“One place understood helps us understand all places better” –Eudora Welty
My Mississippi friends laugh at us– south Louisianians, we don’t like to drive. Dirty Coast recently released a Northshore t-shirt with the tagline “Northshore: The Bridge Works both Ways” because getting people to drive northbound on the causeway often feels like asking them to plan a trip to Canada.
And although the gold medal in I-won’t-drive-that-far definitely goes to New Orleans natives, those of us on the Northshore earn at least a bronze. As a kid growing up in Mandeville, when my siblings and I wanted to go to the movies or South China restaurant on highway 190, we’d be met with the classic line from our dad that is still the running joke in our family: “But it’s all the way in Covington”.
Since graduating from Mandeville High in 2000, I’ve lived in Mobile, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans– not exactly ground-breaking travel, but last year I bought my first house in the oh-so-distant land of old Covington, and I’ve found what I like to think is one of Louisiana’s best kept secrets. Let’s just get past highways 190 and 21. Once you’re downtown and can walk or ride your bike rendering the tortuous traffic powerless over you, you’re all set. I’ve got everything I need and find myself becoming more of the parent I mocked throughout my own childhood. When it’s my son’s karate day, I let out a little sigh because, well, his dojo is “all the way in Mandeville”.
My day-to-day life is waking up, walking or biking my son to his school. Going for a run on the beautiful St. Tammany Trace that on a good run day takes me past quaint Abita Springs. After putting in some miles on the canvas, I’ve got a dozen places to grab lunch– my current favorites are Lola and Meribo, but there are so many others.
Dining in the evenings is even more spectacular. Right now, I’m obsessed with Ox Lot 9’s beet cocktail (seriously, try it!), and crispy brussel sprout salad, and I’ve never left Del Porto without saying something trite that can’t quite capture what I mean. Something like, “That was amazing!”
And my five-year old has even found his own favorite culinary experience in the relatively new Rob’s Rockin Dogs whose hot-dog mascot he spots with delight dancing around at all the trailhead and Columbia St. Landing outdoor concerts where people set out their camping chairs in the morning to get the best spots.
It’s not just the restaurants, nature, and concerts though– when I’m out of cadmium red oil paint, which I often am, I have only to walk a few blocks to Mo’s Art Supply, which has everything. I can then cross over to Boston St. to chat with my friends at Heritage Bank of St. Tammany, where, for the first time, I’ve experienced the joy of local banking vs. the big impersonal national branches. I’ll allow myself only this moment of narcissism– it does often feel like downtown Covington was constructed with me in mind. And, my goodness, I’ve not yet even mentioned Acquistapace’s where my son and frequently have cheese-sampling dates and then purchase our favorite (currently an aged gouda).
I realize this reads like one long advertisement– I’m not being compensated, I genuinely love these places and the little community where they reside. I want you to experience it or re-experience it too (you knew this was coming!)
Which is why if you don’t drive over here often enough, I want to invite you to do just that on December 7th from 5-8pm where I, along with five other artists will be hosting a Merry mARTini Holiday Art Market at the Columbia Coworking Gallery at 215 North Columbia St. I will be having once-a-year only discounts (up to 40%) on my 2017 inventory. We’ll also be serving up holiday martinis and wine as well as hosting a top-notch classical guitarist.
Here’s my suggestion: grab a martini, do a little shopping, and then enjoy one of the many, many delightful restaurants downtown Covington has to offer. And if you need any recommendations, you know just who to ask. There really is something for everyone. See you on Dec. 7th!