New Orleans: A First-Timer's Dining Diary
Just returned from my first visit to New Orleans. Six days and five pounds later, I'm happy to pass along my thoughts for anyone who's interested. Special thanks to all you chowhounds for your recommendations – there were so many places I didn't get to try, I'll just have to come back another time!
(Note: I didn't get out to breakfast every day, as there were free breakfasts at Embassy Suites, but I did manage to make it to Cafe du Monde a few times.)
DAY 1 LUNCH – LUCY'S RETIRED SURFERS BAR & GRILL
Right around the corner from where we were staying at Embassy Suites, Lucy's was a fun and funky spot with (as its name implies) a California surfing theme. I enjoyed grilled Jamaican jerk chicken appetizer (4 skewers) and a large, tasty Juicy Lucy Burger with blue cheese and bacon. I could see this would be a fun happy hour hangout.
DAY 1 DINNER – EMERIL'S
Also around the corner from our hotel, Emeril's offered delicious, well-prepared food complemented by warm, inviting ambiance and top-notch service. I had fried oysters to start, grilled drum fish for my entree and blueberry bread pudding for dessert. Yum!
DAY 2 LUNCH – RIO MAR
Another nearby spot and – a pleasant surprise – a tapas-only menu for lunch Monday through Friday. I had ceviche (drum fish with mango, red onion, mint and lime juice), roasted piquillo peppers and garlic potatoes. Everything was delicious, and all for only $12!
DAY 2 DINNER – BON TON CAFE
Warm, friendly ambiance and service, with some of the best seafood of my visit. I had the sauteed redfish topped 1/2 and 1/2 with fresh lump crabmeat and crawfish (the menu offers one or the other, but you can get both if you ask) served with a small veggie casserole on the side. Dessert was their famous bread pudding with whiskey sauce and, by request, a scoop of praline crunch ice cream. (Overkill, maybe, but it was GOOD!)
DAY 3 BREAKFAST – CAFE DU MONDE
A glass of fresh-squeezed OJ, a large cafe au lait, an order of beignets and great people-watching...what more do you need?
DAY 3 LUNCH – MURIEL'S
Hot and tired after hoofing around the French Quarter all morning, I stopped in for a light lunch of turtle soup and Muriel's house salad. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. The sherry-spiked soup was rich and flavorful, and the house salad – mixed baby greens with shaved red onions and peppery goat cheese and a sweet/tart pomegranate dressing – was just what I wanted. The ambiance was lovely and the service courteous and professional.
DAY 3 DINNER – RALPH & KACOO'S
Someone in our group had recommended this, and it was the only disappointment of our visit. Service was painfully slow, and the food, although good, did not live up to its billing and wasn't worth the wait. I had the Shrimp Trawl dinner, which consisted of fried shrimp, fried stuffed shrimp, shrimp stew and shrimp au gratin (the promised boiled shrimp was missing). Would have had dessert but we were at the two-hour-plus mark and ready to move on. Wish we had gone to one of my other choices instead: Cochon, Mr. B's or Palace Cafe.
DAY 4 BREAKFAST – CAFE DU MONDE
Couldn't get excited about the free breakfast at Embassy Suites, so back to Cafe du Monde for more cafe au lait and beignets.
DAY 4 LUNCH – GREEN GODDESS
A tiny hole in the wall tucked away on a little alley in the French Quarter, Green Goddess offered a creative and unexpected menu with delicious food to match. I had the South Indian Savory Lentil Pancake topped with shrimp, and a side of made-from-scratch sweet potato biscuits served with honey butter and pepper jelly. Friendly service and coffee-house ambiance.
DAY 4 DINNER – PIE PIZZA & PASTA
Another nice surprise, just around the corner from our hotel. After enjoying so much creole and cajun food over the last few days I needed something different, and this place fit the bill. I had a large pizza with alligator and duck sausage atop creole tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese. It was one of the better pizzas I've had in recent years.
DAY 5 BREAKFAST – CAFE DU MONDE
When in Rome...
DAY 5 LUNCH – MOTHER'S
After walking around all morning, we stopped in for an early (11:15) lunch of some highly recommended Po Boys. Good thing we got there when we did, as the line was out the door and down the street by the time we left an hour later. Were these the best Po Boys in town? Can't say, as I didn't have anything else to compare it to. But I enjoyed my Ferdi Special with a side of fries.
DAY 5 DINNER – K-PAUL'S LOUISIANA KITCHEN
Started with the Shrimp & Corn Maque Choux, followed by pan-fried rabbit tenderloin served with a shrimp jambalaya, then bread pudding with hard sauce. Everything was delicious, and this proved to be a great spot for our final dinner in The Big Easy. Service was warm and friendly, and ambiance was comfortable and cozy.
DAY 6 LUNCH – COMMANDER'S PALACE
Still full from Mother's and K-Paul's the day before, I couldn't even think about breakfast... even if it was on the house at our hotel. We spent several hours wandering around the Garden District (beautiful, but would have been even nicer if it hadn't been so hot and humid!) followed by a nice, relaxing lunch at Commander's Palace before heading off to the airport. I had the trio of soups (turtle, shrimp & mirliton and creole gumbo), followed by a sugarcane grilled beef dish served with black beans, caramelized onions and plantains – something I might expect to find back home in Miami. I washed this down with a couple of 25¢ martinis (at this price, it was cheaper than drinking iced tea!) and finished with a bread pudding souffle served with warm whiskey cream. YUM! Service was friendly and professional, and the ambiance was lovely.