feeding in new orleans
having just become a "resident out-of-towner" in nyc
after an extended (well, for me anyway) stint in new
orleans, i'm still not quite convinced that nyc tops
the big easy in terms of food qualitatively...
quantitatively, however, y'all got it. after all,
my big conversational sig while i was there was
that in new orelans, the question people ask upon
introduction is not, "so, what do you do?" but
rather, "what are you drinking and where'd ya eat
last night." sometimes i wonder why i left. that said,
here are my favorite food reasons for maintaining my
crescent city connection.
cheap eats (under $20)
Willie Mae's on St. Ann's, behind Dooky Chase just
outside the French Quarter. This tiny (two person
operation), no frills (rubber placemats-and-wood
paneling) neighborhood spot has the BEST fried chicken
outside my Aunt Eloise's in Danville, VA. The lemonade
and the iced tea are both super sweet; their smothered
veal chop and fried pork chops also get my raves. Plus
string beans and rice so buttery, you wonder they ain't
yellow. mind your manners and don't get snotty if mama
and charlie call you "baby." cash, lunch only; open on
saturdays for lunch only if miz mama isn't out making
groceries. closed sundays. some people go to church,
Uglesich's on baronne st. on the non-FQ side of I-10.
hurry up and visit here before all the new yorkers who
think they're in the know ruin the place. the joke
about "you-gluh-sit-ches" is that everybody can smell
you've eaten there. my kind of place. all the fat, all
the flavor, dawlin. get the fried green tomatoes with
shrimp remoulade, a dozen raw ersters, and the shrimp
uggie - kinda like old-style, homestyle shrimp creole
(well, if you're grandmother's haitian like mine...)
tail-on shrimp lolling in a spicy oil, tomatoes,
peppers, onions and potatoes stew. good fried
oyster/catfish po'boys too. tell anthony to make 'em
sloppy dressed. lunch, m-f only.
casamento's - on magazine at napoleon. if it looks
closed from the outside try the door anyway. they keep
weird hours. inside, it's like stepping into a kitchen
nee shower room (complete with towel hooks) add the
3'10 grinning raisin of a table busser (she'll call you
baby, too) and it's like you stepped into a david lynch
set. don't worry. sit down, have an abita and a
peacemaker half loaf, dressed (thick toast sandwiching
fried shrimp and oysters, lettuce, tomato and
mayonaise) and a plate of hand cut french fries. good,
cajun-style gumbo (cajun gumbo has a darker roux than
creole). raw oysters too. lunch. dinner
acme oyster house - in the french quarter on iberville.
okay, so it's in da quarter. and you'll have to wait in
line with fanny-packers and name taggers who've stopped
in for lunch before dinner at the hard rock for a dirty
seat and a wet table. you can get your "new orleans"
food here: jambalaya, gumbo, etoufee and boiled
crawfish. and it's good enough. but why bother when you
can stuff yourself with raw oysters, naked or sauced,
for $6 a doz? (and god bless acme, among others, for
letting you mix your own cocktail sauce...there's no
such thing as too much horseradish). regular hours
everyday, most plastic, obviously.
camellia grill: at riverbend where the st. charles
streetcar line turns into carrollton ave. is the
camellia grill which recently celebrated its 50th
anniversary...though you'd think the place'd been
around for more like 150. classic horseshoe formica
counters, countermen with paper hats and gold teeth
(it's a motif in new orleans...or is that "mo teeth"?
:p). i get tickled just by the way they serve the
straws and how they call for eggs "duz ufs, suh" and
eggs are the way to go. specifially omelettes. behemoth
griddle-browned, overstuffed folds of oeufs, spilling
with sauteed peppers, onions and shrimp or blanketed
with thick chili and cheese. no hash browns, but the
french fries will do. chicory coffee, of course. and a
fabulously icy-creamy coffee milkshake they call a
"freeze." decent burgers. this place should be open 24
hours, but it's not (8am-2am more or less). weekend
brunch it's usually packed. but you can get omelettes
chicory farm cafe - "creole vegetarian" i know it
sounds like an oxymoron, especially in new orleans, but
it's true and it's pretty damn good, too. the menu
relies on two of my favorite things: mushrooms and
cheese (the other two are bacon and foie gras) which,
along with various vegetable garnishes are trucked in
each day from their organic farm 2 hours outside new
orleans. the european style cheeses used are handmade
by them (you can buy some at zabar's...i recommend the
super-stinky catahoula and the milder orleans). jim and
i chatted about "meat analogs" a few days ago. they do
that well here. highly recommend the gumbo z'herbes
(when they do it cajun style...the kitchen's been in
transition a bit so my past few visits have been wildly
uneven. but even at it's worst, it's still pretty
great) and the "grillades and grits" - smoked
portobellos over a swell of polenta that's as soft and
creamy as lolita. the vegetable tarts rock and i would
sleep on a bed of their bread - even with my cranky
back. every day but monday, i think. corner hillary and
maple, riverbend/uptown. walkable from the streetcar.
mona's - i'm reluctant to mention this place only
because it seems really silly to talk about good middle
eastern food in louisiana. but i love their
babaghanouj. it's in mid city so you'll need a car to
get there. lunch, dinner. take out.
kim san's - again, i blush. vietnamese. in new orleans.
across the river on the west bank, no less. why? i'll
tell you why. salt baked shrimp/squid/soft-shell crab.
fish soup. that's why. a writer friend well-known for
his allegiance to chinatown turned me on to this place.
if you're willing to trek, email me for details.
enough already. i'm getting hungry. though i could go
on and on. next time i'll post on the "epicurean"
(read: moolah, baby) spots.
I'm no New Orleans expert, having spent just a few days (but--of course--dozens of meals) there...but, paradoxically, this most food-filled town is one of the few places in the world where I mostly do one-stop eating, at a place called Mother's, on Poydras street. It's amazing, awesome, everything tastes perfect so until you've gone thru the menu, there's kind of no reason to eat elsewhere.
It's a cafeteria, and specializes in debris (the stuff that falls off of roasting beef) on biscuits (available early only), great softshell crab po' boys, gumbo, just everything.
There's always a long line, but service is pretty efficient so it moves quickly.
Eli--Thanks for the great post. I agree on what you said about almost all the places, and wasn't familiar with Willie Mae's or Chicory Farm. The latter will REALLY come in handy when visiting N.O. with some of my friends.
One comment and a question. You seem to have trouble with places that are discovered by tourists, but I've found that usually the best places in New Orleans ARE well-discovered, and that's one of the charms of the city. Like Venice, New Orleans is largely about tourism, and its virtue is that it enfolds them without losing its distinctive character.
Question: What has become of Eddie's? This might have been my favorite restaurant in New Orleans, and I was there literally weeks before he died. Is it still alive, and if so, are the gumbo and bread pudding and oyster stuffing as transcendent as ever?
re: Dave Feldman
but I've found that usually the best places in New
Orleans ARE well-discovered, and that's one of the
charms of the city.
yeah, but locals hate having to wait in line (as
opposed to in manhattan where there's always a line to
he also asked:
Question: What has become of Eddie's?
eddie's finished remodeling back in may. though i
didn't see it in its original state, the new version
looks like a dressed up church basement, as i recall.
and eating there reminds me a lot of the second sunday
potlucks of the church i got dragged to every other
sunday (second sundays i went happily). there's a daily
buffet table with crunchy-juicy fried chicken (when it
first comes out, after a while it loses some, but not
all, of its spunk), store bought rolls, house made
cornbread, mac-n-cheese (good, but not my
favorite...it's kind of um, sweet and a little grainy),
and other sides and such that unavoidably get a little
tired on the steam table. i prefer the menu (just don't
order a menu item that's also on the buffet). i was
looking all kinds of country towards the end of my pork
chop dinner, scraping my teeth against the bones and
licking my fingers with no shame (at willie mae's i'm
even worse). i also got really happy over their steak
special, which they made like my auntie did: thin,
juicy strip steak, seasoned with a good bit of salt and
pepper and a shake of worcestshire, then basted in lots
of butter and broiled, served with soft onions and
mushrooms nearly caramelized in the drippings. i want
to cry just thinking about it. the gumbo is still rich
and spicy but i haven't tried the bread pudding (i'm
not a big fan) or the oyster stuffing (wish i had). i'm
going back in a few weeks though...i'll let you know.
re: eli bradley
There aren't many posts that are capable of doing so, but you made me feel sorry for myself eating in NYC. One of the charms of Eddie's, to me, was seeing how the neighborhood treated it like a sandwich joint while I traveled a thousand miles to go there.
Eddie's gumbo was the best I've ever had, but he told me that the recipe truly did vary from day to day, depending upon what was fresh and what was cheap. It reminded me of the complexity of some peasant Thai soups, where it seems that everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in, and yet the center holds.
I'm just extremely pleased to know that Eddie's has carried on without Eddie. I visited Zachary's on my last trip, and although it was fine, it was a shadow of Eddie's at its best.
Keep eating and PLEASE report in once in a while about what's happening on the N.O. food scene.
re: Dave Feldman
A very nice and amply proportioned New Orleans
chowhound and cook pointed me to Jacquimo's while I was
visiting. (Only directions I can offer: it is closer to
Tulane than to the French Quarter.) If it looks empty
up front, don't be alarmed. Keep going through the
front door, through the kitchen, and out onto the back
patio area. Don't eat what's on the menu. Hear the
specials and order that. Good stuff includes fried
green tomatoes. Their salad, which comes with the meal,
was also very good. (They told me the secret is that
they use hoisin sauce in the dressing--can't be
exactly native to the area but mmmmm.)
re: Dave Feldman
Alas, Eddie Baquet died, and to the best of my knowledge, Eddie's is no more. Two of his children opened Zachary's in Carrollton (address is 8400 Oak St. at Cambronne, easily reachable by streetcar).
I'm afraid that other than the fancier digs (it's located in a charming frame house), the food isn't as good as Eddie's. Still, it is clear that they are using Eddie's recipe for oyster stuffing and bread pudding, even if the results aren't quite as outstanding.
Nobody, unfortunately, can come close to duplicating Eddie's gumbo, but on a lucky day, you can have a wonderful creole-soul meal at Zachary's.