Solo travel, Cheap Eats and the Blues Highway
As I solo travel I find eating more of a necessity than a social event – so cheap is good. Healthy and cheap is better. Healthy, fun and cheap is the best.
On my trip from Chicago to Memphis, Jackson and finally New Orleans, I scouted out the best healthy, fun and cheap eats I could find. Here are my recommendations: city by city.
Solo Travel in Chicago
There are so many options in Chicago. When I asked around, Greektown came up a number of times but my wanderings didn’t take me there. They did, however, take me to a couple of great, inexpensive culinary options in the downtown area.
On the 7th floor of Macy’s on Washington St. is Frontera Fresco by award-winning chef-restaurateur, cookbook author, and television personality Rick Bayless. It offers Central Mexican cuisine using naturally raised meats, fresh ingredients and guacamole made every few hours. One person can easily eat great food for $10.
In good weather, my preference would be to gather up food for a picnic at Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand and take it, along with a discreet bottle of wine, to Millennium park. For less than $30 I filled my basket with a variety of fresh and locally made food that would easily do me for two meals. Add a free concert at the amazing Ghery designed bandstand in the park, and you have a great evening.
Solo Travel in Memphis
This is a city known for barbeque and fried foods. It’s also a place where the tourist and residential sections are quite separate so finding interesting, cheap places to eat was a bit of a challenge. Stopping into an architectural firm that would “surely know the city” was my saving grace. They sent me to the Cooper-Young area.
I did end up having barbeque after all but it was on a bun in the form of a Memphis sandwich with cucumber salad on the side. I ate at Soul Fish, a very basic restaurant where the menu barely breaks the $10 mark. But the place has color and was hopping with locals. Plus the food was so good I virtually wolfed it down. For $13.04, I got a lot of flavor.
If you still have room and would like to kick it up a notch, I would recommend going to the Beauty Shop just down the road in the heart of Cooper-Young for drinks, coffee and dessert. An upscale, whimsical restaurant with a friendly bartender; you can’t go wrong.
Solo Travel in Jackson
The Mayflower Café is where I had my first taste of gumbo in the south. I enjoyed it with my new friend from the Old Capitol Museum who offered to show me around for the afternoon. The Mayflower has been owned by the same family since 1935. It’s the real thing – a classic diner in downtown – and a good bet for quality cheap eats in Jackson.
Another, more current option is the High Noon Café in the up and coming Fondren area of Jackson. It’s only open for lunch so plan your day accordingly and enjoy delicious vegetarian fare in a relaxed atmosphere. After lunch, wander around the shops in the area. And don’t miss the Duling School – a primary school that has been modified for commercial shopping. Very interesting.
Solo Travel in New Orleans
And then there’s New Orleans where food is a way of life. I have two cheap and cheerful recommendations.
For brunch or lunch, take the St. Charles streetcar to Riverbend and go to The Camellia Grill (est. 1946) – great fun and full of locals. And I mean full. I squeezed into the only seat available at the counter and introduced myself to Richard who was sitting on my left. “So what am I having”, I asked him. After he stopped laughing, he ordered me a chilli-cheese omelette and mocha freeze. Healthy? Well, not really. Good? Very. Large? Too. But it was all worth it.
At the other end of the spectrum I have a wonderful dinner suggestion for you. How about dinner, drinks and entertainment for under $30 per person. Not bad. Try Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta Hotel on Bourbon St. It offers fabulous jazz in an elegant atmosphere. (A chance to dress up a little though it’s not necessary.) I sat at the bar and had the Blue Crab appetiser and two drinks while enjoying Bob French and the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band. A cheap experience that doesn’t feel cheap at all.
So go ahead. Solo down travel the Blues Highway, eat lots and don’t break the bank. It can be done cheap and well.