Disappointing food trip to NOLA (very long review)
I may be the only person in history to have lost weight on a trip to NOLA. Sigh. We had the most frustrating string of bad luck when it came to restaurants.
Reference.... family of 5 on an extended road trip.... in NOLA for the weekend.
Friday. It took longer than we expected to get into New Orleans and get checked into our hotel (Place de Armes.... loved it BTW). No one had eaten lunch and by 7:00 p.m. we were starving. We had a scheduled 8:30p.m. tour, but we thought.... surely we can eat in 1.25 hours and still get to our tour. WRONG! We walked up to Acme, found a line out the door, so crossed over to Felix's where we were seated at apprx 7:15. We ordered and then waited. It should have been a tip off to me that no one around us had food on their tables and that they all looked pretty miserable. We waited and waited. Our drinks eventually arrived. We ordered the house special... some sort of spiked up lemonade thing. It was nauseating; sickenly sweet and artificial tasting. At around 7:50 some shucked oysters finally showed up (our server promised our food would be right out). The oysters were fresh, but they had been so poorly shucked that there were pieces of shell and debris littered through out. Shame on them! At 8:15, fully an hour after we were seated, our food still had not shown up. We had to leave without eating. Thank God Cafe du Monde is open 24/7.
Saturday (our one good food day).
Lunch... We tried to go to Coops but a single gaming machine meant that our teens couldn't go in. Ended up at the Napolean House. Very nice lunch. Gumbo, Red beans & rice and Jambalaya all very good. Po Boy and Mufuletta nothing to write home about. I thought the Muffuletta needed more meat in it to balance out the olive relish. Introduced to Pimm's Cup. Yumm!
Dinner... Boucherie. Everything I hoped it would be. There was a crowd waiting to get in, but we had a reservation and our table was waiting for us when we arrived. The service was very good and the food was wonderful. They make a smashing Pimm's Cup (best one we had in NOLA). I had the Boudin Balls and Shrimp/grits. Delicious! Son who is a bit of an expert when it comes to mussels having eaten them all over Belgium, France and the Pacific NW said that they were some of the best he had ever had (the broth has "some delicious greens in it). Both son and husband raved about the ribs. Dessert was a bit of miss. They need to hire a good pastry chef. If I lived in NOLA, I would eat at Boucherie all the time.
Sunday.... After Mass we headed out to Dante's Kitchen for brunch. We were a bit late getting out of the Quarter, so we did not get to the restaurant until 11:20. At 11:20 there was a 1.5 hour wait!!!! Yikes! We had to get out to our Laura Plantation tour, so we could not wait. I told the kids we would eat on the road. BIG MISTAKE! We didn't really see much on the way to the freeway. Once out of town, tourist information told us that there was a restaurant right next to the plantation. CLOSED. We ended up not eating again all day. Back in the quarter for dinner, most of the restaurants we wanted were closed on Sunday night. We ended up at Mr. B's.
The minute I walked in, I thought... uh oh. My senses told me that this was the type of place that probably catered to business travelers and tourists. I was right. The food was expensive, mediocre and even bad. Both gumbos (seafood and regular) were inedible. I took three bites, put my spoon down, but was never asked by my server if I wanted something else. My two older kids liked their cheese and leek soup, but watching them eat it, I thought the soup had sort of a gloppy consistency that was unpleasant. Main dishes... two older kids had the soft shell crab. They liked the crab, but the crab was served on some sort of corn concoction that my 16 yr old son graciously pointed out was NOT a good pairing for the crab. My 15 yr old daughter just gagged when she tasted it. To be fair, my husband liked his crab ravioli. I ordered the BBQed shrimp which everyone says is the must order dish. Now I'm an experienced eater. I've eaten things that most people would not get within 10 feet of. I'm no shrinking violet and I enjoy tucking into food. However, this BBQed shrimp was ridiculous. It came with every thing still attached to it (head, legs, shell) and it was served in a deep wide bowl full of sauce. I don't know what the problem was. I've shelled plenty of shrimp in my day... maybe they were over-cooked, but these shells were not coming off for love or money. They tended to break up in small pieces in my hands and by the time I was finished shelling, I was up to my wrists (literally) in sauce and I felt like I had participated in some sort of Grecco-Roman wrestling event. I was fuming! The shrimp tasted pretty good, but they were ABSOLUTELY NOT worth the effort. Dessert was pedestrian at best. In the end, our bill was $200 (we did not have wine) and we had had a boring, if not bad meal. I was beside myself because I had so wanted to eat good food in NOLA.
Anyway.... once again praise for beignets and Cafe du Monde. Also for Pimm's Cup, our new found summer cocktail. All in all, we loved NOLA and I can't wait to come back with just my husband. Hopefully we will have better luck with food next time.
glad you had some high points....sad 'bout the others. I DO live here, and still get to Boucherie 'almost' often enuf......wish more, tho' The barbq'd shrimp was served to the norm, but the preparation sounds pretty poorly done. There were lotsa recommendations in response to your earlier request. It just sux when, with limited chances, several come up short. Try again
II am soory to hear that your dining experiences did not go as you had planned or wished. Boucherie and Napoleon House are great and I am happy to hear that you enjoyed them. Just as a note-oysters are "out of season" this time of year although people do still eat them- but the manner in which they were shucked sounds like someone inexperienced in shucking was at the helm on that one. BBQ Shrimp in NOLA is always a spicy dish with copious amounts of butter, worcestshire sauce, pepper, garlic, hot sauce etc., and shrimp with heads and tails on. There is really no BBQ to the dish so I am not exactly certain where the name came from. Mr. B's, while not the best restaurant, generally has good BBQ shrimp. It sounds like perhaps yours were overcooked. If you have any interest in trying them again Pascale Manales are pretty good-although I have heard they were made with margarine and not butter, but cannot confirm that. Did you have a reservation at Dante's Kitchen? Generally they are not that crowded, so I am suprised that with a reservation you would have had to wait. You missed out on a good brunch there. You could have hit one of the po boy spots or taken a muffaletta on the road with you, in case you ever run into this again. Mandina's also usually seats you pretty quickly and has a large dining room and they are open Sunday evenings. If you do come back with your husband, here are a few tips to help you to gain back the 5 lbs you lost.
1. MAke reservations at ANY place that will take them, even if they say it is not a necessity. This will insure that you have more of a set plan and do not have to settle on a place that is not part of your wishlist.
2. Stay for a little bit longer if your schedule permits so that you are more relaxed and are able to fit more into your trip.
3. Plan on branching out from the Quarter. If there is a conference in town, or a busy weekend, you will generally have to wait in restaurants. There are a plethora of restaurants Uptown that are easily accessible by streetcar, taxi, or car, and you will find more locals and local flavor and less of a tourist crowd.
4. If you are with children/teens again, try Jacques Imos. They are casual but accept reservations for parties of 5 or more. Also try Cooter Browns, or one of the Po boy joints. You won't have to make a reservation and can always get it to go if there is not much available seating.
5. For more formal dinners try Commanders, Brigtsens, or Bayona. Commanders also has a great lunch or Sunday jazz brunch, but you must make reservations. Mat and Naddie's, Ye Olde College Inn, and Dick and JEnny's are more moderately priced, but still have great food. Dick and Jenny's is the only one in that group that does not take a reservation.
I hope this helps and that you give us another chance to WOW you with our food in the near future. I know how dissapointing it is to expect more than you got. I am sure al ot of factors came into play, but I am certain next time you will have a great time, gain 5 lbs, and rave about the food! Thanks for coming!
I so strongly agree with you on reservations. NOLA can become strapped for table space, depending on which conventions are in town (a good thing). Even with some local "strings" to pull, we do so about 3 mos. out.
When we travel, we are usually all set for most major meals at the 6 mos. timeframe. In Europe/UK, we'll do these 9 mos. out. Yes, Yes, spontenaity is not likely to result in a great seat, but I reserve these for lunch, or breakfast. Still, if we wish to dine at restaurant X, we make the reservations. [If we have to cancel, for whatever reason, we always call for those, as well, even if it's Paris, or Frankfrut.]
To the OP, sorry that this was not the wonderful trip that you had planned on. That is a shame.
One little thing that many do not realize is that NOLA functions on its own time. It's kinda' like Hawai`i, with "Island time." Few are in a hurry. It's too hot and muggy to get in much of a hurry. That has been the "pace" of the City for the last six decades, and probably much longer than that. It is not NYC. It is not San Francisco, Chicago or even Los Angleles. It moves on a European schedule, and one during hot weather to boot.
Many years ago, I learned to not be in a hurry, when dining in NOLA. If we had theater tickets, or other, we'd pull our head server aside, and I'd pass $10 into her/his hand, and give the time. Always worked a treat. Never missed a curtain, though some were close.
Still, I am sorry that all was not wonderful. I'd speculate that it should have been.
As for the "BB-Q Shrimp," there are a couple of threads on how the recipe goes, and what one should expect. What you got, is what you should have gotten. It is not what most tourists expect, and I think that more restaurants and servers need to point this out, but do not.
Still, thank you for coming to NOLA, and sorry that everything was not wonderful. It should have been.
re: Bill Hunt
We only go to Felix's for oysters 1/2 shell. We will only have them at the bar where they are freshly shucked. Folks seated at tables get preshucked /preplated oysters that the waitresss picks up from a cooler behind the bar. OP, aside from Hunt, I've not seen any recs for getting anything other than oysters at the bar at Felix's.
Now I grew up with the toasted muff at the old Frank's, when his M-I-L was still cooking there. Still, I can appreciate a well-made cold one. I do not differentiate, so long as the ingredients and especially the olive salad and bread are goo.
Some choose one vs the other. That is personal taste.
Have never tried the Napolean House for a muff, but must do so, as this board is so highly polarized on their muffs. Gotta' make my own determination.
Totally agree, pikawicca. You needed to make better choices. A little education on New Orleans cuisine would have gone a long way in this case. Oysters should not be eaten this time of year, and I'd never eat at Felix. I know some people swear by it, but I had one bad experience and have never been back.
I've been to Mr. B's for brunch on just about every visit and have never had anything but wonderful food and service. I think their Gumbo Ya Ya is one of my favorite gumbos in the city. I think their roux is a work of art.
Napolean House is a wonderful spot. Best muffaletta I've found.
Take some more time to savor the cuisine and the cooking methods. That is as much of an education as any site seeing tour. I'm sorry you had a terrible trip and things didn't turn our like you hoped. I certainly hope you try it out again as New Orleans is simply an amazing place.
Suggestions for your next trip to NOLA:
If faced with a time crunch before a tour in the FQ at 7 pm, I probably would have hit VertiMart for some takeout and enjoyed the Place de Armes courtyard.
The neighborhood around Dante's kitchen is riddled with as many restaurants as a dog has fleas; you could have skipped around the corner to find a salvadoran pupuseria, a vietnamese cafe, a sushi joint, a pizza place, cheap chinese, LA Pizza Kitchen, La Madeleine, etc. Don't know which route you took to I-10, but on your drive out to Laura, you passed four parishes' (counties) worth of good food.
The travel lesson of the day is to always have a backup plan, and don't ever ask tourist information for recs. Ask real people: employees at the plantation, people you see at a gas station, the folks in line at a convenience store buying lottery tickets, etc. Worldwide, I've rec'd the worst advice from "tourist information." Depending on the locale, they're either simply poorly informed, paid to steer business to certain establishments, extremely middlebrow & conservative out of some misguided effort not to offend the visitor, or just disinterested in food.
RE: the BBQ shrimp: head & shells on is the norm for our BBQ shrimp. IIRC, the menu clearly states that the dish is served in the shell. If the shrimp were overcooked, you should have sent them back!
re: Hungry Celeste
"The travel lesson of the day is to always have a backup plan, and don't ever ask tourist information for recs."
There have been a few times, where both Plan A and B crashed, and I wished that I was traveling with my laptop to ask CHounds for some instant help.
Now, I'm usually doing higher-end restaurants for dinners, so I have a spreadsheet of our evenings, and fill it in about 3-6 mos. out. I also try to plan around any events (golf, tours, meetings, whatever), and give myself some time. Little is worse than having to cut a good meal short, because of something on my schedule, whether vacation, or work.
We also try to leave a few holes (not usually in NOLA), so if we find a great looking restaurant, or the sommelier at another place gives us a great rec., we can then call and try and secure a reservation. For NOLA, I have the plan in place, as soon as I know the dates. OTOH, I could also drop by 100 places, and find great food, if I could just get in.
[Disclaimer - in another lifetime, I was a civil engineer, so spreadsheets (did not exist in their present form way back then), and similar, are part of my nature. Spontaneity does take a backseat, except for those few open dates. This sort of structure might not work for others.]