place lives and dies by the race track.
I’m sure the rest of the menu is fine and dandy, but that BBQ shrimp po’boy, the house specialty, is something to bet on.
A pan-toasted “pistolette” (about half the size of a baguette) is cut in half and the soft bread on the inside is torn out to make room for a heaping portion of New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp.
What’s New Orleans-style BBQ shrimp? It’s got nothing to do with smoking or grilling or with BBQ sauce as we know it. This is a thing all unto itself.
Fresh, gulf shrimp is sautéed in a peppery, garlicky butter “gravy” enhanced with a splash of soy (generally it’s Worcestershire sauce, but in Liuzza’s case, it’s just soy).
From our hotel in the French Quarter, Liuzza’s was a three-and-some-change-mile walk. Round trip, I walked close to seven miles.
And I’d gladly do it again for another shot at this insanely delicious, knife-and-fork specialty of Liuzza’s By The Track.
BBQ Shrimp po’boy ($14.95)
Liuzza’s By The Track
1518 N. Lopez, New Orleans