Willa Jean in New Orleans

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A place renowned for biscuits? You sold me. This past July I went to New Orleans for a bachelorette weekend – and ate (and sweat) a lot. Sure we did a lot of sightseeing as well, but when you’re going to the South, you better eat all you can, especially in a foodie mecca like NOLA. We started our adventure at Willa Jean for brunch.

Willa Jean
611 O’Keefe Avenue | New Orleans, Louisiana 70113
www.willajean.com/

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Willa Jean was at the top of my list after seeing it on several travel and food sites, and I was not disappointed by my decision. The front of the shop has a bunch of baked goods that you can pick up or order at your table. The specials rotate each day, so there’s always something new, such as these glorious Nutella buns.

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We made a brunch reservation for late Friday morning, right at the tail end of their brunch me28nu – though they have lunch and dinner as well. We were a large group, but luckily it wasn’t terribly busy so it was nice to have our section of the restaurant to ourselves. Along with their bakery specials, Willa Jean serves a special blend of Intellgentsia Coffee. And of course, because it’s New Orleans, they have a bar and dranks – like frosé y’all! The service is really friendly, which I truly think is Southern hospitality. It’s not a stereotype, you guys.

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I started out with a simple latte, even though it was disgustingly muggy and hot outside. I like that cozy feeling of drinking something warm out of a mug. I also needed a pick me up after catching a flight straight after work and only getting three hours of sleep. Their Intellgentsia blend is really smooth and I liked that it wasn’t very bitter. But then, I also like my coffee with a lot of milk (or half and half) and a splash of coffee, heh.

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This is one of their morning snacks: summer berries, cream, granola, and elderflowers. Doesn’t it look (almost) too pretty to eat? This felt like the epitome of summer with the colorful flowers. The cream was fresh, thick, and creamy. I think that makes all the difference with granola!

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Their avocado toast is next level. It was honestly delicious – and it was the toast that made it, in my opinion. I believe they make it in house, judging from the bread on display at the front of the store. This one had poached eggs, avocado, arugula, beets, and sea salt. It was a great balance of salty, bitter, and creamy.

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Now, onto the main reason I came to Willa Jean. I got biscuits with fried chicken and Tabasco honey. I wish my picture displayed this a little better, but underneath the giant biscuit, drizzled (more like drenched) with Tabasco honey, was a giant piece of fried chicken. It was lit, you guys. The fried chicken was juicy and tender, the biscuits were thick and fluffy, and it was harmonious with the heat of the Tabasco and the sweetness of the honey. Such balance.

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And finally, there was the brisket, potatoes, cipollini onions, and fried eggs. New Orleans knows how to do brisket – it was sliced perfectly, while being tender and flavorful. The potatoes were also really good – I really don’t know how you can mess up potatoes though. There was also a side of cheesy grits, though my picture didn’t turn out great. It was my first time having real grits, and what better place than in the South? It’s pretty good – I love the creaminess of it since I’m a fan of creamy oatmeal. I don’t think I could’ve eaten the large bowl that it was portioned into since the taste became a lot for me between the cheese and corn. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste?

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I’m honestly in love with the interior of Willa Jean. From their brick walls to their whisk light fixtures, I want every bit of it. I think this is the perfect place to sink into the eclectic Southern vibe of New Orleans and have a comforting meal before walking through the streets of the city.

Iman

I’m Bay Area born and bred, and hella proud of it. I grew up in the middle of the Bay Area near the Peninsula, spent the first half of my college years in the South Bay, and the latter in the East Bay. Living in the Bay Area has given me the opportunities to meet people from all backgrounds, and try their amazing and unique foods, too. Growing up in a Pakistani family, food is an essential part of our culture. Whether it’s making sure to have a fresh pot of Chai ready to serve guests or ensuring that they have had seconds so they eat thirds, food is central to our family and social lives. With immigrant parents, that extended to trying out new and unknown cuisines that simply aren’t in Pakistan. While I remember trying to copy my mom as a kid, trying to make my own perfectly round little rotis, I never became interested in cooking. I was more interested in reading, graphic design, and making my own websites. I originally started Bay Food in 2010 simply as a way for me to dump all of my food photos during my first year in college. This was before Instagram became a thing and everyone would constantly share what they’re eating on Facebook. It evolved into writing reviews, showcasing other people’s photos, and my own food experiments and recipes while still exploring what the vast Bay Area has to offer. Three weeks before I was set to graduate from college, I went into cardiac arrest in April 2013, which sped up my process to putting myself onto the heart transplant list. I’ve dealt with a heart condition for my whole life, after going into heart failure at seven months old. As a result of that incident, I had a pacemaker for a year while I waited to improve my physical condition to be the strongest I could be for the transplant process. This also meant lifestyle changes, including my diet. This is reflected in how I focus on home cooking more than I used to. I try to make lower sodium and heart healthy foods that still maintain bold and bright flavors that I’m used to from my Pakistani upbringing. Thankfully, I received a heart in April 2014 at the age of 23, just a short four and a half months after being placed on the list. Onward to becoming a functioning adult that can stay healthy and enjoy a lifetime of burritos! When I’m not eating delicious food, I watch far too much TV for my own good, spend too many hours on the internet looking at clothes and Wikipedia, laugh a little too hard at celebrity gossip, and sleep at the worst times possible. I’m looking forward to showcasing the wide array of food the whole Bay Area has to offer, and some of my own creations too!

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