I ride the Broad bus to work almost every day, but had never ridden all the way to the end of the line in eastern New Orleans until yesterday. There's so much to see on that bus line! I broke language barriers, was damn near arrested, honked and cat-called at way too many times on Chef Highway (Hello, I'm not "working" the highway!) and even saw a drug deal involving a guy who had been on the bus with me earlier. Small world, eh!
By the way, sorry this is a little late. It's been really busy in Gambitland and the Broad bus line is super long.
The Broad bus line is probably the longest bus line in New Orleans, starting at S. Broad and Washington and ending at Michoud and Expedition, going along Broad as it turns into Gentilly Blvd. and then Chef Menteur Hwy. Since I ride this bus almost daily, I have a few tips:
1. With it being such a long route, it might be a little—or a lot—late sometimes. If you don't have a map and schedule of the route (available on buses or at the RTA's HQ at 2817 Canal St.), you can call 248-3900 or check online at Norta.com for the most updated information. There are GPS-enabled monitors which provide schedule information at some stops, but many of these are broken or inaccurate, so I wouldn't count on them.
2. You should avoid crowded bus stops (like S. Broad and Canal going toward eastern New Orleans) when possible, because you'll probably have no seat if you get on with the crowd. Walk to the bus stop right before the crowded one (like S. Broad and Banks) to secure a seat—and your sanity.
Going from Uptown to the East, I stopped at McHardy's Chicken and Fixin' (1458 N. Broad Ave., 949-0000; www.mchardyschicken.com), The Hucklebuck Man on N. Broad near St. Bernard (1722 N. Broad Ave.), Restaurante Latin (8001 Chef Menteur Hwy., Suite 101, 600-3003), Ly's Supermarket (14401 Peltier Dr., Suite 130, 254-4111), Minh Canh Supermarket (4661 Alcee Fortier Blvd, 253-9840), and Bao An Duong (4609 Alcee Fortier Blvd., 254-4820).
While on the bus, I had plenty of "ain't dere no more" moments, passing by what used to be the House of Champions on N. Broad near Orleans and Skate Country on Chef near Bullard, and I even thought about my family's "ain't dere no more" moments passing by what used to be the Dixiana Bakery on N. Broad near St. Bernard.
So I wouldn't waste time stopping at every place that caught my eye along the route, I rode from beginning to end, taking pictures along the way. The 6-year-old boy in me was so excited when the bus went over train tracks and down Old Gentilly Rd., passing by the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility and the Folgers Plant! And I'm sure it's psychological, but the coffee smell really gave me an energy boost.
Although I informed the bus driver I was doing something for work and although the RTA's Photo and Video Policy states, "Here at the New Orleans RTA, we are proud of our city and our transit system. You are welcome to take pictures and video of the system and of the sights you see when riding it," the driver still fussed at me, asking, "Do [sic] the R-uhTA know about this? I don't wanna get in trouble," and distracted me from taking pictures of the garden outside of Mary Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church on Dwyer. Oh well. It was time for me to get off the bus anyway.
My first stop was to Ly's Supermarket. I asked the lady at the counter if I could take pictures for work, but she didn't speak much English and was understandably confused. I smiled and pointed to my camera and a copy of Gambit. She smiled back, I thanked her, then started taking pictures and jotting notes. She started yelling at me, "What you doing, you?! Why you take picture?!" and I again tried explaining to her what I was doing, smiling the whole time, and figured I'd just walk around the store and jot notes. She started yelling at me in Vietnamese and got on the phone, I'm guessing to call for backup. Curly-haired girls in floral, tiered sundresses with tote bags are apparently more threatening than I thought. Since I didn't feel like talking to police, I left.
On the way to Minh Canh Supermarket, I had to avoid two huge unleashed dogs, so I crossed the street, only to be bothered by a man in a pick-up who felt the need to come out and say hello. I told him my name was Maria (the fake name I always use), was cordial and crossed the street to my destination. Minh Canh smelled like pho (yum!) and was full of fresh produce and interesting snacks—I remember bringing my Mom there once to get a jar of lychee jelly cups after Walmart stopped carrying them. Everyone was too busy talking to notice me taking pictures, which was fine with me.
After that I meandered into a few places, seeing the pick-up guy again. Of course I forgot I told him my name was Maria. D'oh! At this place on the strip which sells fabric, I witnessed a drug deal involving a guy who was on the bus with me earlier—pills. When I heard the guy I was on the bus with telling the guy, "It'd better all be there, I know that!" I quickly but quietly left.
More meandering led me to Bao An Duong, an apothecary full of Vietnamese and Chinese herbs and salves (and gift items too). While there, a man walked in, raised up his shirt and told the pharmacist what ailed him. The pharmacist then started gathering products for him, while the customer told me a story about a former client: A man came in after being diagnosed with lung cancer, started taking the products prescribed to him at Bao An Duong, and when he went back to his doctor, the cancer was gone. Just know that the pharmacist at Bao An Duong doesn't speak much English, so you might want to have someone translate for you.
(back on the bus)
On the way from Uptown, I wanted to stop at La Prieta, a Latin supermarket, and Restaurante Latin. After pulling on doors, I discovered La Prieta was closed. However, Restaurante Latin was open. The owners are from Honduras, and the restaurant has only been open for a month. They make their own tortillas, bread and horchata, and they tell me their specialty is soup with coconut. But I was in the mood for tacos. Tacos come in an order of three and are simple: just beef strips, tomatoes and avocado in plump corn tortillas, with salsa and jalepenos on the side.
While I waited for the bus to go back home, men kept honking and whistling at me—I hope they didn't think I was "working" on Chef Hwy.
(back on the bus)
Back home in the 7th ward, I stopped at McHardy's Chicken and Fixin'. McHardy's has been in business for almost thirteen years, focusing on fresh chicken, customer satisfaction and employee retention. According to owner Alvi Mogilles, McHardy's chicken is the closest you'll get to what you're used to at home. She says each piece of chicken is trimmed of fat, cleaned, marinated and seasoned before being fried. Also, they are "real sticklers for cleanliness" and fry chicken according to customer influx, thus providing customers with a fresh product and ensuring guests won't smell like fried chicken after visiting. Three months after Katrina, Mogilles came back with her family and rebuilt McHardy's, only to rebuild again after a fire caused by a power surge scorched one half of the building and caused the second floor to collapse. Since then, McHardy's has added seafood and fried turkey to the menu, along with a second location on the Westbank (6220 Lapalco Blvd., Marrero, 328-5700; www.mchardyschicken.com). Mogilles is also proud to say that they have one of the highest percentages in employee retention—including work release employees—in their payroll system.
My final (whew!) stop was to The Hucklebuck Man on N. Broad near St. Bernard. I found out his name is Lester Vallet Sr. (but I'll still call him the hucklebuck man) and he worked for the Saints as the grounds superintendent for 30 years. His son, Lester Vallet Jr. is the Saints' assistant facilities manager. He and his wife Carolyn have sold hucklebucks from their porch since they moved there in 1973, and I've been a devoted fan since I was knee-high to a rabbit.
I hope you enjoyed our bus adventure! Let's do it again next Tuesday! Here are some outtakes from this bus adventure.