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What is the best gumbo in or around the FQ?

j
jkt Nov 9, 2008 07:30 PM

I love to cook and eat gumbos. I have a short trip to New Orleans at the end of this week and hope to try some more. I'm not driving, so I am looking at places in or close to the French Quarter.

The last and only time I went to New Orleans, I tried the gumbos at Mother's, NOLA, Dooky Chase, Drago's, K-Paul's, Gumbo Shop, Liuzza's by the Track, and Sidmar's. I liked Dooky Chase the best for the rich broth.

Also, is there any place around the FQ I can pick up some Tasso and Andouille to take home?

What would you suggest and what do you like about them? Thanks in advance.

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  1. edible complex Nov 10, 2008 05:25 AM

    try Mr. B's and Muriel's.
    sadly Sid-Mar's has not reopened post-K.

    1 Reply
    1. re: edible complex
      j
      jkt Nov 10, 2008 06:44 PM

      Muriel's I hadn't heard of. I'll check it out online.

    2. f
      Fydeaux Nov 10, 2008 09:44 AM

      I can strongly recommend the gumbo at Molly's on the Market.

      1. amykragan Nov 10, 2008 10:09 AM

        I think you can still get tasso & andouille at Central Grocery

        1. j
          JazzyB Nov 10, 2008 12:36 PM

          Mr. B's YaYa, gumbo of the day at Herbsaint. Cochon's pork, black eyed peas and greens gumbo. (I add salt and hot sauce). Commander's makes an excellent one as well.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JazzyB
            j
            jkt Nov 10, 2008 06:43 PM

            Cochon's is very tempting, although probably more for the pork. My doctor might not approve of that one.

          2. l
            lawstudent Nov 10, 2008 01:33 PM

            I like Mandina's on Canal St. The shrimp are never tiny.

            1. n
              nolapark Nov 10, 2008 01:47 PM

              Olivier's in the quarter has some great gumbo and you can get a tasting of all three to compare- it's one of my favorites in the city for gumbo

              1 Reply
              1. re: nolapark
                j
                jkt Nov 10, 2008 06:34 PM

                I looked up Olivier menu - it looks interesting - particularly with three gumbos - I'll make this one of my dinners.

              2. j
                jkt Nov 10, 2008 06:26 PM

                Thanks for the suggestions.

                I am thinking about Mr. B's, Galatoires, Coop's, and maybe Remoulade.

                I'm planning to drop by a few other places for an afternoon or evening snack. I'm only there from Thursday night to early sunday morning. I'd love to go by Commander's but that might be a little too far out.

                Is Upperline worth the trip for the roast duck or are there other places closer to the FQ that have good duck?

                I'll drop by Central Grocery this time and check it out.

                3 Replies
                1. re: jkt
                  b
                  Bigrayok Nov 10, 2008 07:28 PM

                  I concur with Olivier's. I love the File Gumbo especially.

                  Bigray in Ok

                  1. re: jkt
                    j
                    JazzyB Nov 11, 2008 06:20 AM

                    You can catch the St. Charles streetcar to Washington Ave. Commanders is just a couple of blocks, river side of St. Chas. Lunch in the garden room M-F.is well worth it.

                    1. re: jkt
                      N.O.Food Nov 11, 2008 11:00 AM

                      Duck 5 ways at Stella is good.

                    2. j
                      jkt Nov 12, 2008 12:36 PM

                      Thanks everybody for your suggestions - I'm planning to go to Mr. B's, Herbsaint, Galatoires, Olivier's, Coop's, and Cochon. I'll squeeze in Acme and Remoulade for extra meals if I can.

                      Some of the other suggestions like Commander's Palace I'll have to try when I come back with more time. I also want to try Casamento's but won't be able to on this trip.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: jkt
                        Bill Hunt Nov 12, 2008 04:03 PM

                        Now remember that you have to do a review of each one and state your favorites.

                        Since we've done entire trips that featured just fried shrimp and gumbos, I am always on the lookout for great versions of gumbo.

                        Inquiring [SIC] minds want to know,

                        Hunt

                      2. j
                        jkt Nov 17, 2008 07:36 PM

                        Back in SF, after my quick trip to New Orleans. I did try most of the places I wanted, although missed Coops and Acme. As my wife was at meetings, most of the meals were with my five year old daughter and myself.

                        My first dinner was at Mr. B's. I tried both the chicken and seafood gumbos. The seafood gumbo was a dark brown, rich, broth. It had a seafood broth with maybe a clam like tone. My bowl had oysters and shrimp. It was a little smoky and had a roux flavor. I liked the chicken gumbo more. It had a bitter, dull (in a pleasant way), flavor and was not sweet, I think from a very dark roux. There was almost a beefy flavor to the broth. The sausages were spicy and and slightly cooked out. The chicken was tender and held its flavor. There was a chunk of fat, kind of like the fat from ham, which I also liked. As for the other dishes, I tried the fried oysters (which I liked), the roast duck, and my daughter loved the chocolate profiteroles, but then she likes anything that has chocolate and ice cream.

                        In the morning, we visited Cafe du Monde, although more for my five year old than for me. A buggy ride, beignets and hot chocolate were quite a hit for her.

                        We next had lunch at Herbsaint. Their pork and andouille gumbo had a salty, thin, meat and chicken flavored broth. It had a strong flavor with high pork tones, I'm guessing it was reduced to intensify the flavor. There was a cured flavor to the sausage, almost fruity, and shredded pork. There were also pieces I believe of Tasso, that had a spicy, jerky-like flavor. It was garnished with green onion. While there I also tried the chicken pot pie and fries.

                        As a late lunch, I went to Remoulade, kind of hoping it would be a cheaper version of Arnaud's, its parent restaurant. The seafood gumbo had a rich seafood flavor, and was sweet and buttery. The file gumbo, had a salty pork flavor, with spicy sausage. These didn't seem as striking as distinctive as the earlier gumbos I tried, but then that could have been touristy ambience and lack of appetitie by that point.

                        For dinner, I followed the Olivier suggestion. The three gumbo sampler was a treat. The three gumbos were quite distinctive from each other. They divided their gumbos as roux based, okra based, and file based. The okra gumbo was seafood based with a slight beefy flavor and high tones. I thought I detected some tomato. The sausage was spicy and flavorful (chaurice maybe?). The file gumbo was more viscous, with the herbal tones from the file. It had a slight flour taste with meat, almost like a gravy. It was more delicate than the okra gumbo. The roux based or creole gumbo had a distinctive smoky flavor, like cigarettes (in a pleasant way). I'm guessing a very light touch of liquid smoke. It had a light seafood base and a more delicate spicy sausage. Of the three, I liked the roux based gumbo the best, but the contrast between the three was very interesting. I had the creole rabbit as a main course.

                        The next day, we made it to Galatoires for lunch. After having postponed it from the day before when it was very crowded at 2 PM, there were tables available for the first hour or so. (We showed up a little early). Galatoires was definitely classy and elegant, as was their food. After some delicious oysters Rockefeller to start, I had their gumbo. The gumbo had a light heat, a delciate seafood broth, was medium thick, sweet. It was pleasant and balanced, probably a mixed seafood and meat base. The shrimp were medium in size (as opposed to small) and were not overcooked. It had medium size pieces of okra that had a little firmness. It was a refined gumbo. I also had the roast duck, which was perfectly tender, the souffle potatoes, and the banana bread budding. My daughter of course filled up on bread. With the ambience, the restrained service, and delicious food, this was my favorite meal of the trip.

                        Lastly we went to Cochon for dinner. The gumbo was pork, black eyed peas, and greens. The broth was salty, pork based, and had rich flavor. The beans and greens seemed a natural match to the pork. It was similar to Herbsaint's, although less distinctive. I went with my wife, daughter and friend, so we tried a number of dishes, the Louisiana cochon with turnips and cracklins, the pork cheeks, seared shrimp, boucherie plate, rabbit ravioli, smothered greens, smoked brisket, and spice and chocolate cakes. I thought the head cheese on the boucherie plate, the fried cheese/beet/arugala under the pork cheeks, and the spice cake were absolutely delicious. I was surprised that there wasn't more smoke in the meats. The brisket was the tender (fatty) side and also quite good. Cochon's informal, down to earth ambience matched the food well.

                        I like to learn what I can from gumbos I try. On this trip I enjoyed the unsweet, meaty broth of Mr. B's chicken gumbo, the distinctive sausages, tasso and intense pork based broth in the Herbsaint gumbo, the balance and elegance of the Galatoire gumbo, and the contrasts in the Olivier's gumbos, particularly the smoky creole gumbo.

                        Thanks you everybody for your suggestions. I'm looking forward to my next trip already.

                        17 Replies
                        1. re: jkt
                          Bill Hunt Nov 19, 2008 07:24 PM

                          Just a wonderful report!!! I could almost taste each version. What a pleasure to read.

                          We did an entire fried shrimp & gumbo trip some years ago. This covered much of the NOLA Area and extended to the MS Gulf Coast. Of the twenty-something gumbos, that we did, most were seafood, which is our favorite. However, when offered, we tried whatever was the "house specialty."

                          After all these years, I am still amazed at the differences in gumbos - from clear broth to black as West Virginaia coal - from thin to eat-it-with-a-fork thick. What a wonderful dish!

                          Thanks, you took me home with your descriptions.

                          Hunt

                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                            j
                            jkt Nov 20, 2008 06:04 PM

                            That must have been quite a trip - I would love to try gumbos around Louisiana.

                            For the fried shrimp, were you going for deep fried-breaded shrimp or pan fried? I would wonder if the best were near the shimping towns.

                            1. re: jkt
                              Bill Hunt Nov 20, 2008 07:49 PM

                              We did not differentiate between these. Most, by my observations, were deep-fried, but I did not vist the kitchens. We did this for both New Orleans (and its environs) and the MS Gulf Coast.

                              Back then, the winner was Baracive's in Biloxi. They scored the best gumbo AND the best fried-shrimp. When I knew them (before), they were located at the foot of the old Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge on Route 90. When we did this tour, they were on the beach in Biloxi, just east of where the old gambling boat docked. Obviously, this was before the gambilin/casinos on the Coast had been voted it. Their property sold, and I doubt that they exist any longer. I knew them from back in the 1950's in the old location. I'd be surprised if the family re-opened after gambling hit the Coast, and especially post-Katrina.

                              Still, the ultimate winners were:

                              Fried Shrimp - Magnusen's House of Seafood, Gulfport, MS (long gone)
                              Marquez Brothers, Chef Highway, Lake Katherine, LA (long gone)

                              Gumbo:

                              My wife's, when she can be talked into doing it!

                              Still, on that trip, Baraciev's won the title for both.

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                h
                                heavy d Nov 20, 2008 08:36 PM

                                Bill, Baraciev's is no longer. back in the early 90's when the casinos went land based they sold the property to a casino and never re -opened. when was the last time you visited the Coast?

                                1. re: heavy d
                                  Bill Hunt Nov 21, 2008 03:28 PM

                                  Sorry that I did not do more with my word "were." Yes, they are gone, but will be remembered.

                                  I keep talking to Coasties and also the South board, in hopes that they might re-open, but no.

                                  As for the Coast, we were there February and it appeared that some things were coming back.

                                  Again, in my lifetime, everything that I knew on the Coast has been replaced. Such is life in those environs.

                                  Hunt

                                2. re: Bill Hunt
                                  j
                                  jkt Nov 21, 2008 06:54 AM

                                  Hi Bill,
                                  What were you looking for in shrimp and gumbos? I would guess in shrimp, you'd be looking for size, flavor, texture (tender/juicy vs dry), spices, freshness, etc?

                                  1. re: jkt
                                    N.O.Food Nov 21, 2008 09:10 AM

                                    Jkt,

                                    You should try to come to nola when United Way is having its annual gumbo cookoff. That'll give you a chance to sample tons of gumbos from the area's best chefs as well as gumbos from not-so-well-known chefs. It's a good time and a lot of good eating. You might also be interested in this website:

                                    http://www.southerngumbotrail.com/int...

                                    1. re: N.O.Food
                                      Bill Hunt Nov 21, 2008 03:52 PM

                                      That sounds like another wonderful reason to visit NOLA. Thanks for the link.

                                      Hunt

                                      1. re: N.O.Food
                                        j
                                        jkt Nov 21, 2008 07:28 PM

                                        Wow. I read on Yelp about last year's but didn't see a date for next year - I'd probably have to plan for 2010. I was staying right next to the Desire Oyster Bar and Bourbon House, so I regret not trying their gumbos since they were mentioned highly.

                                        I have been reading some of the southern gumbo trail's oral histories and gleaning techniques from them - I'm hoping that it comes out as a book or video someday.

                                        1. re: jkt
                                          Bill Hunt Nov 21, 2008 07:35 PM

                                          Maybe next trip over, I can do the "gumbo trail," then the "tamale [SIC] trail" in Mississippi. For me, that would be an ultimate culinary experience.

                                          Hunt

                                          1. re: jkt
                                            j
                                            joeesha Dec 26, 2008 03:22 PM

                                            Gumbo at Desire didn't have much flavor except for the brown roux. I might have liked it better if it hadn't arrived lukewarm. The oysters here were mighty tasty though.

                                        2. re: jkt
                                          Bill Hunt Nov 21, 2008 03:51 PM

                                          Exactly. We tried a few dozen different restaurants and also based our ratings on what we each had known in our youth.

                                          Now, for my two, long-gone winners, each exhibited all of the attributes, that you mention. Size was medium-large, the batter was light, and lightly-seasoned, but in no way greasy. Each had a definite freshness and the texture was crunchy batter, but smooth shrimp inside. One, Magnusun's, had a batter more like great tempura, while Marquez Bros' batter was a bit "smoother," and maybe with a tad less crunch. Baraceive's was more like Marquez Bros' in the crunch and visual texture of the batter. Still, they were fresh, tender and so delicious.

                                          The closest that we found to "then open" restaurants was Brunings at the Lakefront - alas, it's gone too. My wife does not recall Magnusun's, but did get to taste all of the others. She's worked very hard to duplicate them, but you have to remember that we're in AZ and even with counter-to-counter airline service, the shrimp are not right-off-the-boat fresh.

                                          As to seafood gumbo, I like a medium-heavy, hearty and "beefy" roux. My wife's recipe, when she can get the ingredients calls for sheepshead (fish), shrimp, crab meat (blue, picked and claws) and several sausages, some stewed tomatoes, plus okra. Now, she might not be a purist, as she does a roux, add okra, and then we sprinkly filé atop. In a thread about a year ago, plenty of people pulled up Wiki-pedia articles and quotations from various cookbooks, that said you cannot do more than one of these, roux, okra or filé. To these folk, I say you have not tasted my wife's gumbo. To date, I have yet to see any chef advertise that he/she uses a Wiki-pedia "approved" recipe for anything. There are a bunch of spices, and a little heat, but the flavors all blend. The resultant color is a colorado-brown and the consistancy is medium-heavy. You can eat it with either a fork, or a spoon. Again, on that much earlier journey, Baraceive's was the winner.

                                          I've had gumbos on the last several trips to NOLA. All were good, to good+, but none really stuck out. Now, we'ver had more noteworthy batches of turtle soup, but the gumbos, while different were not that special.

                                          Since moving from NOLA, my wife usually contacts her brother, still in the City, and places her order. He'll work out the suppliers and package and ship counter-to-counter. I head to the airport about 10:00PM that day, and she's in the kitchen by 11:00PM starting her gumbo. By about 1:00AM, she's got things in her large stock pot and when we wake up, she's tasting and tweaking. We'll usualy have a bowl that evening, but any guests do not get it, until it has been in the 'fridge for a day.

                                          Hunt

                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                            j
                                            jkt Nov 21, 2008 07:40 PM

                                            Using more than one thickener, while not traditional, I wouldn't think is a problem unless you use too much. I've always read that the dark roux loses its thickening ability, so it's really how much okra and file you use.

                                            What is her brother shipping - seafood and sausage? In the SF Bay Area we get decent shrimp and crab, but there's nothing like real andouille, chaurice, and tasso out here so I have to mail order.

                                            I would love to have tried some of those shrimp - did you usually have a sauce or eat them straight?

                                            1. re: jkt
                                              Bill Hunt Nov 21, 2008 07:52 PM

                                              In our land-locked state, it is mainly seafood, though there is usually some andouille, as well. She also uses some "smoked" brand of sausage, that she gets from a local sausage purveyor.

                                              Sometimes, the sheepshead is not available, and she will use other fish, local to the NOLA Area. One year, she used rat redfish and for another some other drum. When done, I really cannot pick up the differences in the fish, as they are a pretty small component. Still, she really loves sheepshead. I use to catch these near the pilings from bridges, or old oil rigs, but do not recall ever having cooked/eaten any. Maybe I did not know what I was missing. I even had a garden hoe, that had been straightened out and attached to a longer handle. This was used to scrape the barnacles from the pilings to "chum" for the sheepsheads. Heck, here I was making "cut-bait" out of fish, that my wife would have loved to have in her gumbo! Dang.

                                              Hunt

                                              1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                a
                                                alfredck Nov 22, 2008 02:07 PM

                                                Great posts jkt and Hunt. We will also visit New Orleans from the Bay and I appreciate your descriptions of all of the gumbos (the only problem is, I had all of our meals planned, and now I need to rearrange things to accommodate your recommendations!--too bad we can't eat six meals a day). We may also try the gumbo at Vrazel's. BTW I saw whole sheepshead in SF Chinatown today, but I can't vouch for their freshness (eyes were somewhat cloudy).

                                            2. re: Bill Hunt
                                              Delucacheesemonger Nov 21, 2008 07:56 PM

                                              If any consolation, l use all three as well.

                                    2. re: jkt
                                      edible complex Dec 27, 2008 05:58 AM

                                      here's a link to Mr. B's recipe for their Gumbo Ya-Ya.
                                      http://www.mrbsbistro.com/recipes_gum...
                                      my annual holiday Mr. B's lunch always starts with Gumbo Ya-Ya and ends with Profiteroles.

                                    3. j
                                      j.ho Nov 21, 2008 02:17 PM

                                      I second Muriel's - their seafood gumbo was great - unbelievably fresh. I highly recommend it. Galitoire's also makes a very good, dark, rich gumbo.

                                      1. h
                                        hazelhurst Dec 27, 2008 06:10 AM

                                        CAn't go wrong with Dooky Chase, in my view, altho I have not been since Miss Leah reopened. I still miss Eddie's, though. If you want a treat, call the New Iberia Chamber of Commerce and see when teh International Gumbo Contest is next year..it is always in November--the contest itself is held on Sunday--get there early--6:00 AM--to be part of the fun. We used to compete and always had a blast.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: hazelhurst
                                          c
                                          cajungirl Dec 29, 2008 12:00 PM

                                          The 2009 date is not posted yet, for the Gumbo Cookoff in New Iberia, but it is always held in October, as I recall. Here's the link: http://www.iberiachamber.org/gumbo.php.

                                          1. re: cajungirl
                                            h
                                            hazelhurst Dec 29, 2008 12:30 PM

                                            Yes, you are right--it IS in October...I don;t know what I was thinking...it is usually just after the Sugar Cane Festival.

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