On a recent weekday visit, Liuzza’s by the Track is relatively quiet. The door opens every few moments as a group of guys or a family walks in for lunch, and the TV over the bar replays more nonsense from the talking heads about the Saints’ upcoming suspension-filled season. Soon, these doors will rip open continuously, the sound of Jazz Fest growing as the day turns into night. For years, Liuzza’s by the Track has been the unofficial place to either begin or end your heritage pilgrimage, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit at other times of the year beside the last week of April and first week of May.
Despite its fame, the Bloody Mary is often served too thick, too spicy and not cold enough. At Liuzza’s by the Track, the Bloody Mary is akin to gazpacho. Jet cold and loaded with citrus while avoiding extreme acidity, there may be no finer example in all the world of the mood-changing power of a pre-noon cocktail. Settle in with a cup of gumbo in which sautéed shrimp ride shotgun in a thin, flavorful broth loaded with herbs and fat rounds of sausage. If the etouffée is on offer, go for a bowl. You’ll spend the rest of the day figuring out how they balance a buttery sauce and spice so perfectly.
Of course there are po-boys. The two house specialties—the “breathtaking beef” and the BBQ shrimp—are, surprisingly, not priorities. The former lacks the desired potent punch from horseradish; the latter mistakes the shrimp-peeling fun of the classic dish for actual work to its detriment. Don’t let this deter you from a very respectable version of the classic roast beef po-boy, with tender beef bathed in just enough gravy to mandate asking for another napkin but not enough to necessitate a bath. For the contrarian in your party, the Reuben makes a nice substitute with a thick layer of corned beef swathed in Russian dressing and melted Swiss cheese.
The kitchen excels in the fryolated arts. French fries are cut in house, and a recurring special of fried eggplant batons topped with powdered sugar is worth ordering whenever available. But no matter what dish graces your table, make sure to order a Bloody Mary for the road.
1518 N. Lopez St. (504) 218-7888. Monday – Saturday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.