NEW ORLEANS — Attention political professionals, journalists and anyone else traveling beyond the Beltway this election season: When in doubt, eat where the district director suggests.
In the case of the Crescent City, even a frequent visitor would benefit from the advice of Enix Smith, district director for Louisiana Democratic Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, who dished on his go-to plates.
Among the best sampled from Smith's list was food far from the madding crowd: fried chicken wings at Manchu. A purple block building across from the I-10 overpass in Treme, Manchu's signage states: "Food Store PH 947-5507 Chinese Food Beer Groceries Liquor Po Boys Sea Food Plates American Food Fried Chicken Wings." It's a place easy to drive past. Don't be fooled.
The wings were a delight and a deal: Crispy, flaky batter surrounding manageably sized snacks. Unpretentious, tasty and cheap. Digging a little deeper into the food world revealed a shout-out for Manchu from "Eat Dat," a recent book by Michael Murphy. The author assembles a panel of city food judges to rank dishes, restaurants and experiences and invites the reader to compare his picks to theirs. Under "Where to Get The Best Fried Chicken," Manchu ranked at No. 7, in close company with esteemed establishments Dooky Chase's and Willa Mae's Scotch House.
Another highlight? Charbroiled oysters from Drago's, a combination of flame-broiled oysters with an industrial-sized portion of Parmesan cheese, butter, garlic and parsley. It's a unique, incredible mouthful.
Alas, only so many meals can fit in a day. The rest of Smith's list casts a wide net, and includes way-off-the-beaten path gems such as Castnet Seafood's sausage on a bun. So those of you covering the Senate race down there, or working it, don't be afraid to venture beyond Café du Monde and Commander's Palace. In Richmond's words, "When folks come to visit our city they definitely do not leave hungry."