It’s nice to see the revival of St. Roch Market, one of the great New Orleans neighborhood markets. For years I’ve passed by this place on St. Claude Avenue and it’s been all boarded up, with paint peeling and windows broken. It looked like a nice building that was just going to waste. It’s been in a seedy, low-rent neighborhood with not much going on. And after Hurricane Katrina it seemed to look even worse.
A Fun Saturday Afternoon at Newly Refurbished St. Roch Market in New Orleans
But since that huge storm that brought with it a lot of flooding, misery and destruction there has been a great rejuvenation of the area, new buildings going up, old buildings being bought and renovated, new business coming in. And finally the St. Roch Market, originally built in 1875, has been refurbished and re-opened. And let me tell you it’s a great, fun place to go.
One Saturday a friend of mine and I decided to take a ride out to the other side of town and check this place out. It was easy parking in the free lot right next door. The outside of the building is freshly painted, repaired and gleaming with big windows.
As we walked in those big windows fill the space with tons of light and gives it a really upscale, upbeat, fresh, happy feeling to the place. With walkways on either side of columns that line the center of the building, food counters line the walls.
Small tables for eating and chatting are scattered around the center columns. The day we went the place was abuzz with activity. It so happened it was the day of the Red Dress Run and several visitors where attired appropriately.
There were two guys all decked out and I thought how nice they look and it did not seem strange at all to see them wearing red dresses. After all this is New Orleans. Then I remembered, oh yeah, this is Red Dress Run day. Right.
Our Brief Rapast
I got a dish from the Koreole counter, a fusion of Creole and Korean food served up by a Korean lady and her creole husband. I got the Bim Bim Bowl, a mixture of rice and chicken and other veggies, seasoned and spiced to perfection. In fact, just writing about it makes me hungry.
I sat at one of tables and ate while my friend was getting his own meal at another counter. I didn’t pay much attention to what he got since what I had was so good I was only focused on nibbling every last little teeny morsel of delicious chicken off the bones.
A World of Ersters
After we’d finished out meal we moseyed over to the oyster bar of the Curious Oyster Company where they were serving not only freshly shucked oysters from the gulf but from several other places around the country as well. We ordered a dozen gulf oysters that we seasoned only with some lemon juice.
I am not one to mix up a little sauce of tobacco, ketchup and horseradish that a lot of folks like to do. To me it only covers up the oyster flavor, you can’t really appreciate the oystery nuance with all that stuff all over it. I just like to eat it raw raw.
After we slurped those down our friendly shucker, a handsome black fella who said he’d been shucking since he was 18 and with powerful Popeye-like forearms to prove it, had us sample oysters from around the country. These were from New York, California, Washington State, and the Atlantic coast. Who would’ve thought oysters could taste so different. Wow. And because they have to fly them in fresh the price is kinda hefty, the real reason we originally went for the local oysters.
But after tasting these “foreign” oysters with their strange aftertastes, some oily-tasting, some with a strange bitterness, I realized that we here in the south have the best oysters in the whole country. Ours are smooth-tasting and mild with just the right kind of briny-ness.
These other oysters seem to have a kind of “ick” factor to them. I feel sorry for these people in other parts of the country who have to eat them. I remember when I lived in the Pacific Northwest and would occasionally have their oysters. At first I was impressed with the massive size, which made me think I was getting a bargain. But being able to compare them side by side with a gulf oyster, well, there is no comparison. The gulf oyster wins hands down.
After we’d had our fill of oysters we gave our shucker a nice tip and a fist bump then headed over to the butcher counter and bought some freshly-made hog’s head cheese. I ask the woman behind the counter how was business and she said it was OK, just making enough to pay for the booth.
Then I asked her how much she was paying a month to rent the space. I don’t remember what she told me but I remember that I thought it was exorbitant and told her so. At the grocery counter at the door they were selling watermelon and other produce for ridiculously high prices. Who would buy such things when you could go a few blocks to the supermarket and get it a lot cheaper?
St. Roch is owned by the city, so I don’t know why they think they have to have such high rents. Seems counter-intuitive.
Anyway, we had a great couple hours there at St. Roch Market. Glad it’s come back, glad it’s again one of our great New Orleans markets. We’ll have to revisit. I’ll definitely get the Bim Bim Bowl again, maybe this time I’ll get two.