NO Restaurant Picks
Just got back from New Orleans and here is a review of my meals.
Friday lunch- Sadly, we got in too late and missed our first meal at Uglesich's.
Friday evening- We went to Clancy's, a small, bistro type joint located uptown on the corner of Annunciation and Webster. About a 25-minute ride from the Quarter. Great food and a good wine list. For appetizers, we got oysters with brie, shrimp remoulade, barbequed shrimp, and crawfish cakes. All were great. For mains, the smoked soft shell crab is awesome and my companions raved about the filet with stilton cheese. Good coffee.
Saturday lunch- Mandina's, located in Mid-city on Canal St., about a block off S. Carollton. About 15 min. from Quarter. This is a great old-style New Orleans neighborhood restaurant. They have a big menu and not everything is good so you have to be careful what you order. We had crab fingers in wine sauce, an amazing buttery, breaded concoction. Also, great shrimp po-boys and gumbo. Trout almadine and soft shell crabs are good also.
Saturday dinner- Mosca's, located about 45 minutes away over the Huey P. Long bridge in Avondale? You need a car to get here. Mosca's is this amazing roadhouse in the middle of nowhere. They have really big family style portions so it's best to go in a large group. They have a good crab salad to start with. Entrees include the the best shrimp you ever had, chicken a la grande, and oysters mosca.
Sunday brunch- Galatoire's, located on Bourbon St. and Iberville. A famous old school New Orleans landmark. Great brunch but you have to get dressed up. Like stepping back in time. They have two rooms now. The lower level dining room doesn't take reservations and the wait can be long, but the new room upstairs does. Great appetizers include oysters rockefeller, shrimp remoulade, and crabmeat maison. They make great bloody mary's here also. For mains we had crabmeat sardou, creamed spinach and lump crabmeat topped with hollandaise. Spinach and crabmeat were good but hollandaise way too gloopy. Also, eggs imperial and eggs sardou. Imperial was better than sardou.
Sunday dinner- NOLA, located on St. Louis in the Quarter between Decatur and Chartres. This is one of Emeril's joints. Surprisingly, very few good NO restaurants are open on Sunday hights for dinner which is why we ended up here. Brightsens, Bayona, Gautreaus, Gabrielle, and Peristyle are all closed. Upperline, a small bistro uptown is open and good but they were full. Mandina's is a good choice for Sun. dinner but we'd already gone there. Anyway, NOLA was good, not great. It doen't have any sort of individuality or character that makes all the other places so special. The food was decent. Barbequed shrimp, crawfish cakes, and crabcake appetizers were good. We also had redfish with a citrus horseradish crust which sounds good but wasn't. A good choice for Sunday dinner.
Monday breakfast- Central Grocery. Awesome muffalettas. We go on our way out and bring them on the plane. They open at 8. Also get the Zapp's chips for home also. Super thick, crunchy chips in all sorts of great flavors. Note: they'll make you a vegetarian muffaletta if desired.
I don't know how many times you've gone to New Orleans on a restaurant vacation, but I will tell you that from the perspective of this fifth generation New Orleanian, you've done as well as anybody I know. Congratulations on dollars well spent.
First off regarding Clancy's you understand well why this place is a favorite of locals. The menu is just deep enough to never be boring but you always return to the same dishes, such as the smoked softshell crab, which is what always comes to mind when you mention Clancy's. I had lunch at the Bistro at Maison de Ville and a gentleman at the table was telling us of how he is taking his parents there for dinner on Saturday night and how confident he is that they will enjoy the meal. No doubts there. The uptown bistros of Upperline, Clancy's and Gautreau are worth the cab fare from the Quarter, and not too many more trips to New Orleans will tell you that the action is away from the Quarter. Many wines are available in half bottles too. The wait staff is first rate. You would probably enjoy Christian's too so put them on your list.
My office is two blocks from Mandina's and while we talk a lot about this place we don't go all that often because of inconsistencies. The standards are always good, especially the daily specials, which never change, but after that you never know. Even pasta can be off sometimes.
Visiting Mosca's puts you in a rare circle of visitors. Most locals can't find the place. Did you take a cab? Oysters Mosca is a legendary dish.
Galatorie's has had some growing pains with the opening of the upstairs rooms. I've been there twice recently when the place was nearly empty which gives an errie feeling to the rooms. Hit and miss on the cream dishes and those with heavy sauces. Simple fish items they pull off well. Being reserved always was their strenght, especially in the broiling department. Great valuce though.
If you think that Sunday dinner is tough for restaurants you should try Saturday lunch. A good Sunday dinner is at Pelican Club which offers an early dinner special. The reason that many restaurants are closed on Sunday for dinner is because they are dinner only places which want to use just one staff who can work Tuesday through Saturday. Gabrielle and Brigsten's are perfect examples of this approach. NOLA is 100% tourist. Locals have given up on Emeril and his restaurants, leaving all of them to the tourists.
We are not a breakfast town as I'm sure you found out.
What did you think about the coffee at all of the places you visited? Also the level of service. Finally where are you from so that I can get a basis of comparison.
Again, thanks for sharing your adventures. People told me that Chowhound had the most sophisiticated diners, but I had not idea.
re: Mark T.
Thanks for the compliments. I actually lived in NO for 6 years so I am not just a casual visitor. I only had coffee at Clancy's which I thought was excellent. Good NO style coffee with chicory. The service was fine at all the restaurants we attended, especially Galatoire's. I live in NYC which sadly has no good New Orleans restaurants. Also, I haven't been there in @4 years but I thought the Pelican Club to be a little too clubby and noisy and too much like going to eat in NYC, which is not what I want when I visit. And I didn't think the food was very good either. But again, 4 years is an eternity in the restaurant business.
We returned today from our longest stay ever in NO. Pleased to report that the food is still pretty damn good. Here are some capsule reviews:
Emeril's: Still outstanding. I got andouille-crusted redfish in a pecan sauce. There is more to the sauce but I just can't remember what; too many meals since last Tuesday night. (I do not like pecans but something about this dish drew me to it.) The dish works, big time. Sweet and spicy at the same time. The banana cream pie is still the best dessert.
Other than a lobster bisque that my wife found too salty and a wine list weighted far too heavily towards very expensive bottles, very few weak links.
Service was great.
Brigtsen's, Dante St., Riverbend: Very good, but a skosh short of great this time. I was hoping that it would outdo Emeril's, but the consensus of the group was that it was a close runner up. However, the softshell crab with pecans in a meuniere sauce was fabulous. (Yes, I got more pecans; I'm finally at the point where I will trust the chef, and it paid off again). Another high point was the smoked salmon/potato pancake appetizer.
Harbor Seafood, Williams Blvd., Kenner: A local treasure, and for good reason. Dozen ersters for $3.25. Yes, that's right. And damn good ersters. If that is too pricy for you, on Wednesday and Thursday they are $2.25 per dozen. The boiled crawfish and fried softshell crabs were great, too.
Morning Call, Metairie: Where the locals get beignets. We went three times at widely varying hours and the beignets were fresh and hot every time. The cafe au lait is simply amazing.
R&O Pizza Place, Bucktown: A bit of a disappointment. We went with a really big group, so people ordered all kinds of stuff. Some was good, some was ehhh. Sadly, they didn't have the marinated crawfish tails. The bread pudding was declared to be delicious.
Hummingbird Grill, Lee Circle: Finally made it to this fabled spot, thanks to a long line at Mother's. Very good breakfast for $4.15: Three eggs, meat, grits or taters, biscuits or toast. Good coffee too.
Mother's, Poydras St.: OK, so after visiting the D-Day Museum (great deal for $7) we wandered back to Mother's. No line outside so we went in. The ordering system failed us (someone else got our Ferdi Special), but once we got it, we were quite pleased. It's a great sandwich. The debris makes all the difference.
Rocky & Carlo's, Chalmette: Another first visit to a fabled spot. Avoided the stuffed peppers of course. :>)
I implore everyone to make at least one visit to this godforsaken location. We got a whole roast beef po-boy that is probably twice the size of anyone else's. A large order of mac & cheese (red gravy on the side) that my wife -- a mac cheese expert -- swooned over. And a "small" order of wop salad that was gigantic. Add to this ladies that called me sweetie, honey, and baby. And for the kicker you'll drive past Fats Domino's house just off St. Claude Ave.
Mosca's, Avondale/Waggaman: The Mother Church of Creole-Italian cooking is as good as ever. This place really impressed the people we took. Everything was really good: italian crab salad, oysters mosca, italian shrimp, spaghetti bordelaise and spaghetti with tomato sauce and meatballs. And very drinkable Valpolicella drunk from tumblers. And more ladies who will call you hon and baby.
Cafe Degas, Esplanade Ave.: Sorry to report another disappointment. A friend has been telling me about this place for years. We went for a late Sunday brunch. Our order got screwed up and when it finally appeared was overall just ok. But, my wife's seafood in pastry was good. the highly touted desserts were a letdown. We were going to try the white peach sorbet, but a woman at the next table actually sent it back for being too weakly flavored. We ended up with the chocolate mousse, which didn't impress my wife, the mousse expert.
High points were the beef brochette appetizer and the coffee, which basically laughed at my attempts to lighten it.
Now, I know this place is very popular, and is a very pleasant place to spend some time, but when the wait staff is getting waffles before the customers have gotten their food, something ain't right.
Sid-Mar's, Bucktown: Very dependable for fried and boiled seafood. Hard to go wrong here. The po-boys looked really good, too.
Hansen's Sno-Bliz, Tchopitoulas @ Bordeaux: What better way to wind this up? The place is very intimidating for first-timers. Imagine a place where you can order a "Baby Duper Cream of Ice Cream With Condensed Milk." These are not ordinary sno-balls. I don't even like sno-balls. The ice in these things is mashed really fine, in a machine the first Mr. Hansen invented in 1939.
Fortunately the line is always long, which gives you time to study the numerous options, and the Hansens are very helpful.
I ended up with a Cream of Coffee with Condensed Milk, and my wife got a Cream of Nectar. The syrups are all made in house, and you can tell the difference. We could have easily downed ones twice as large.
I'm quite pissed that it's taken me fifteen years and six visits to NO to get to Hansen's.
P.S. Zapp's Limited Edition chip flavor this year is XXX Habanero!! I haven't busted into them yet, but the label says they are "dangerous to your brain and breath."
re: Bob W.
i live in NO am very fond of our dressed down restaurants and taverns. one of my favorites grounds where these two met was a couple of months ago after crwfish prices went down. went to a place called k-jeans on carrolton and i think bienville. got a couple of pounds with sausage (i think it was the best sausage i've had in a crawfish boil. usually it comes way too tender and sopping wet for my taste. this was a stiff link with a strong taste from the spicy boil). so we got the crwfish to go and toof it down the street to a place called the parkview tavern- located right at city park on carrolton. most bars around here allow this as long as you dont make a holy wreck with the shells, knowing that they will sell some drinks. the parkview is a great deal with barflies from the planet mars. it wasa great experience that i will try to replicate next season. i suggest this combo as one of the best to locals and visitors alike looking for something more authentic than a snocone on the riverwalk.