If there was ever a city in the world that embodies the core beliefs of Wecouldeat @ the GrubHub it is New Orleans. From the hole in the walls in Mid-City to the four star palaces in the French Quarter, New Orleans is a city of culinary tradition. In recent years cuisines like Vietnamese, Middle Eastern and fusion have popped up, but this city will always be about pure Creole goodness. Even the fancy contemporary Creole places have some form of gumbo, jambalaya or pecan pie on their menus. Much like New York, it is very difficult to get a bad meal in the Crescent City. Spud and I were pleased to find that almost all of our favorites were open and going strong three years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Mother’s is a cafeteria style restaurant serving mouth-watering favorites since 1938. It serves delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners. I usually order the debris po’boy, which is the meat drippings from a roast beef on a well-dressed hero. It’s sloppy and delicious. We also had their famous ham po’boy. We had to return for breakfast: ham, egg, and cheese on huge fluffy biscuits. The vibe is real deal Nawlins with waitresses screaming at each other and jammed in the never-ending line for the counter. Everyone digs Mother’s.
Acme Oyster Bar was the first place I went to in New Orleans and has always been a fav, even though it’s a huge tourist stop. They do serve some mighty fine oysters. I recommend sitting at the counter and talking to the oyster shuckers who are always entertaining. You can get all the usual Creole staples here, but I usually just stop in for a half dozen oysters on the half shell and an Abita beer. After much debate and stress, Spud had her very first raw oyster here and reports that “it wasn’t that terrible”. So I guess that’s a good thing.
My colleague, Tyner, a New Orleans native, told me about this amazing local place, Mandina’s Restaurant in Mid-City. The old house has been the same for decades, serving generous portions of all the New Orleans staples. The big dining room we sat in was pretty busy for 4pm on a weekday and catered to all types of people. We ordered the 1/2 and 1/2, 1/2 loaf- a half shrimp, half oyster po’ boy. It was lightly fried, well-dressed on the perfect roll, not too dense, not too flaky. We also had kick-ass red beans & rice with sausage and of course old fashioned bottles of Barq’s root beer. Mandina’s is now permanently on my must-visit list. Thanks Tyner!
Speaking of tourist spots, Cafe du Monde is the quintessential stop for any New Orleans visitor. The melt-in-your-mouth beignets are legendary. This is packed 24/7 and is total cash cow. The take-out option is great if you don’t feel like dealing with the crowds but just want the coffee and powdered hole-less doughnuts.
We received a generous gift certificate to Dante’s Kitchen from our friends Litza and Ari. Dante’s is a converted house on a side street in a residential Uptown neighborhood near Tulane. The vibe is low key, but the food is serious – and amazing. We visited for brunch and started our meal with a plate of delicious homemade breads and fruit. The main dishes were the showstoppers: poached eggs over a duck and potato hash cake, and poached eggs over debris. The flavor of the debris was so rich and meaty, that I can honestly say it was my favorite dish on the whole trip! Thanks Litza & Ari!
Since we were in New Orleans, we had to visit Emeril’s restaurants. We enjoyed our meals at both his original Emeril’s and the more contemporary NOLA. Emeril’s, in the Warehouse District, knows you are going to like it because of its name, so it doesn’t have to try as hard to impress its customers. The two types of sausage appetizer was tasty, as were the fried redfish and barbecue shrimp & grits entrees. They are traditional New Orleans dishes and of course looked beautiful. The real standout however, was the banana cream pie. It was a tall, thick slap of cake with dense cream and ripe bananas. Delicious. The service at Emeril’s put me off a little. I felt like a number as the service for too efficient. Even though we had three courses and tried to take our time, our dinner lasted only an hour.
NOLA was much better than Emeril’s. It is in the Quarter in a four story building and we had to take an elevator up through the middle of the restaurant to our table. The tag team service was very friendly and welcoming and provided a fun atmosphere that was lacking at Emeril’s. The food was fantastic. The Vietnamese chicken wings were giant wings stuffed with sausage and cabbage and Asian seasoning. Amazing. The barbecue shrimp had a smokey, cumin flavor. The gumbo was nontraditional and more like a chili with a lot of sausage and a thick roux. The blackberry ribs were mouthwatering and the smoked duck breast perfectly cooked. It was an all-out feast of Southern decadence. Which is also a fitting phrase to characterize our New Orleans culinary adventure.