Reflection: Undertow in The Big Easy

28 Oct

New Orleans Starbucks

Tennessee Williams once said: “America has only three cities: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. Everywhere else is Cleveland.”

While I’ve never actually seen Cleveland, I feel like I’ve spent enough time in the ‘Clevelands’ of the USA. And after this weekend, I’m proud to announce I’ve been to Tennessee’s top three cities and I know exactly what he meant.

New Orleans — “The Big Easy” — is such an interesting city. It’s the liberal south. Yes, it does exist! The past few days I’ve stayed both in a small New Orleans suburb called Houma and then the rest of the weekend in The French Quarter. Obviously, I had to sample the Starbucks in both cities, and I must admit, it is nice to be back in a city of large, spacious coffee houses.

At the Starbucks in Houma, I spent some quality time with one of the baristas. She even made my boyfriend and me undertows. Don’t know what that is? Check out the picture below and then ask your local barista. And if they don’t know what that means, then they haven’t been in the game long enough.

Starbucks Undertow

An undertow is a 3-layered drink served in a small shot glass. The bottom layer is milk, the middle is a flavored syrup of your choice, and a shot of espresso is purer overtop. You take it like you would a shot of whiskey. Fast! And just when you think the espresso is going to burn your tongue, the milk rushes in with the syrup and leaves you with this amazing sensation of bitter hot and sweet cold. If you’ve never had one, I insist you try it. Just find a barista who knows what they’re doing.

By Friday afternoon we were in the French Quarter. And after a night on the town — I had no idea you could openly drink in the streets of the city! — I had to see what an authentic New Orleans Starbucks was like. I stumbled upon the Starbucks on the corner of Canal & St Charles and was very happy with what I found. Not only was it large, but it was adorned with tons of New Orleans themed decor such as the jazz instrument light fixture and the pirate ship and mermaid wall painting. The building also had one of those typical New Orleans balconies — but being mid-afternoon there were no beads to be caught.

All in all, I really enjoyed the trip. The people were generally friendly and the baristas had that southern charm and patience that you just don’t get in the north — and sometimes simply can’t provide in NYC. No, I don’t miss certain cultural aspects of the south, but the ability to be leisurely every once and a while was a nice reminder of what I left when I moved to New York.


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