Recap of week in New Orleans
- Scott Stuart
I've just returned from a conference in New Orleans, and I'd like to thank
the many contributors to this board who provided restaurant recommendations
that made the trip infinitely more enjoyable. Here are some notes on
the food that I had. There is a summary/ranking at the end.
Mothers: 401 Poydras, 523-9656
I was quite pleased on the first night in New Orleans to discover that
my hotel was about a 15 minute walk away from one of the recommended
restaurants, Mothers. Of course, the full-bellied walk back to the
hotel usually took twice as long as the rush to get to the place. I
ended up eating at Mother's several times in an effort to have good
food and be able to actually attend most of the conference. Over the
course of several meals, I had a Ferdi Po' Boy (their signature dish),
seafood gumbo, sausage biscuit, grits, red beans & rice lunch (with
greens and sausage), crawfish etoufee, spinach (boiled with eggs in
it), and a black ham biscuit. Everything there was good, very good.
Deserving special mention, though, is the black ham. During my first
trip to eat here, I heard the waiter advising other patrons that "You
gotta get you some of that black ham. But you gotta be early. Lay in
bed till 8:30 and it'll be all gone." So, I got up early the next
morning, got to Mother's by 7:30 am, and the black ham was all sold
out. For my next attempt, I got to Mother's at 6:30 am, and they still
had plenty of black ham. I've got to say that it was definitely
worth getting up early for that ham. I also discovered why they
always run out early, rather than just making more of it. The black
ham is the outer quarter to half inch of the baked ham, so they can't
really make more of it without making lots more baked ham. I'm sure
that the baked ham is quite yummy, too, if you get there a little too
late for the black ham.
Galatoire's, 209 Bourbon St, 504-525-2021
For my second dinner in New Orleans, I wandered into Galatoire's, not
knowing about the required jacket. Fortunately, they had loaners.
More difficult to get around was the fact that I'd forgotten my
wallet. Fortunately, the waitress was very kind about me having to
cancel my main dish order, and I had enough cash to pay for the stuff
I'd already started eating. Those included a lovely glass of BV
Carlenes Pinot Noir, the appetizer oysters en brochette, and potatoes
brabant. The oysters are fried in or with bacon, and were absolutely
delicious. The flavor of the bacon and the flavor of the oysters
merges perfectly. These were definitely the best fried oysters I had
in New Orleans, but then they aren't really "just" fried oysters. The
potatoes brabant seemed like the most promising of the 7 (!!)
different kinds of potatoes. They are cubed, fried potatoes, but so
much more, too. Each little cube has a thick, perfectly crispy,
crunchy exterior, and the insides are like excellent mashed potatoes.
Furthermore, each cube is infused with garlic. Despite having to
cancel the main dish I'd ordered (crab rouade) the appetizer and
potatoes was plenty of food; I was quite full all evening.
Uglisech, 1238 Baronne Street, 523-8571
Uglisech's was also in walking distance of my hotel, but it was tough
to get there early because of the conference scheduling. But I did
manage it, and it was superb. I was the first person there, arriving
around 11am. Anthony (the owner?) came over and chatted for a while
and recommended that I get Paul's Fantasy to go along with the fried
green tomatoes that I already knew I wanted. The fried green tomatoes
are perfectly fried, corn battered tomato slices, each slice topped
with a shrimp and remoulade sauce. They are superb and should
definitely be tried. Paul's Fantasy is pan fried trout, covered with
potatoes, and some sort of sauce. This too, was wonderful. I wanted
to try some raw oysters to finish off the meal, but decided that I
would burst if I ate anymore.
Jacques Imo, 8324 Oak St, 504-861-0886
I'd had trouble finding Jacques Imo in the phone book, so I was quite
delighted when my friend who lives in New Orleans and wanted to take
me to a local place he'd been wanting to try but hadn't been able to
get a table, drove me to Jacques. Both the decor and the food here
are amazing. The only problem was the noise level, which might not be
quite so bad if one isn't sitting in the very back room where there
are several large tables. Here I had the appetizer of eggplant topped
with oyster and mushroom stuffing that was absolutely superb. This
was followed by the house salad of baby spinach, radish sprouts and a
very good molassesy dressing. For the main course, I had shrimp
etouffee, which was good, but not inspiring. On the other hand, the
side dishes that I got with it were wonderful. Smothered cabbage
seems to be red cabbage cooked with pork and apples, and the mashed
sweet potatoes are just the right sweetness (ie no extra sugar added)
and have a lovely combination of aromatic spices (nutmeg, cinnamon,
cardomem according to the chef who comes out to greet all the diners).
My dining companion had the fried seafood platter which was good, but
not particularly better than any other fried seafood. The french
fries at Jacques are quite impressive looking (an intertwined stack of
needle thin slivers), and are good french fries, but aren't
particularly better than any other french fries.
Mandina's, 3800 Canal St, 504-482-9179
An out of the way place that my New Oreans native friend thought we
should try. They had good, solid food, but nothing spectacular. In
any other city, this might very well be one of the best restaurants,
but in New Orleans, it seems average. I had smothered chicken, which
was very well done. I regret not trying the bread pudding which is
supposed to be very good.
Place at airport
There was a cafeteria style place at the airport between terminals A
and B that I think was called French Quarter Cafe. Since I got to the
airport just as the Mother's black ham breakfast was wearing off, and I
was faced with two short flights that almost certainly wouldn't give much
in the way of food, I looked over the restuarant options in the airport.
The cooks at this place looked like they had a good chance of knowing
a thing or two about cooking. So, I ordered the red beans (which came
with rice, cornbread and sausage). Despite being in an airport, it was
pretty good. If you must eat at the airport, this is probably your best
Checkpoint Charley's, 501 Esplanade Ave, 504-949-7012
I didn't get to go there this time, but the first time I was in New Orleans,
I remember going to Checkpoint Charley's, a bar on the eastern edge of the
French Quarter. It is a bar with mostly natives rather than tourists, and
they give away free red beans and rice one night a week when you buy some
beer. I think it is Monday nights, but you'd probably want to check. My
vague memory is that the beans there are quite good, and you can't beat
Uglesich's and Galatoire's get a ranking of sublime, with
Uglesich's the clear winner if you factor in price.
Mother's and Jacques-Imo I would rank one step down at superb.
Mandina's ranks one step below that at "damn good eatin."
Finally, if you are stuck at the airport, and very hungry, the
French Quarter Cafe between terminals A&B is a acceptable.
You did well, Scott, and thanks for the report. Mandina's is the only place you mentioned that I'm not well acquainted with. Some other place always seems to edge it out and I've never gotten there.
I've never been up earlier enough to order the black ham at mother's. It sounds great -- maybe I'l stay up for it next time.
re: Dave Feldman
The black ham at Mother's is definitely worth the extra effort. For a place that has been overrun by crowds, it's held up very well. But it's hardly alone in that regard in New Orleans.
As for Mandina's, I think it's a very good choice if you want a real, nontouristy New Orleans meal. The food is good and dirt cheap, and sometimes surprisingly elegant: My brother ordered a bowl of turtle soup, which the waiter placed on the table and then poured in the sherry. Very nice. I seem to recall some good trout meuniere too.
It sounds as if you did well on your trip, and my congratulations on getting to Mothers early enough to get the black ham. Something I've not managed in 25 years here! (My own version works well enough for me.) For the most part I agree with your ratings of Uglesich's and Jacques-Imo. The latter can be brilliant beyond belief, but it is only a 50-50 bet at best. I've never been disappointed at Ugelsich's, but on the other hand there seems to be a limit to their inspiration; after a while you want to say "been there, done that." My only comment is about Mandina's. Certainly, you can get some pretty pedestrian food there if you aren't careful. (Smothered chicken?!) It is, after all, just a neighborhood restaurant. But their specialties go far beyond that. Try the oyster-artichoke soup and the trout or soft shell crab almandine next time. They would fit comfortably in your "sublime" category!