Jazz Fest is seven days of endless music, over 130 craft vendors and, more importantly, 70 food booths across 5 main different areas. None of the food I’ve had at Jazz Fest has been bad, but you still need to maximize the room in your stomach and your Festing dollars. These are the favorites from each area (check the map here):
FOOD AREA 1
Food Area 1 is easily the largest collection of food vendors, so plan accordingly.
Panorama Foods: The crawfish bread and the sausage & jalapeno bread are consistently crowd favorites. While both are full of cheesey, gooey tastiness, in more recent years they seem to be coasting on reputation alone. Of the two, I’ve found the sausage and Jalapeno bread to be a better buy, I usually buy one through six days hoping it will reclaim its former glory and always end up being a little sad at what else could have been for my fistful of wrinkled dollars (like another Love at First Bite cochon de lait po-boy).
Love at First Bite: A veritable to-die-for cochon de lait po boy. Love at First Bite hides the fixings under the pork to ensure nothing, including the great flavor, slips out. If you missed this at French Quarter Fest, you can’t pass it up again.
Vaucresson Sausage: A New Orleans fixture since 1899 and an original vendor of pretty much all of New Orleans’ great festivals, Vaucresson has seen it all. While the crawfish sausage is great, the Creole Hot Sausage Po Boy is their standout. Cupcake disagrees and prefers the Crawfish. Luckily for us, we buy both and share so everyone wins. I’m a huge fan of Vaucresson and their products, but they are at all the big festivals. If you’re local and have some choices to make, you can skip it. If you’ve never had one before, trade one $35 Jazz Fest beer (or whatever usurious price they charge now) for a sausage. YOu’ll be glad you did.
Mrs. Linda’s Catering: Most people will tell you line up for the Ya Ka Mein, and they’re not wrong, but for some reason I have a soft spot in my heart for the fried pork chop sandwich. Since it is nothing more than a fried pork chop slapped between two pieces of white bread, it isn’t going to win any culinary beauty contests. But I still find it a decent bite, particularly if you’ve been a tad over served.
FOOD AREA 2
Food Area 2 is the other large food vendor collection at the Fairgrounds. Always easy to get to on your way to Congo Square or the back of the Acura Stage crowd.
Conseco’s Markets: The Cuban sandwich is as simple as it gets. At first, I thought it might be a little too simple, but then I took a bite. In this case, simple means simply delicious. I really enjoy Cuban sandwiches, and this one is no exception. This is definitely one of my must haves at Jazz Fest.
Galley Seafood: People seem to love the soft shell crab po-boy (pictured above), but I’ve never been that in to them (here or otherwise), I much prefer the catfish.
Kajun Kettle Foods, Inc.: Crawfish Monica is another one of those Jazz Fest icons that doesn’t make much sense to me. Jazz Fest is hot, there’s usually a lot of beer involved. Creamy pasta dishes just don’t call to me.
Cafe Reconcile: Easily the biggest draw for the Congo Square group, the strawberry lemonade might not technically be food, but on a hot Fest day it will cool you down.
The Heritage Square food booths seem to be the ones I remember about at the end of the day, as I retreat to the sun safe tents which surround them. At that point, my stomach is running low on space, but I always manage to fit in one stop.
Ba Mien Vietnamese Cuisine: Ba Mien is usually that one stop, but it typically has a pretty decent sized line. While I normally can’t stand lines, I use the time to decide between the spring roll or the Bun (Vermicelli w/ Shrimp or Beef).
One of the few remaining Fest secrets is the Kid’s Food Area. There aren’t many vendors, but its secluded location means it’s likely you’re not going to be facing huge crowds. As long as you can handle the hordes of children, you’re golden.
Lil’s BBQ (also available in food area 1): The BBQ chicken sandwich will knock out your hunger pains, but the jazzy cupcakes will satisfy your sweet tooth. That you can usually get the two as a combo makes the deal sweeter.