The Majumdar Brothers in NO
- Simon Majumdar Dec 28, 2001 10:15 AM
The brothers Majumdar are planning a visit to NO in the new year (also Austin, Dallas and a couple of others )
Just a quick question. we are pondering on staying at either the W or Monteleone. which is the better choice? As ever, my shallow search for the perfect Cosmoploitan will be a factor, so if one has a superlative bar, that would be a plus.
robin, who as always is better prepared for these things, is researching some of our chowing, but any must have's would be appreciated
The brothers Majumdar are planning a visit to NO in the new year (also Austin, Dallas and a couple of others )>>
My curiosity overcame me--why Texas? Business? Where your plane lands?
As one who spent 18 tumultous years in Arlington (a Dallas suburb) and Austin (attending college), it's not an experience I would be eager to recreate. In terms of perfect cosmopolitans, the state is a crazy quilt of bizarre liquor laws with local options from completely dry (that's right, no alcohol sold in the limits of particular areas!) to beer only to phony private clubs granting you the privilege of buying a mixed drink. And there are weird provisions about what you can get on Sunday unless you run off to some package store. Dallas is just a drab generic American city. It has banking and some fashion stuff. Austin does have a prodigous music scene. Willie Nelson does live there. For some reason, so does Sondra Bullock. And there is excellent barbeque a few miles away. But that's it. There's better chowhounding in San Antonio where there's all manner of Tex-Mex available. And there's the Alamo. For my money, I'd spend the extra time in Louisiana or on either coast. How far is it to Miami? Anyway, think twice about Texas. You know who is from there.
re: michael (mea culpa)
Michael, perhaps my opinion of Dallas is one of a recent tourist, and not a long time resident, but I surely enjoyed my stay, and would think it would be a great change-up from NOLA.
Alamo schmalamo, does anything say more about 20th century history than Dealy Plaza. It's amazing how much it looks like the Zapruder film. Even the grassy knoll is still there.
Eating, well bar-b-q is as American as it gets, and there are some good options in/near Dallas (and something not so present in New Orleans). Even though a recent poster had a less than vital experience, I still reconmend Clarke's Outpost for its longhorn studded drive, ultra-tender brisket and outrageous pies.
So there are at least two reasons to go to Dallas!
Oh, and I forgot Fogo de Chao. I did not get a chance to try last time I was in Dallas and have been suffering ever since.
As to the hotel, consider the Columns. When cosmopolitans were mentioned, the Columns immediately came to mind. It is a mid-priced B&B on St. Charles, not that far from the Garden District, say walking distance to Comanders. The covered porch is probably the best place for cocktails in the city. Just be careful, some the of rooms at the Columns are HGTV beautiful, some are dogs, ask.
re: Vital Information
Alamo schmalamo, does anything say more about 20th century history than Dealy Plaza. It's amazing how much it looks like the Zapruder film. Even the grassy knoll is still there.>>
You are certainly right about the perspectives of residents versus visitors. But as to Dealy Plaza, it strikes me as underwhelming. Yes, you can see the Book Depository building. Yes, you can see some grass and the triple underpass. And, yes, there's a very insipid marker the citizens of Dallas have erected, but having taken ... What? 5 minutes? 15 minutes? to view this, what's left? Actually, of greater historical interest might be a search in nearby Fort Worth for the old Cellar Club where some of JFK's Secret Service agents were said to have partied the night before the assassination.
As for food, there's surely better barbecue near Austin, in Taylor and thereabouts. In Dallas, the kind of exotic food you get reminds me of Calvin Trillin's old woes about locals insisting that he go to La Maison de la Casa House to try their upscale cuisine. So, I renew my vote for Tex-Mex in San Antonio and maybe a trip to the Buckhorn Saloon.
Funny, you mention Columns. Though I've never been, I immediately thought of it in the context of the cosmopolitan quest. But trying to isolate one bar in NOLA is sort of absurd and I'm assuming this is a floating quest (pun intended). Cheers.
re: michael (mea culpa)
Austin is a great chowhound town! Business takes me there a few times each year (that's right, I'm not from Texas...but as you know, Texas loves me anyhow) and look forward to each and every visit---even during SXSW. (Well, maybe not during the heat of august, but just about every other time of year.) There's always something happening music-wise, lots of stuff to do outside (including bat watching), OK shopping and good food. Not to mention the beautiful spring flowers in the Hill country. And did I mention the music?
By the way, when are the brothers heading to town? And for how long?
(I vote for Luling, too Iron works, when in Austin, though I don't love it as much as I used to.)
I've never stayed in either hotel, but I can tell you that the W's bar attempts a kind of New York chichi-ness that you don't find in most New Orleans bars. I would imagine, therefore, that their cosmopolitans would be pretty good. Personally, I find the W's bathroom lighting (in the public ones, anyway) very offputting. They have this unnessarily dark, red light thing going on that makes it hard to tell if you've got any smudges on your face.
The Mansion On Turtle Creek and Star Canyon are generally recognized as the two best restaurants in Dallas. Both are extremely worthwhile and among the better restuarants in the U. S. Both have been nominated for James Beard awards. For Austin I would go to the original County Line (yes, a barbeque joint!) that is very good. There you should have their ribs. If you have a rental car then I would go to the Luling City Market for real bbq (ask for "marbled beef"; if you have all day then I would consider Cooper's in Llano, maybe even Louie Mueller in Taylor.(again, "marbled beef.") Somne people on the Texas board would also stear you to the Kreuz Market (new version) in Lockhart but I personally prefer the other two for the definitive TX bbq experience. North of Dallas by fifty miles or so is Clark's Outpost. This is heavily smoked (three days!!!) brisket that they warm in, yes, a microwave and pack in cryovac for shipping. It is NOT as good as Luling, Cooper's, Kreuz and some other's but the overall experience is "definitively Texas." Both Dallas papers rank it as the best bbq in the greater Dallas area but I'm not so sure that it is even as good as the original Sonny Bryan's on Inwood Avenue where they sell out about 3:00 in the afternoon (if you go make sure you also try their onion rings!). (I'll argue bbq until I'm blue in the face-I've gotten fat all over the state of Texas!) For Tex-Mex there is a seriously good chain called Papasito's that is very worthwhile. Also Uncle Julio's in Dallas. Throughout Dallas, Ft. Worth and Austin there are a number of "mom and pop" places that have great Tex-Mex.
Also, in Fort Worth, there is a remarkably good hamburger joint called Kincaid's Grocery which has been praised as "Texas' best hamburger" by no less than Texas Monthly. Hamburgers are a big deal in Texas. Don't overlook this.
A really good local chain of restaurants is Pappadeaux owned by the same group that owns Papasito's and the Pappas Bros Steak House. They are good. Worth the stop.
But if you are into serious Texas cuisine you should go to Dean Fearing's Mansion On Turtle Creek and Stephen Pyle's Star Canyon (or his more recent AquaKnox which is a seafood version).
I know this is going to come across as very negative, but I feel compelled to make a few comments:
I agree with most of what Michael (mea culpa) has posted about Texas restaurants. I would also add that I don't believe there is another city in America as "chained-up" as Dallas.
Neither The Mansion on Turtle Creek nor Star Canyon are anything near what they formerly were -- especially Star Canyon which was purchased by Carlson Restaurants Worldwide (T.G.I. Friday's, etc.) well over a year ago. Stephen Pyles severed all ties with Star Canyon and is now (was?) only a "consultant" for AquaKnox-Fishbowl (also owned by Carlson). Both of his former restaurants have suffered immensely.
The County Line restaurants (including, and especially, the original one) have incurred the fate of all restaurants which open many locations: mediocrity and worse. Twenty-five years ago, the County Line convinced me that it was possible to serve really great barbecue beef ribs, but, alas, for the past ten or fifteen years the barbecue served at those establishments would only convince one to become a vegetarian. For Texas style barbecue, Goode Company in Houston has no equal (and, yes, I have eaten at all the barbecue joints you mentioned).
The "really good local chain" mentioned (Pappadeaux [faux Cajun food] and Pappacito's) are two of several restaurant concepts owned by the Pappas Brothers in Houston (along with Pappas Seafood, Pappas Brisket House, Pappas Brothers Steakhouse, Pappamia's, etc., but, surprisingly, no restaurants representing their own heritage, Greek -- however, I expect to see Pappastan restaurants any day now). Both concepts are parodies of the food they supposedly represent, but both attract a large clientele (go figure). However, Houston does have, by far, the best and most varied Mexican food (Tex-Mex, Mex-Mex, Sonoran, Acapulco-style, Tampican, Veracruzan, Guadalajaran, Yucatan, ranchero, etc.) to be found anywhere on the planet (including Mexico -- with Chicago a distant second).
Lastly, Texas Monthly is only a shell of what it once was. In particular, its food critics are abysmal. In general, it has lost whatever credibility it once possessed (Kinky Friedman is now the best regular contributor, for heaven's sake!) -- if you can find any information or quality writing at all among the avalanche of advertisements.
1. I did not know that Star Canyon and Aquaknox have been sold. I know what Lone Star did to the old Del Frisco's (Orlando is still excellent but is separately owned.) so I can imagine the same is true with these. Dallas is, probably, the chain restaurant capitol of the world. It suffers because of this. Houston, though, is probably second. I had dinner at The Mansion on Turtle Creek a year ago and I stand by my comments.
2. The original County Line on the hill has great ribs by anyone's standards along with very good sides. (I am ONLY talking about bbq'd ribs-not brisket.) I would put them alongside of Lem's in Chicago, Dreamland in Tuscaloosa, AL, McClard's in Hot Springs, ARK. the Interstate Grill in Memphis and two or three joints in Kansas City. The other restaurants in the chain are a shadow of this. I stand by my claim.
3. Goode Company is very, very good for not only bbq but also for hamburgers. Having said that Kincaid's IS the standard by which all others including Goode Company are judged. As for Goode Company's bbq which again is very good I wouldn't even say this in the same breath with Kreuz (both the new and original), Luling, Cooper's or Louie Mueller's. You must be kidding! Comparing Houston city bbq to the Holy Grails is acceptible if you're stuck in Houston. Houstonians DO make Goode Company into a big deal but this is rather much like comparing Chicken Tikka Masala at Shere Khan on Wilmslow Road or serious Indian food at Zaika or Vama with the best in, say, Dallas. Goode Company is very, very good. For Houston. But if a car is available these ARE the absolute definitive Texas bbq experiences. A visit to them IS a visit to Mecca. Again, ask for marbled beef.
As for the Pappas Brothers restaurant group, again, I stand by my comments about Pappasito's and Pappadeaux. Pappasito's is excellent Tex-Mex. No it is not "Mexico City" style or from one of the states nor is there an emphasis on blue corn tortillas or even fresh Hatch chilis. It is Tex-Mex and as such it is exemplery. Pappadeaux is not Upperline, Peristyle or Uglesuch. It's an homoginized chain which, if you're near and don't mind a long wait on a weeknight, is good. As for things changing I first ate at the original Ninfa's on Navigation Blvd. in 1979 three nights in a row because I thought it was so good. That was definitive Tex-Mex and a local treasure that soon cloned itself and even showed up in Clearwater, FL as well as Dallas and elsewhere. Today most if not all of them are gone. I never claimed that Pappasito's was the equal of the original Ninfa's (called by Newsweek (believe it or not) the best Tex Mex restaurant in America in 1980); I said that it was an excellent chain that attracted large crowds (as does Pappadeaux) because it is very, very good for the style of restaurant that it is.
As for Texas Monthly I probably read about two or three issues a year (and have since the late '70's). I'm not in a position to have an opinion on whether or not is as good or whether its restaurant critics are abysmal. I do know that they like both Goode Company and the barbeque joints that I like but that, overall, they have a kind of reverence if you will for Luling, Kreuz, Cooper's and Louie Mueller (which they once voted the best in Texas) that they do not share for Goode Company which they acknowledge as the best in Houston.
I personally prefer Austin to both Dallas and Houston. It is the only one of the three that has an ounce of the personality that New Orleans has.
Forgive me but I must ask if you really have been to Cooper's or Luling?
re: Vital Information
No need to persuade. We remain obdurate in our desire to head to Dallas, Austin and Houston en route to NO, so the tips are of huge value
remember what is ordinary and a wasteland to you guys has a total sense of other to us, in the same way people can't believe that I look out of my window and can see St Paul's cathedral and Tower Bridge but kind of don't notice them any more.
Thanks for all the info
re: Simon Majumdar
No need to persuade. We remain obdurate in our desire to head to Dallas, Austin and Houston en route to NO, so the tips are of huge value>>
Since you put it that way, if you happen to be going in late January or early February, you should go to Fort Worth for the Forth Worth Rodeo and Fat Stock Show. Now that's a different kind of experience--PETA to the contrary notwithstanding.
re: michael (mea culpa)
Since you put it that way, if you happen to be going in late January or early February, you should go to Fort Worth for the Forth Worth Rodeo and Fat Stock Show. >>
Upon inquiry, the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show & Rodeo will be held this year from 1/12-2/3. Yee-haw!
First, Houston definitely has a greatest ratio of independent/family owned restaurants to chain restaurants than any other city in Texas. If you are looking for good ethnic food in Texas, there isn't the quality and diversity available anywhere else in Texas that is even remotely close. Just look at the Census Bureau's numbers (raw and percentages) of the various ethnic populations living in Texas cities. Houston is by far the most multi-cultural city in Texas and has the best and most varied restaurants.
I've lived in Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio as well as Houston, still go back to all those places to visit friends and relatives on a regular basis, and, yes, as I stated before, I have eaten at ALL the barbecue joints you mentioned. Cooper's? The one in Llano (probably most well-known), in Mason (original), or Round Rock (perhaps the newest)? Isn't there one in Junction, too? I suspect that there may be one or two others of which I am unaware. Anyway, like all restaurants that open numerous locations (especially in various towns), the quality suffers. Luling? Luling City Market or Luling Barbecue? I assume it's the former but I've eaten at both.
You may continue to stand by your previous claims, but here are my claims:
- I have friends who live in Caldwell County and who eat barbecue in Houston on a fairly regular basis -- primarily Goode Co. but they also claim Luling City Market in Houston has better barbecue than is available in Luling or Lockhart (I do not share this latter opinion).
- The original County Line (nor any of the other locations) has nothing to entice me to eat there ever again, including the ribs.
- Ever since Kreuz opened that big new building on Hwy. 183 some time ago to cater to tour buses, it has been almost second rate (their primary clientele changed drastically). Even Black's is better.
- The Pappas Brothers restaurants are yuppified, soul-less renditions of ethnic food with absolutely no creativity or interest beyond loud, crowded, mass-produced, utterly ordinary, assembly line food with zero depth.
- Ninfa's still exists in over 20 locations in Houston, Austin, and other Texas cities. The chain (except for the original on Navigation) was sold about 5 years ago to David Quintanilla and Adam Gonzales who own the Austin-based Serrano's chain. Unbelievably, the food at those locations is even worse than before they were sold -- being about the same level as the awful renditions of Tex-Mex at the Serrano's restaurants (and Chile Pepper on 6th St. in Austin, also owned by the Serranos group). However, on occasion the original Ninfa's on Navigation in Houston can exhibit some of the quality and creativity it possessed in the mid to late 1970s (hey, Mama Ninfa Laurenzo revolutionized Tex-Mex by introducing fajitas and many other dishes from the rancheros of South Texas and Northern Mexico to the Anglos) but not often enough for me to recommend it, and I haven't been since Mama Ninfa died last summer.
Interesting post. You're very sophisticated and knowledgeable. I respect you and your opinions for that. But I've also eaten at every place mentioned in all of our posts-several times-and respectfully differ in my opinions. Forgive me but I will argue "long into the night" that the Luling Market (the original with the enclosed pit where the air is so thick that I actually feel sorry for what the Pitmaster is inhaling!) is the best brisket I have ever had. I've been to all of the ones in Lockhart including Black's and the old Kreuz (when it was still the original and it was their prime rib that was the best), the new one as well as the new version of the old one. (Yes, I've had the links in Elgin.) I don't know the owners but I've eaten all of their efforts. In Elgin, Taylor, Llano (the only Cooper's I've been to, I heard the others were not on the same level) and into Glenrose at Maurice's Western Kitchen where the marbled beef spends over 30 hours over indirect heat. Yes, I know the other place there is more famous (Hammond's-that's where Jane and Michael Stern stopped at) but the Western Kitchen is exemplery.
Point is appararently we've both consumed serious amounts of both excellent beef and that which was, well, less than excellent.
I just disagree with much of what you are saying.
But I also know this: I used to think that the Dreamland Drive In in Tuscaloosa had the absolute best ribs on earth. Plus atmosphere to match! (The pit is IN the room where all the tables are at that you eat on.) After raving about it for years I talked my wife in letting me drive the 60 miles from Birmingham to eat there. When we got there we waited for over an hour on a July day to get in and when we did, it was probably hotter inside than out.
The ribs were tough. Tough! I remember my wife actually laughing at me after she took her first bite!
She thought I was both crazy and a masochist.
Two years later I returned as part of a business trip and they were everything I remembered from the first several visits.
Two opinions. Same joint. Supposedly the same ribs. But to this day if I tell someone that the Dreamland Drive In has the best bbq'd ribs in America she thinks I'm in exactly that: dreamland.
OK, I realize that barbecue may be one of the most personal tastes imaginable. After all, former President Bush (among apparently many, many others) loves the barbecue at Otto's in Houston; I think it probably ranks up there with some of the worse I have ever had. In fact, I know people who find Goode Company to be way overrated and perhaps even mediocre. What can I say?
Anyway, I, too, have eaten numerous times at all those places we mentioned and, admittedly, none are actually bad and I would return to almost all without hesitation (except for the Pappas restaurants primarily for the reasons I gave earlier and also because, I must confess, a profound distaste for several of the company's corporate policies and officers -- but that's another story). So, I am not denigrating your opinions, but, in fact, find those opinions to be quite interesting and worthy of respect.
Vive la différence!
The rafters of the house must be groaning from the accumulated weight of opinion that has settled on the roof but I am compelled to add my two cents (two pence?) worth.
I am not competent to discuss Dallas other than to say that I have had marvelous times when I have been there. I've not expected haute cuisine but I've eaten quite well. I agree with Rob at Vital Info--we seem to agree rather often, I think---that it is certainly worth exploring the town. The San Antonio option is also worthy. As to Austin? Well, I've not plumbed the depths yet but I have seen enought to know that I'd like to avoide the set-piece "college bar" stuff and the usual caned "tex-mex" stuff. The "real thing" is available there---it must be--but I have not found it yet. My visits there are but few and, for the most part, I have eaten in private homes.
Re: the "W" or Monteleone--I'd vote for the The Monteloen. Old Hotel, somwhat dowdy but perfectly acceptable (and a littel quirky). Cosmopolitains are out of my league , I regret to say. But do try a Sazerac at the Sazerac Bar in the Fairmont Hotel (pronounced "Roosevelt Hotel" to old New Orleanians).
"Must do" stuff includes Galatoire's which, as regulars to this site will know, I always promote as the last great Creole Restaurant in the City. "No schmeer, just food." Honest and straightforward cooking. Many a TV "chef" wishes he could replicate their stuff (and he could if he'd just stay true to the course).
Hope that this is of some help
I can't beleive it you asked about going to NO and all you got was comments about Texas! Come on folks, lets give them some info about the Big Easy. On that note, here goes.
If you are going to be primarily in the city and like raw oysters go to Pasquales Manale for the BBQ shrimp. Let me explain that one, the oysters enter the picture since you will most likely have to wait in line but while waiting you can get some good raw oysters and have a beer. Its the only restaurant I will get in line for. The BBQ shrimp is really good.
If you like Italian try Tony Angelo's. There is one out in Metarie on Florida Blvd. and I am told there is another one downtown somehwere. You will have to look it up in the phone book and probably in the white pages. When you go, just tell them to feed you. There will be no menu and they will just start brining food. They serve many courses of really great food, its a fixed price menu and you won't be sorry. For those less trusting they do have a menu.
Another place in the city I really recommend for two reasons, it appears to be away from the tourist crowd and once you get to the area there are several restaurants in the same block that really look good. This is Taqueria Corona at 5932 Magazine St. Its probably a reasonable cab ride from down town. Good Mexican food and if you don't like that, just stroll the block until you find another restaurant you like.
Another good spot for several restaurants is to get off I-10 at Carolloton and head down there until you get almost to the river. I believe the cross street you will be aiming for is Tchoupitoulas. In any case you will start to see several places. Park near that intersection and stroll in the direction of downtown. There's an Italian place on the left a couple of blocks from that intersection, the name of which escapes me, but its a small place and has really good food. If you don't see that one there are others in the area that look good as well.
If you really want to hit the place where the locals go, stop at the place out by the airport in Kenner. Its on Williams just north of I-10 where you make a left to go to the Esplanade Mall. Its called Fisherman's Cove and its a real small place with a bar. You will have to wait a bit (oops this looks like the second place I will stand in line for), but if you like boiled seafood and crawfish etc., they have the real thing here.
There are 2 W's in N.O. - a little one in the quarter and a big one in the CBD. I just got back from a wedding at the W (CBD) last Sat. night. It is a typical W ("Schraeger-esque", too trendy for mere mortals, etc.). Rooms not huge but very modern and nice. Good location, ultra trendy bar (Whiskey Blue, owned by C. Crawford's hubby). They play loud disco music in the lobby at all times (yes, even early on Sunday!). I've heard the other W is nice, but not great (with small rooms)
Monteleone - old world N.O. hotel. Nice lobby, historic bar. Good location (if you want to be in the quarter). Last time I stayed the room was sort of quirky (i.e. in need of a reno.) - but not too bad.
Why just those 2 hotels?? A few other options:
Windsor Court and Ritz Carlton (2 top hotels in the city - both exceptional).
Hotel Monaco, International House, Pere Marquette - 3 new "boutique" hotels in CBD (good location)- all very nice, very trendy (but less attitude than at W) and Int'l House has a great bar (Loa)
Wyndham Canal Place - big hotel but good location and awesome views of the river.
Try expedia, travelocity or each hotel's web site for good rates.
Good food info can be found on this board, or at nolalive.com's food forum