French Quarter - A culinary journey
Hey all - this is my first ever chowhound post so do forgive me if this isn't how it's done. Over the last 2 weeks, I have become totally addicted to all the tremendous threads on the New Orleans board, reading them while I'm supposed to be a productive member of the workforce. As Kansas City natives, my wife and I have never made it to NOLA...well, that isn't entirely true. I do have a vague memory taking a riverboat cruise through the locks and having my mother cover my eyes as we strolled down Bourbon St. (at age 8) as my uncle from Baton Rouge tried to expose me to the finer things in life. Ok - here's the situation...My wife and I are total foodies with a definite sense of adventure. We will be coming to the Crescent City Thursday January 28th - Sunday January 31st, 2010. Not knowing whether or not we will be able to visit again anytime in the near future, we want to squeeze as much quintessential GREAT/NEW ORLEANS food as we can into this trip, even if that means a price tag of 15 pounds a piece or a food bill of $1000 for the trip. We are staying at the Marriott - French Quarter and will be without a car - so if possible, we would like to stay in the FQ as much as possible (with the exception being maybe 1 taxi trip). From logging several hours reading we are already considering the following options (in no particular order): Po' Boys at Johnny's, Barbecue Shrimp and Gumbo Ya-Ya at Mr. B's, Jambalaya Supreme at Coops, dinner at August, Crawfish Etouffee and Turtle Soup Au' Sherry at Bon Ton, Beignets and Chickory at Cafe Du' Monde, breakfast at The Coffee Shop and perhaps a meal at an Emeril establishment (?). What are we missing?? Whether it be something that screams New Orleans "Creole/Cajun", a meal or snack of a lifetime, or both, we want it ALL! If that means eating 4-5 meals a day from dusk to dawn so be it! I figured no better place to find out than asking the people of NOLA. Thanks in advance for all your help!
Most of all - ENJOY. BTW, I hope that you mean The Coffee Pot (nee Maxie's).
Sounds good. Oh, there might be some, who would suggest a change here, or one there.
Off the top of my pointed little head, I'd add that you are missing Galatoire's. I'd talk to your lender and see what your line of credit is doing. This is not to indicate that Galatoire's is expensive, in reality it is not. By some NOLA standards, it is high-end. I would not suggest that you swap Restaurant August, as it is worth the $, but even if you have to bump the total budget up a bit, Galatoire's is worth the price. I'd find a way to add it to the list for an evening meal. Now, there is always a bit of a show going on, but just walk through that and go there for the food and the wonderful, familiar (though no relative might never have dined there), and enjoy the experience.
Downstairs (where the "show" is) is wait in line only. Upstairs (remember, you can walk slowly throught the "show") allows reservations. I've done the "show" on most days/nights and on holidays, and it's kicks, plus part of history, but it's not the main draw for me. The food, steeped in the history and friendly service is that draw. That's why I go for upstairs and bypass that "show." Also, it allows me to schedule my limited time, and that of my guests, to fit in more in an evening, without worry.
I've dined at most of your spots, and cannot cast a stone. The rest get great reviews from current locals, and I believe them. They are my "troops on the ground."
Of the Emeril's choices, I like the eponymous restaurant, Emeril's, but have to admit two things: it's been awhile, and I have never dined at NOLA. Take it for what it's worth.
Remember, most of all ENJOY!
re: Bill Hunt
Emeril's flagship is indeed his best. We dine there often for lunch, dinner and pre-game brunch. (offered only prior to 3pm game). Never a bad meal. Check K-Paul's Thur-Fri-Sat lunch menu for jambalaya. The gumbo is excellent as well. Menu changes weekly. I do not like the food at Coop's. Their jambalaya is too wet and tomatoey for my taste. Don't miss lunch in Commander's garden room m-f . IMO, THE best turtle soup. The price points in our fine dining restos are quite reasonable compared with other major cities. Thanks for coming. Bon Appetit!
We used to rate CP's turtle soup as #1, but the last two times they fell down the list. We are divided, as I give the nod to Ralph's on the Park, and my wife rated Brennan's as her choice. That does not necessarily put CP's as #3, but no longer at the top of our short list.
While we did enjoy Delmonico, I have to go with Emeril's eponymous restaurant, though that last visit is now too old to really count. We hope to try NOLA on the next visit, if for no other reason, than we've never dined there. Too many restaurants, and too little time...
I do agree about the bang for the buck. Just got back from San Francisco, London and San Diego. NOLA is the "deal" of the bunch. Don't even mention NYC, or Chicago.
re: Bill Hunt
I'm interested to hear about Commander's turtle soup--on my last visit ist was great but the trip before that it was merely mediocre. The best ones in town now seem to be at private clubs. But you really should try the one at Ma Mamma's Kitchen in New Roads.
I feel your pain regarding London restaurant prices...I am stil recovering from oysters at Wilton's.(But God they were great)
For me, I found the turtle soup (what was that, March?) to be lacking in flavor, unlike the wonderful, concoction that I used to know. The thickness and the color were about right, but the flavors were all muted. There was no tang, there was no depth. It was as though there was too much flour, or that it was heavily watered down - still, looked like I had expected, but tasted "weak." We both love turtle soup, and were disappointed. I shared the CP dish with my wife, without a word. She immediately came back with, "what's with this?" I was not the only one.
Will definitely add Ma Mamma's to the list.
RE: London - I cannot wait to see my American Express bill next month. That will require a good bottle of wine close by, but such is life.
We did L'Orangier, Green House and L'Atalier - all repeats and all good. There were some others, but they were more for business meetings. One of the new "hot" places was horribly disappointing, but we were guests, so I could not get upset in front of our host. I cannot imagine why anyone would be begging and paying off the FOH to get reservations 9 mos. out. Oh well, I guess that it's the power of the press.
Don't know Wilton's, but will go Google now.
You must go to Antoine's, Arnaud's, Brennan's, Commanders Palace and Galatoire's if you want a taste of grand New Orleans. K-Paul, Brigtsen's, Emeril's, August, Cochon, Bayona have N.O.'s most famous chefs (sorry to ones I missed out). I adore Mr. B's, the Rib Room.
For your first trip you hardly need to venture out of the Quarter - if you do take the streetcar uptown, not a cab.
We have had great meals at both. Wife ranks Stella! at the top right now, but I still give the nod to Brigtsen's and Galatoire's. However, she IS the "native," and I am only "from the Coast," so what do I know.
The only rub that I had at Restaurant August was the wine pairings (chronicled elsewhere on this board), but there is a new sommelier, and she's getting great reviews, so my points are most likely moot.
I agree on Brigtsens. Call them and ask if they still have a prix-fixe menu early in the evening. It was great when I had it a few years ago, and under $20. I also recommend Herbsaint, which is one of Susan Spicer's restaurants, and less expensive than Bayona (and Bayona is amazing). I had frog legs at Herbsaint and just loved them.
430 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70112
723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118
701 Saint Charles Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70130
I would take a street car ride from the FQ, explore the Maple street area, then do an early dinner at Brigten's. It, as well as Galatoire's, has some of the finest dishes of classic New Orleans creole food. Both emphasize local seafoods well prepared. Take a cab ride back to the FQ, or sample some local music at Carrollton Station, Rocknbowl or the Maple Leaf, depending upon who is playing.
NOLA is compact and easy to get around, so do venture out of the Fr. Qtr. if possible.
My favorite restaurants in the French Quarter are:
Galatoire's (jacket required for men at dinner): oysters rockefeller, oysters en brochette, seafood stuffed eggplant, lamb chops béarnaise, crabmeat au gratin, fried soft shell crabs w/crabmeat, godchaux salad, soufflé potatoes.
Mr.. B's: great gumbo Ya-Ya, BBQ shrimp, any fish of the day plank grilled, and profiteroles for dessert.
Irene's: the duck is amazing, and the chicken rosemarino is a classic Creole Italian dish.
Muriel's at Jackson Square: good gumbo, goat cheese and crawfish crepes, puppy drum, and double cut pork chops.
Iris in the Bienville House for veal cheek ravioli, mussels, foie gras, duck confit, sunchoke and cauliflower soup, scallops and skate wing.
Go to Cafe du Monde (riverside of Jackson Square) for beignets and coffee any time of day.
Check out Stanley on Jackson Square for breakfast or lunch. Scott Boswell also has Stella!, but this is his casual restaurant that cranks out some good food too:
Croissant D'or (great pastries
)617 Ursulines Ave
Open Wed-Sun 7am-2pm
EAT (great brunch and BYOB)
For Wine & Spirits, hit Vieux Carre' Wine & Spirits, next to K Paul's, at 422 Chartres.
For raw oysters: Desire Bar in the Royal Sonesta, Bourbon House, Acme or Felix's in the Qtr., Luke in the CBD on St. Charles Ave., Pascal's Manale and Casamento's Uptown.
For good drinks: Carrousel Bar at the Monteleone (a must visit), French 75 Bar at Arnaud's, Lafitte's Blacksmith, Absinthe House, Napoleon House, Hermes Bar at Antoine's, Chart Room on Chartres, Sazerac Bar at (recently reopened) The Roosevelt.
Central Grocery for muffalettas. These are great for the plane ride home. Be sure to check their hours, as they may be closed when you fly home. They pack well, so you can buy a day before flying. If you like your muffalettas warmed (which I do), then eat at Napoleon House or heat up the CG when you get home. I find it opens up the flavors of the meats, cheese and olive salad.
Green Goddess is the newest and most talked about in the Qtr.
Menu looks amazing:
If you have a car or will take the streetcar, head Uptown for J'Anita's, Martinique, Clancy's and Patois.
J'Anita's in the Avenue Pub on St. Charles Ave. for great BBQ for lunch. They also have the best fish sammich ever!
Martinique Bistro on Magazine has great food and a beautiful courtyard.
Clancy's on Annunciation is terrific; get the oysters w/brie, sweetbreads, the smoked soft shell crab and the veal chops. and their frozen Brandy Alexander's are good for dessert.
Patois on Laurel for rabbit, moules frites, and pork belly. This has become one of the best new restaurants and well worth trying. Open also for Friday lunch and Sunday brunch, if that fits in your schedule.
Or, head to Mid-City for Mandina's on Canal St. for turtle soup, oyster po boys, and trout or Parkway Bakery and Tavern for the best roast beef po boys.
(Mandina's is cash only.
In the CBD, across Canal St from Fr. Qtr., try Rambla in the International House Hotel for great tapas, Luke on St. Charles for oysters at the bar, duck and rabbit pate, choucroûte maison, and moules and frites, Domenica in The Roosevelt for goat cheese stuffed squash blossoms, grilled radicchio, and any of the pastas and pizzas. If you are in town for lunch Friday, Restaurant August has a 3 course for $20.09 that is stellar. Other places: Herbsaint and Cochon (both Donald Link restaurants), Rio Mar and La Boca (both Adolpho's restaurants).
If you want to take back some seasonings, food, etc. hit the Rouse's at 701 Royal St.
I would add to some great points above, the chicken tchoupitoulas for lunch at K-Paul is one of the two or three tastiest things I've ever had in my mouth.
Bayonna also has a great lunch. You should get the garlic soup and have to get the duck PBJ. (Trust me!)
And Coop's has great fried chicken (but I was not impressed with many of their dishes.)
Oh and you didn't ask but the beer selection at dba is awesome and they have some great music. (Also BMC for good music. Esp. Tuesday night for Smokey Greenwell.)
We would definitely second Bill Hunt's reco of Emeril's. I was initially a little concerned that with its celebrity cachet, it might be pricey and pretentous (we usually do for mid range restos). But, I must say that our meal there was probably one of the best and most enjoyable meals that we have ever had. It is really a great deal at lunch when you can get a nice sized, 3 course meal for $20! Service was exceptionally pleasant, professional and efficient. I would not hesitate to try one of his restos again. Emerils is in the Warehouse district near the Convention Center but is only a 15 minute walk from the French Quarter.
So many good suggestions already (this is one trip report I'm looking forward to reading) but I just want to echo the earlier suggestion to try to not miss lunch at Commander's. From your hotel the St Charles streetcar is literally right across the street and the ride out is lovely.
The excitement level has reached a fever pitch - finalized itinerary-
Thursday Lunch: Johnny's Po' Boys (may not be the standard bearer, but our flight gets in at 11:05 am, and by the time we get checked in to the Mariott & orient ourselves, we'll be ready to eat)
Thursday Dinner: Bon Ton
Friday Lunch: Commander's Palace (garden room)
Friday Dinner: NOLA (I know, probably not as good as Emeril's, but as I value my marriage, I am letting my wife have her way)
Saturday Lunch: Casamento's
Saturday Dinner: August (degustation - my wife doesn't eat pork, so we will be having seperate menus- very appreciative of chef's willingness to design a menu especially for her)
Sunday Jazz Brunch: Mr. B's Bistro
Breakfasts: TBD -depends on how gorged we are - Cafe Du Monde (inevitable), Old Coffee Pot, Stanley
Misc.: will pop into Acme/Felix's/Desire for oysters, will buy a muff or two from Central Grocery to take home (Anyone know their operating days/hours?)
Looking forward to every experience. Thanks for all the wonderful suggestions, and I look forward to giving a full report upon my return.
If you want a muffuletta, do as FoodChic says, but go on Monday. NH is closed on Sundays, I'm pretty sure. For other kinds of sandwiches, try Verti Mart (open on Monday) . Cochon Butcher is not in the Quarter, but if you don't mind a walk, they make wonderful sandwiches. And there's a grocery store next door to Butcher that people have told me makes good, inexpensive po-boys.
930 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130