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New Orleans Basics

Fellow Hounders,

I will be visiting New Orleans between 2/12 and 2/17 (with perhaps a day trip out of the city) and was hoping I could get some very basic reccos on places to eat. I've only been to New Orleans once, and it was for just 18 hours, so I didn't get far!

To try to narrow my query a bit, I suppose I'm looking for guidance on two things:

1) As a rule, I generally try to avoid touristy places -- but that said, are there any touristy places that I just shouldn't miss? As an example, I went to some sandwich place (Momma's? Big Momma's?) that had a hero (maybe a Po-boy, but I don't want to misuse the term) with oven scrapings that I really enjoyed. And I really want to try beignets, and suppose I'll go to Cafe du Monde unless some Hounder steers me elsewhere.

2) This is the harder one -- where are a few places that I should go to try to begin to understand the grammar of New Orleans cooking? Put differently, what do you think I need to try during three or four days of eating opportunities? Gumbo? Po-boys of different varieties? Fried chicken? I'd love to hear your thoughts. By way of example, if you were coming to New York City (where I live) and were asking the same question, I'd steer you to very precise places to try real bagels and bialies, hot dogs, pizza, deli, knishes and any number of things that are distnictly NYC.

By the way, on my first brief trip I managed to make it to Uglesich's, which fairly put me over the moon. I'm told it closed.

My general mantra is, show me the first place the returning soldier goes when he comes home on leave. That's where I want to be.

Sorry -- this is a bit longer than I'd intended. I really, really appreciate your guidance.

-SaltPeter

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  1. I'll leave the inner city suggestions to the other folks but if you take a day trip I have a couple of suggestions. If you take a ride west on Airline, stop at the visitor center in Gramercy and get your free bag of Zap's chips. Then take the short nature walk on the boardwalk. Next cross the MS river bridge in Gramercy, head north, eat at B & C on River Road and take a plantation tour. My favorite is St. Joe. Don't forget to get a snowball under the bridge on your way home. Or go west on I-10 and take the first LaPlace exit. Then go right and take another right on Peavine Road. The Crab Trap and Frenier Landing are two good restaurants there right on the lake. Upstairs from the Crab Trap is Lakeview Snowballs. They are fabulous. If you continue up highway 51 there's a nature trail just before the interstate meets the old highway. Continue north on 51 and you reach the beautiful old town of Ponchatoula. There's old hardhide, the gator, in the middle of town right next to Paul's Cafe. At Paul's you can buy some sweet Louisiana wine and have a fine inexpensive meal. When you get into Ponchatoula take a left on the main road and go a couple of miles to A Taste of Bavaria bakery and restaurant for some fresh baked bread. On your way back stop at Berrytown Produce for some Liuzza Farms tomatoes or strawberries. Check out my daytrip pics at www.ladayrides.com - it might give you some ideas.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mrsfury

      Mrs. F, will the Peavine places be open in Feb.?

      1. re: edible complex

        Re: Peavine restaurant I can't answer that question, edible. Sorry. Did you eat there? When I went it was terrible. The other places are open now.

        1. re: mrsfury

          we ate at The Crab Trap. the "BBQ" crabs were my favorite, but the shrimp and potatoes not so much. sorry I forgot a cooler for packing some soft shells.
          when I went, I was told they close during the winter.

          1. re: edible complex

            Louie Lipps (Crab Trap) posted on the river parishes nola.com forum that he was opening 2/01 so I'm just assuming it's open. I know Frenier is open. I've already heard good things.
            Edited to say: I just found the post. Crab Trap opens 2/13. Sorry about that.

            1. re: mrsfury

              The Crab Trap
              Peavine Road near the Peavine Boat Launch, Frenier, 985.651.4150

              Louie Lipps' weekend-only seafood joint is a seasonal business, with the season beginning just as the demand for crawfish approaches its fever pitch. This year, opening day is Feb. 13, when the specialist will unveil a new twist on the otherwise bare bones seafood menu: wood-smoked ribs.

    2. 1) Mother's; and you likely had a roast beef debris po boy. There are many other po boy places to try: Parkway Bakery, Mahoney's, Parasol's, Domilise's...to start.
      Cafe du Monde is still a great place for beignets (don't wear black there)

      2) check out Cochon, Acme Oyster, Boucherie, Jacques-Imo's, Brigtsen's, Patois, Galley Seafood, Liuzza's, Rivershack Tavern

      when I've traveled and been away for a long time, I want raw oysters, fried oysters, soft shell crabs, boiled crabs and crawfish, roast beef po boys, rabbit.

      for a road trip, you might to check out Middendorf's or Roberto's River Road.

      enjoy!

      -----
      Liuzza's By the Track
      1518 N Lopez St, New Orleans, LA 70119

      Cochon
      930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130

      Domilise's Sandwich Shop & Bar
      5240 Annunciation St, New Orleans, LA 70115

      Parkway Bakery & Tavern
      538 Hagan Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119

      Acme Oyster House
      724 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70130

      Brigtsen's Restaurant
      723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118

      Jacques-Imo's Cafe
      8324 Oak St, New Orleans, LA 70118

      Patois
      6078 Laurel St., New Orleans, LA 70118

      Galley Seafood Restaurant
      2535 Metairie Rd, Metairie, LA 70001

      Mahony's PO Boy Shop
      3454 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70115

      Parasol's Restaurant
      2533 Constance St, New Orleans, LA 70130

      Rivershack Tavern
      3449 River Rd, Jefferson, LA

      1. In response to #2: this is an excellent question--and one that will generate a great diversity of responses if you ask locals, as everyone has their own spin on "essential" New Orleans cooking, shaped by their particular neighborhood, ethnic background, and personal favorites.

        My take follows:
        --you definitely need to visit a seafood joint/oyster bar. Skip the ones in the Quarter and head uptown to Casamento's, where you'll encounter mostly locals, a friendly shucker, and impeccable seafood fried in lard. I'd start with half a dozen raw (unless you're with friends or have a massive appetite), an order of fried crab claws, and a fried softshell sandwich (or an oyster loaf, if you want more oysters). Other possibilities include the oyster stew or the gumbo (but it's too italian a gumbo for my personal tastes).
        --you need to experience a neighborhood poboy shop. Parkway Bakery is a fine choice, or Crabby Jack's, or Domilese or Parasol's or Guy's. Try a roast beef, or a hot ham & cheese, or fried oysters (yes, again), or anything else that tickles your fancy.
        --if you don't have time to get out into the hinterlands, then Cochon will provide your palate with a sampling of the pork-centric flavors of Acadiana.
        --if you're inclined toward classic dining establishments with a sense of history, then Galatoire's is a must. Or Commander's Palace, especially if you like bustling places with people-watching opportunities.
        --if ingredients-driven modern fine dining is your thing, then you could hit MiLa, Restaurant August, or Cuvee for Louisiana inspired creations.
        --please do go to Cafe du Monde. Locals go there--how else do you explain the success of the satellite locations in shopping malls? CDM is cheap, tasty, and fun. Drink a cafe au lait, eat some beignets: it will cost all of $5, a little more if you tip generously.
        As far as gumbo, you could live three lifetimes and not sample all of the delicious variations available. There is no one or two definitive versions: more like a hundred.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Hungry Celeste

          What she said, and....

          I never have gumbo in restaurants -- my mom's gumbo has spoiled me -- but Brigtsen's makes a great duck gumbo, and Commander's always has great gumbo, as well as turtle soup. The added benefit of Brigtsen's is getting out of the quarter (way out) and having an excuse to go Uptown.

          I second votes for Cafe Du Monde, Parkway, Cochon and Galatoire's, but I would add a Central Grocery Muffaletta (only if you like olives) and lunch at Bayona.

          Also, as you probably are aware, there will be parades going on when you're here, including Barkus, the dog parade in the Quarter. Here's the schedule:
          http://www.mardigras.com/parades/

          1. re: HalfShell

            Hey, I'd like to thank mrsfury, edible complex, HalfShell and everybody else thoughtful enough to post such substantial responses to my query. You guys are the best; your suggestions are really helpful. Make your way to NYC and let me return the favor!

            Best,

            SaltPeter

        2. I'll add Mandina's and Bon Ton Cafe.

          1. As Hungry Celeste states earlier in the thread, a visit to Galatoire's is really a must.

            Now, comes the hard part. Standing in line and dining downstairs is a real treat. It is a show, with no real cover-charge.

            However, for your #2, I will break from tradition, and give you the reason for doing so. Make a reservation and dine upstairs. Plan on several hours of dining. Walk slowly past the downstairs, as it is worth seeing. Once upstairs, things are just a tad bit quieter, and often more laid-back. That's why I am recommending it. Once your server has introduced him/herself, inquire about every aspect of the food. Show that you are very interested and wish to learn. Explain that you are "new in town," and want the "ultimate New Orleans experience." Your server will guide you, and in the quieter, upstairs, will likely be able to spend a bit more time with you. If you wish to learn about New Orleans cuisine, Galatoire's is the place. Do not be in any hurry. Allow the server to pick for you, and allow them to tell you why. You will likely walk out quite full, and satisfied, plus will have an honorary degree in cuisine, history and social anthropology - all for the price of one meal.

            There is also a New Orleans (or maybe fully Louisiana) cuisine museum in the Riverwalk area. I have not been, but it might be worth a trip.

            Relax and enjoy,

            Hunt

            1 Reply
            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Thanks so much for the post. I'd thought that Galatoire's was no-reservation, line only! I'd be delighted to let a waiter there give me the "omikase" of New Orleans cooking. God, this thread is getting me hungry.

            2. Hello from a New Englander who ate his way through New Orleans a few weeks ago.

              One thing we did that I would HIGHLY recommend was the seven-course New Orleans tasting menu at Upperline, which is in the Garden District area, two blocks from a streetcar stop. We did that our first night there to orient ourselves culinarily, and it was great.

              We were visiting for four days, so I despaired of not having enough meals there to sample all the quintessential New Orleans dishes people talk about. At Upperline we were able to try etouffee, turtle soup, fried green tomatoes with remoulade, gumbo, blackened shrimp, several duck preparations, etc. ... all in one sitting! Plus, as it was a tasting menu, had we not liked anything (my wife was queasy about turtle soup) it wouldn't have been a total meal-killer.

              If you are staying in the Central Business District we loved Mother's for breakfast. I have the sense it is a real institution there.

              Acme Oyster is good for lunch -- convenient to anything you might be doing in the French Quarter. I had a yummy po'boy there, and we got to see Gov. Jindal being interviewed by Morley Safer of "60 Minutes" right before our eyes while dining there!

              Our other dinners were at Bayona and Stella, both in the French Quarter. Bayona was fantastic but we didn't find Stella to our liking ... the food was great but overshadowed by service that was positively icy, combined with an off-puttingly snooty clientele.

              I hope you enjoy your visit as much as we enjoyed ours!

              TM

              -----
              Mother's Restaurant
              401 Poydras St, New Orleans, LA 70130

              Acme Oyster House
              724 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70130

              Bayona
              430 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112

              Upperline Restaurant
              1413 Upperline St, New Orleans, LA

              8 Replies
              1. re: tunamelt

                Wow. The food I've had at Mother's and Acme was tragic. Stella! was outstanding from the minute we walked in the door.

                1. re: mrsfury

                  I concur absolutely w/ mrsfury.

                  1. re: mrsfury

                    Mother's has been spiraling downward for years. Don't know why word hasn't trickled up to the guidebooks. Skip it, and try Parkway Bakery & Tavern. Parkway's roast beef po-boys are fantastic. The fried shrimp po-boy ain't too shabby either!

                    Either take a taxi from the French Quarter to Parkway (a 5-10 minute ride), OR walk to the edge of the French Quarter and catch a lake-bound Canal Street streetcar. Here's a TripAdvisor thread, with details and useful links.

                    http://tinyurl.com/cu4mrl

                    1. re: SBrooksB

                      Last weekend, the roast beef poboy at Domilise's was FAR better than Mother's.
                      Disappointed I wasted the time at Mother's.
                      Although I did learn a good tip at both places. Call ahead while you are on the way and avoid the lines. Show up and pick up.

                      The muffuletta from the central grocer was great. Bought it Friday, kept it in the fridge and had it on Sunday on the drive home. Really delicious.

                      1. re: rcburli

                        Man, if Domilise's r.b. is better than Mother's, it must be terrible. Domilise's is god-awful.

                    2. re: mrsfury

                      ACME has decent charbroiled oysters and can be safely skipped for the other stuff. Same for Felix's - stick with raw oysters and Abita and ignore the other stuff.

                    3. re: tunamelt

                      mothers is a no-go -- earned its fame decades ago, owners & pizazz long gone. sorry but its to be avoided... as mentioned, Parasol's or Parkway are wonderful alternatives w/ fantastic roast beef poboys.

                      but those guide books keep sending people its way...lines around the block some days. hoowee...

                      1. re: kibbles

                        I read an old thread where negative comments drew some fighing words from Mother's loyalists. I just don't understand anything about it....extremely poor and uncaring service with mediocre food. I"ve never wanted to go back, and probably never will.

                    4. For a real, local treat, if you are there during the week (we actually are leaving home a day early just to be there for Friday lunch 2/13) get the fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House in the Faubourg Treme (St. Ann St., I think). She won the James Beard award for her fried chicken. It is fabulous! They are open M-F 11 - 2 (I think).

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: skybolt

                        Willie Mae's did NOT win a James Beard Award for the best fried chicken. She was bestowed a James Beard Award for an American Classic, which is given to places that have been around forever. See previous posts on Willie Mae's before you venture there, some love it, some think it's overrated. I've given it three chances and have not been impressed once.

                        1. re: skybolt

                          If you go to WM's, get there when they open. Try Commander's for lunch M-F in the garden room. It's a fun and tasty example of New Orleans fare,. 25 cent martinis and the best turtle soup in town. Bread pudding souffle for dessert. Get a muff. from central grocery to take home. Bozo's in Metairie (21st St.) has excellent 1/2 shell and the best oyster po boy. Felix's in FQ has excellent 1/2 shell as well. Stand at the bar and wash them down with an Abita draught (our terrific local beer). Not a fan of Mr. B's but they're worth a visit strictly for the bar-b-que shrimp and gumbo Ya-Ya. Thanks for coming and enhoy!