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New Orleans Indulgences??

  • l

Hola ChowHounds!

I finally planned my first trip to New Orleans for over the Memorial Day weekend. I'm very excited about it and want to really indulge in local cuisine. I've looked through this board at previous New Orleans posts and found Jim's Mother's tip and a few others very helpful (eg. Uglesich's, Acme Oyster House, Central Grocery, la Madeline French Bakery etc.)

As much as I love the tiny, divey, backroads places I'd also like to experience the famed culinary strongholds of New Orleans and have made reservations at the following thus far:

Three jazz brunches/breakfasts:
Brennan's (I must have the eggs sardou and bananas foster...)
Court of the Two Sisters
Commander's Palace

Three dinners:
Emeril's (I couldn't resist and could only snag an 11:pm two months in advance!!)
Antoines (baked alaska!!!)
Bayona (I have heard tons of wonderful things about Susan Spicer's cooking...)

Questions:
Am I going overboard with the jazz brunches? When will I have time to sample the debris at Mother's??? or the Po' boys at Johnny's?? Should I lose the Bayona reservation in favor of something more traditional such as Tugague's, Galatoire's, Arnaud's, K-Paul's, Napoleon House, or Rib Room??? All of these choices are sending me into a culinary anxiety attack and I'd love for some of you who have visited New Orleans to set me straight with your ideas of ESSENTIAL New Orleans- the very best and nothing else.....

Thanks so much and happy eating,
Lisa

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  1. Two different friends on two separate visits mentioned
    they preferred their meals at Nola to Emeril's.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Heidi

      I can't belive I forgot to mention this: One of my fav
      website: www.gumbopages.com a site put together by
      Chuck Taggart, A New Orleans raised expatriate in
      California. TONS of insider info on everything you may
      be interested in New Orleans; lots of food, where to
      go for Jazz and other entertainment. I need to eat
      while I'm reading the pages 'cos I get so hungry
      imagining the meals.

      1. re: Heidi

        I agree. I really think you are going to be dissapointed with Emeril's. It was a great place when Emeril was cooking. Now that he is off being a TV star the place puts out assenmbly line food. NOLA really does do a better job.

        Three jazz brunches are definitely too much. Commander's is the best by far. Ask for the garden room. If you must have bananas foster then go ahead and go to Brennan's, otherwise there's not much to it. Avoid The Court of Two Sisters. Just a big breakfast buffet you would find anywhere, including Shoney's. No reason to miss Mother's for that.

        The only traditional place I would recommend is Galatoire's. I would exchange that for Antoine's unless you must have Baked Alaska.

        1. re: jim benzian
          m
          Michele Fuchs

          I forgot to mention, I have also heard that Galatoires
          is a must, this from friends who along with being
          foodies/chowhounds, went to Tulane and still frequent
          the city quite often...

      2. Welcome back Lisa -- i was tempted not to post unless
        you promised to post more frequently (where have you
        been?) but why stand on ceremony.

        Some of my impressions from the high end places --we
        were there four years ago, and several people who I
        trust went last fall and reported back as well
        Bayona -- great -- great food, great place
        Commanders -- avoid it , it is pretty but you feel
        like you are in a factory, and the food tastes it.
        Emerils -- we liked it, and had nver heard of him
        before, but we have heard mixed things since -- also,
        we have heard uniformly bad about Nola recently.

        The other high end place we really like was
        Brigsten's. At all of these places you pay much less
        than in NY.

        Be sure to report back when you return.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Alan Divack

          "where have you been?"

          Rather than put Lisa to the trouble of reciting her resume once again, it might be easier to send you and others interested to her exuberant self-accounting posted a couple of months ago on the Outer Boroughs message board (look for "Lisa Antinore where are you?")

          1. re: Alan Divack
            m
            Michele Fuchs

            A friend went last weekend for a little jaunt and was
            also disappointed with Commander's Palace, though she
            enjoyed Nola's, go figure! I have a call in to her as
            to which of the others she may have dined in...

            I will post again!

            1. re: Alan Divack

              Sorry to here that NOLA is no longer good. It's been a few years since I've been. Was at Bayona within the year and it was great as ever. I really have a hard time ordering anything but the sweetbreads. The texture is incredible. A light crisp on the exterior.

              Commander's can definitely be avoided for dinner, but if you have to do a jazz brunch it's the one to go to.

              1. re: jim benzian

                We ate at NOLA a couple of weeks ago. The first
                courses were fine but the main courses were
                disappointing. My husband ordered the tasting sampler,
                only to be told about ten minutes later that they had
                pulled it from the menu because it was "not up to
                standards." He then ordered a grilled chicken dish
                that was on the overdone side. Whatever I had was so
                unmemorable that I can't even think what it was just
                now. We shared a chocolate peanut butter pie which I
                liked a lot because it wasn't very sweet (he didn't
                like it so much for the same reason). I liked the
                decor, which is very un-typical of New Orleans (more
                like Barbara Lazaroff's touch on Wolfgang Puck's
                restaurants) although the place is noisy. We may go
                back in the summer when the place is quiet and sit at
                the counter to watch the cooks. Can't do that very
                many places in New Orleans.

            2. Hey, Lisa

              As Jim Benzian said, don't do so many fancy jazz brunches that you miss breakfast at Mother's. Also, bear in mind that New Orleans is to food what Atlantic City is to architecture...there are the towering, expensive landmark places, and then there are the down-home places, which constitute an entirely different scene/cuisine. As a New Orleans native was complaining a couple of months ago, there is very little in between, so it's easy to get tired of the food scene if you live there.

              Your list is way too heavily weighted toward the high-end places. And from what I've tried down there (and heard from learned local chowhounds), most of 'em are as overrated and past their prime as the tired, tired jazz you hear in bars on Bourbon Street these days

              ciao

              13 Replies
              1. re: Jim Leff

                Most people who go to New Orleans from great restaurant cities are dissapointed by the high-end places. They can't match what's going on in New York, L.A., Chicago or San Francisco. The fun really is in the local joints. Ugelesich's should not be missed. Consider going uptown to places like Franky and Johnnies. A great spot for crawfish. Make sure to suck the heads.

                1. re: jim benzian

                  "Ugelesich's should not be missed"

                  yes, of course (but did I hear that they changed owners? I'm only about 25% sure I've heard that). And that late-night diner at the opposite end of the trolley line from downtown that makes the big puffy omelets (you surely know it...)

                  The essential point is that the fancy places serve a completely different cuisine...it's the old Creole cooking. So while they don't serve chow as vibrantly delicious as places like Mother's and Ugelesich's, they're still well worth at least ONE meal in order to sample that cuisine, faded though their kitchens may be.

                  Hey, do you live down there? Know any Armenian places? Or any Armenian places ANYWHERE for that matter?

                  Jim Chowhoundian

                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    The place you are thinking of is the Camelia Grill. Definitely the best late night place in town.

                    I don't live there anymore. I was there from '89-94. I try to get back at least once a year.

                    By the way, one of the best ways to get good local food is to check out the booths at the Jazz and Heritage Festival. One of the great things they have had in past years is the crawfish bread. Crawfish tails in a creamy sauce stuffed and then baked in a wonderful yeasty bread. Some local restaurants would try and duplicate what was made at the fairgrounds but I never could find the real thing. Jazz Fest is the last weekend in April and the first in May

                    My name fools a lot of people. It's actually not Armenian. I don't know any Armenian restaurants in New orlenas

                    1. re: jim benzian

                      "By the way, one of the best ways to get good local food is to check out the booths at the Jazz and Heritage Festival"

                      strangely, the best cajun food I ever had was at the Stockholm Blues and Jazz Festival, which I played in 1988. There's an expat there who prides himself on making great gumbo for all the musicians. It was great.

                    2. re: Jim Leff

                      About Ugelesich's. I don't think there has been an ownership change. My wife was there about two weeks ago and she was greeted by Mr. Ugelesich as usual. So at least he's still hanging around if he did sell the place.

                      1. re: Jim Leff

                        Don't think there are any real Armenian restaurants in
                        NO. The closest is probably Mona's on Banks St., which
                        is more or less Middle Eastern and is attached to a
                        grocery which miraculously makes fresh pita bread daily
                        (nearly the only pita to be found in this city) and
                        carries other Middle Eastern ingredients. There is
                        also Odyssey Grill, which is sort of Greek, and very
                        good, and serves some of that sort of food, as well as
                        various Mediterranean dishes. I have been told there's
                        a Middle Eastern-type (maybe Lebanese?) restaurant on
                        Carrolton, on the streetcar line, but haven't tried it.
                        In Los Angeles I worked in an area that had a small
                        concentration of Iranian restaurants, and I miss that
                        kind of food.

                        1. re: Sarah

                          So, Sarah, what are some of your favorite Iranian
                          restaurants in Los Angeles?

                          1. re: Tom Armitage

                            tom and sarah--sorry we don't have the ability to modify subject titles
                            here, so please start a new thread to discuss L.A., ok?

                            thanks!

                            The Management

                            1. re: Jim Leff

                              Woops. Busted! Sorry, Jim.

                            2. re: Tom Armitage

                              I'm aware of the Iranian restaurant enclave in
                              Westwood, but I never got out there to try any of them.
                              I worked for a couple of years at the Transamerica
                              tower near the garment distict, and there are a bunch
                              of little Iranian cafes in that area. The closest one
                              to our building was called the Golden Olive or
                              something like that (on 11th and Hill);then there was
                              another one a few blocks closer to downtown LA or Hill
                              that a lot of people liked. In a food court on Los
                              Angeles Street on the western edge of the garment
                              district was another one that served a boiled (!)
                              chicken that I crave in my memory, and they would
                              always give me the crusty part of the rice. I've found
                              a place to buy barberries in New Orleans but haven't
                              been able to come up with the right-tasting barberry
                              rice. I think the rice needs some saffron?

                      2. re: Jim Leff

                        I noticed there is an Eclectic Guide to New Orleans as
                        well as our own precious tome. How does it stack up?

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          Precious...gosh!
                          I haven't seen it, but most of the other books in the series that I've read are a bit less in-depth and a bit more mainstream. I sort of ran away with the format for mine (I'm not sure why the publisher let me get away with it, actually)

                          1. re: jen kalb

                            My good wife and me are headed for the big easy in March. Going for the National Elementary Principals confab. Not rich, so steer us in the right direction for some great New Orleans food.

                        2. (1) Don't pass up Bayona. The food there is the best
                          in town. (2) Mother's is good but locals find it too
                          expensive. But if you're in the area I'd still
                          recommend it. The last time I had seafood gumbo there
                          it was really good. (3) We didn't find Emeril's to be
                          all that great, but if you must . . . NOLA, his
                          slightly downscale (but NOT inexpensive) restaurant is
                          pretty good too. If you feel compelled to try
                          Delmonico's, his latest venture, it is VERY
                          expensive by New Orleans standards. (4) If you want
                          to go to K Paul's, go at lunch. The prices are much
                          lower and the food is about the same. (5) Rib Room as
                          been getting good reviews lately. (6) If you have a
                          car and can get to Chalmette on the east side of the
                          city, Rocky & Carlos is a real local experience. (7)
                          From what we hear, breakfast at Brennan's is really
                          overpriced and you will be so full of high-fat food
                          that you won't want to eat for the rest of the day.
                          But go if you must. (8) I had a totally tasteless
                          crawfish po-boy at Johnny's. But people still say the
                          place is wonderful. ----- We're heading over to the
                          Quarter now for dinner so I'll add more later if I
                          think of it.

                          1. Lisa,

                            I haven't been to N.O. in a few years (I'm remedying
                            this next year) but I'm passionate about N.O. food,
                            and I have to say that Jim B. is steering you well. I
                            think you could easily skip all three brunches, but
                            agree that Commander's Palace is easily the best.
                            Court is a tourist trap.

                            I'd seriously consider taking one day and doing zero
                            traditional meals and sample some of the best dishes
                            New Orleans has to offer. A dream day for me might be:

                            1. A trip to Mother's for whatever looks best for
                            breakfast (debris sounds good).
                            2. Oysters at the Acme Oyster House.
                            3. A walk to Uglesich's for fried green tomatoes.
                            4. A stop at Galatoire's (easily the most charming
                            of the old-line restaurants) for what is possibly my
                            favorite single dish in N.O., the trout or pompano
                            amandine, that contains a meuniere sauce conceived in
                            heaven. I would never have tried this "tired" dish if
                            it weren't for the raves of Robert & Rima Collin in
                            their sadly out-of-print indispensable food guide to
                            New Orleans. The shrimp remoulade is also wonderful
                            here. (Note that there are no reservations, and a
                            jacket might still be mandatory for men, although this
                            seems to be loosening)
                            5. Bread pudding at Zachary's or Mr. B's Bistro.
                            6. Beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe Du Monde.

                            Such a day will let you walk over a good portion of
                            the city and you'll eat so much better than at
                            Antoine's or Brennan's.
                            I also agree that Bayona is the best of the new-
                            line restaurants. I especially like the salmon with
                            sauerkraut in gewurtztraminer sauce.
                            Regrettably, I've never been to Brigsten's, but
                            I've heard nothing but good things about it.

                            Have fun in New Orleans. It's hard not to.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Dave Feldman

                              "I would never have tried this "tired" dish"

                              Dave, great message, great advice in general, but for the record
                              I didn't say every single dish in every single expensive restaurant
                              there is tired. But as a general rule, I think you, me, and
                              Jim do agree.

                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                Jim,

                                I didn't mean to use the word "tired" to refer to food
                                in general -- just to "trout amandine." For me,
                                "amandine" sauce has usually been a refuge for
                                restaurant scoundrels. It would never have occurred
                                to me to order it. But it's just superb at
                                Galatoire's (anything with the meuniere sauce is).