I’ve never really been one to hit up a happy hour. Even when I was a freshman at Tulane I always managed to find something else to do on Friday afternoons while everyone else flocked to the Boot, taking advantage of the two for one specials by drinking their weight in cheap beer and watered down whiskey and cokes. I always made my way to the Boot eventually, just much later than 4 p.m., and it usually involved the consumption of Dough Bowl pizza. Since then, I have yet to find a happy hour worth being happy over, until now.
Last Thursday, in celebration of sunny weather (I swear New Orleans has felt more like Seattle the past couple of weeks) my girlfriends from work and I made our way to John Besh’s The American Sector for some half priced drinks and 75 cent sliders. Located on Magazine Street in the Warehouse District, The American Sector is the official restaurant of the World War II Museum, bringing reinvented comfort food classics to the table with an effortless, yet chic presentation. Dishes such as meatloaf, spaghetti and meatballs, and chicken and dumplings are recreated by Chef Besh to reflect his unique Southern style and appreciation for originality.
Happy hour is everyday from 3 to 6 p.m. and includes half priced cocktails, draft beer, and wine along with their smaller, 75 cent version of the popular “Sloppy Joe” sandwich. These “sliders” feature tender short rib meat, pulled and piled atop an onion Kaiser roll with lettuce, tomato, and some fried onions for an added depth of flavor and salty crunch. One could easily make a meal out of three or four of these 4-bite baby sandwiches, but I was determined to try some other things on the menu. The Crabmeat Pies sounded too good to pass up, so we got those and I also ordered the Purple Hull Pea Salad with hog’s head cheese. The pies were spicy and tasted just fine, but I was a little disappointed with the amount of crabmeat filling in each one. Let’s just say that their puffiness is slightly misleading. I asked the waitress to describe the hull pea salad before I ordered it, considering I had heard that many of the dishes at American Sector were not exactly what you would imagine them to be. She informed me that it wasn’t your regular salad with lettuce, but instead featured a bed of vinaigrette soaked peas which acted as the base for the generous piece of fried hog’s head cheese that came topped with a perfectly poached egg. My curiosity was fueled by the fact that I had never had hog’s head cheese before and of course, when presented with the opportunity to try it, I had to go all in. I was pleasantly surprised by its meaty texture, when I was expecting more of a gelatinous, pate-like consistency. The hull peas, in all of their delicate and earthy splendor, paired well with the buttery egg and the fried exterior of the hog’s head cheese, but not enough to get me to order it again. Although having my curiosity satisfied, my enjoyment of this dish was not exuberant. Dessert came down to the Cupcake with Candied Bacon or the Peppermint Pattie, and we decided on the latter. The pattie came wrapped in cellophane tied with a little blue ribbon, which we unwrapped with joy and anticipation. I had read wonderful things about this dessert and with just one bite they were affirmed. Incredibly sweet and minty ice cream is sandwiched between two dark chocolate covered lace sugar cookies that are the definition of decadent. I urge John Besh to box these babies up and sell them in our local Rouses grocery stores. Please?
After managing to collectively order $8 worth of 75 cent sliders (don’t judge) and having a few specialty cocktails, we stepped out into the early evening sun, sporting full tummies and a slight buzz. Early afternoon drinking doesn’t usually sit well with me, as it often renders me useless for the rest of the day, but for once I relished in that 6 p.m. happiness that most New Orleanians have come to know and love.
Busy bartender, making drinks for Tom Fitzmorris & his crew, who were there doing a live broadcast