Plenty of us plan our days around food, fixating on that upcoming lunch or what’s for dinner. Since I cover dining and food culture for a living, this is actually part of my job description.
Still, for anyone, sometimes the workday gets away from the plan. You didn’t pack a lunch, you need to eat and wherever you land must be fast, and it must be close by.
These are the sort of places that don’t attract much notice, never mind media coverage. But quietly, steadily they become part of your lifestyle, and the people behind the counter or at the register can become as much a part of your day as some of your coworkers. I’ve noticed this play out at just about every job I’ve had in my career – at the little sandwich shops, delis, noodle houses and cafés along the way.
You probably have your own circuit of unassuming but indispensable standbys. Today, I’m sharing a bit of overdue gratitude for a few mine because, well, my orbit of fast, at-hand workday options has just changed.
For the past two years, I worked from a downtown New Orleans high-rise by the corner of Gravier and O’Keefe. Recently our office moved. It wasn’t a huge distance, just about a mile. But for the purposes of a quick-hit, beat-the-clock lunch, it’s a whole different neighborhood. At our old office, the spots that bailed me out were right on our doorstep.
Just across the street, it was G&O Food Company, a counter-service cafe for proper coffee, carefully composed salads and hearty sandwiches on good crusty bread and plate-sized chocolate chip cookies for the times when a plate-sized chocolate chip cookie is the only reasonable answer for the day.
A few steps away, there’s Reuben’s Soup & Sandwich Company. Yes, there are multiple eateries called “companies” in the CBD. But anyway, this particular one would call my name when a stacked deli sandwich, a quick half of a muffuletta or a bowl of gumbo was in order.
From the other side of our former address, you’d immediately see Cleo’s Mediterranean Cuisine and Grocery, where the open kitchen prepares falafel platters and shawarma and the retail racks stock a multilingual array of Euro-brand candy bars. It’s the little touches, like the extra care in the oil-topped whips of hummus and baba ghanouj, that make a quick lunch here feel a bit more civilized.
And then there’s a standby not even visible from the street. Do’s Café is just a cubby within the corridors of our old office building, like a micro convenience store with a little deli counter. My go-to always was the spicy chicken salad po-boy, a creamy, legitimately fiery concoction under a crisp loaf. This cost less than a cup of coffee at some fancy cafes.
Do’s is unremarkable, unless you happen to pass it every day. In that case, the aroma of warm crabmeat in the gumbo pot wafting down the hall and the good-morning smiles of the guys inside assembling breakfast sandwiches become part of the weekday rhythm.
As times change, good food memories have a way of tagging along, even the ones we're too busy to notice taking shape.
935 Gravier St., 504-267-7088
Reuben’s Soup & Sandwich Co.
920 Gravier St., 504-373-6687
165 University Place, 504-522-4504
1010 Common St., 504-525-2460