HL Does NOLA from A to Z: I is for IGNATIUS

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I is for Ingnatius Eatery, serving authentic Creole comfort food in a traditional New Orleans atmosphere. I know what you’re thinking: not another restaurant. Yes, another restaurant. Here in New Orleans, food is very important. We currently have more than 1,400 open restaurants in our city, and that’s not counting the fast food joints. It’s not surprising that visitors and locals alike will sit down to eat one meal and immediately start talking about the next. And Ingnatius Eatery is worth talking about.

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The Uptown Magazine Street restaurant has quite a few awards under its belt–Travel Channel’s Chow Masters Golden Skillet, Trip Advisor’s Best in Excellence, and OpenTable’s Diners’ Choice–and offers dishes like fried green tomatoes, shrimp and grits, red beans and rice with smoked sausage, and bread pudding. My human mommy is a big fan of happy hour, which happens daily from 3 to 7 p.m. She usually goes for the $10 bottle of wine, cochon de lait sliders, and catfish sliders. She shares with her friends. Really.

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But even more important than Ignatius Eatery is Ignatius J. Reilly and the book in which this one-of-a-kind character appears: the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Confederacy of Dunces by New Orleans native John Kennedy Toole. The novel was published in 1980, 11 years after Toole’s suicide. Toole’s mother found a copy of the manuscript after her 31-year-old son died in 1969. She tried unsuccessfully to have it published and then turned to Walker Percy, a Southern author who, at the time, was an instructor at New Orleans’ Loyola University. Here’s how Percy remembers the event:

There was no getting out of it; only one hope remained—that I could read a few pages and that they would be bad enough for me, in good conscience, to read no farther. Usually I can do just that. Indeed the first paragraph often suffices. My only fear was that this one might not be bad enough, or might be just good enough, so that I would have to keep reading.

In this case I read on. And on. First with the sinking feeling that it was not bad enough to quit, then with a prickle of interest, then a growing excitement, and finally an incredulity: surely it was not possible that it was so good.

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And it is so good. The characters and settings are quintessentially New Orleans, from Canal Street to Lucky Dogs to Lana Lee, who runs a French Quarter strip club. But it’s Ignatius who steals the show. A Chicago Sun-Times reviewer described him like this: “huge, obese, fractious, fastidious, a latter-day Gargantua, a Don Quixote of the French Quarter.” I highly suggest a quick read of A Confederacy of Dunces before your next trip to the Big Easy . . . and then you can roam the streets hoping to see the characters come to life. Happy reading and sweet dreams.

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This post is part of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Please click here for a link to the challenge homepage and a list of  the bloggers who are participating.