Four meals decided, but one bourbon-fueled wild card left
My wife and I will be returning to New Orleans this weekend. On our last trip I made the mistake of honoring a dinner reservation at Bayona after a gluttonous Friday lunch/martini fest at Galatoires (I distinctly remember being stunned that it was still daylight when we stumbled out at 3pm). Through no fault of the restaurant, the subtleties of that evening's meal were lost upon me - although I still remember that delicious garlic soup, which cut right through any palate fatigue.
We arrive this Friday and have a 1pm reservation at August. I suspect the atmosphere is much less debauched than Galatoires, and I promise I shall behave in a more civilized manner. After that we were thinking of taking a break in the hotel room, and then roaring out for a late afternoon/early evening tour of some of the classic bars in the FQ (eg, the Sazerac, French 75, Old Absinthe, Carousel). What would you suggest as a proper meal (or snacks) to accompany fairly sated bellies and a head full of amber fluids?
On a similar note, Saturday's lunch will be at Parkway Tavern and then the Saints kickoff at 3:30. What bar/tavern would you recommend for a couple of adults who'd like to GET A SEAT and watch the game. We would prefer not to be swallowed up by a sea of frat boys. A relatively civilized oasis, some jewel of a place that they could mix up a decent cocktail and serve a memorable snack during the game - but not as as dead as a mortuary. Does such a paradise exist in your fair city?
fwiw Dinner that night is at Cochon, and Sunday breakfast will be at Stanley's.
I got crunked in New Orleans.
Where to begin? Tried to fit in the high and the low, the traditional and the new, the raucous and the sedate.
Had a fine Friday lunch at August, as mentioned here numerous times the prix fixe is an incredible bargain at $20 for three courses. One thing to note is that the kitchen loves pork. Waiter says the kitchen tries to sneak some into as many things as they can. Which is not a bad thing, but you might not want every course to have pork undertones, eg, you wouldn't expect a shrimp bisque or fried oysters to have a pork component, but here they do. Best dish was the prix fixe main course of lentils with bacon (of course), outstanding.
Friday happy hour started at the Hermes bar, part of the Antoine's complex. Beautiful room, all tiled and wooded and mirrored and brassed like you would expect from an Antoine's. What I didn't expect was a pimply kid wiping down tables to put his rag in his pocket and take our drink order, then saunter directly behind the bar and start lifting his elbows to concoct us a Sazerac and whiskey sour. Out came some gloppy, syrupy $5 pre-mix abominations that might as well have been dumped straight into a go-cup. Nice room, but I'd suggest ordering a beer instead of a proper cocktail.
Now for a proper cocktail in the Quarter, may I suggest to you French 75 at Arnaud's. Now this, this is a bar. Very sedate, scratchy old Edith Piaf and Parisienne accordian music in the background. The stately bartender in his crisp starched whites commanding the bar like an admiral. The eponymous French 75's were magnificent - champagne, cognac, lemon and bitters sounds like an emetic, but this is a pretty amazing cocktail, a really magical potion. A really balanced symphony of flavors, very crisp and dry and citrusy. So good we ordered a second one, and so well-prepared that I thought it was indicative of the care they would take in the kitchen so we changed our dinner plans and made a reservation for dinner at Arnaud's the next night.
Walked past the Old Absinthe bar and that was a total zoo so we took a pass. Next was the Carousel Bar, which was also packed but we were able to get a table. The room looks a little tired, the carpet is pretty worn and the walls are unadorned - I was expecting something grander than this. My Manhattan was decent, but it's pretty hard to mess that up even in a busy bar.
Mr B's bistro is right across the street, so we ducked across for dinner. This is a big raucous high energy room, long wait at the bar for a table even though it was late. I started with the fried oysters, which came out cold - but to their credit they immediately replaced it with a hot order. Delicious. Main course I had the barbecued shrimp. Eh, my bad - I know how these are prepared, you just take a pound of margarine and melt it down and add some seasonings and throw in the shrimp. In my addled condition I thought they'd be fun but it's just a greasy one-note mess that doesn't really taste all that good and the sauce overwhelms any subtlety a good shrimp would have. I suspect some genius came up with this recipe as a way to unload overripe shrimp. Scratch that dish off the list of been there, done that.
Breakfast next day was quick bite at the hotel club lounge, then a stroll through the French Market. Saw a couple people walking around with bloodies and thought, ooh that looks like a good idea. I forget the name of the place but it's indoors, and if you enter the market from Esplanade it's the first bar that you encounter walking upriver. This was a beautiful specimen, properly prepared (not stirred, but poured from cup to cup to mix), one of the best bloodies I've ever had. Not sure what kind of tomato juice you use as a base in New Orleans, but it's a huge improvement over the Campbell's we're stuck with.
Lunch next day was Parkway Tavern. Shrimp and roast beef po-boys. And uh, jeez, I just don't get it. The roast beef was a really bland sleepy boiled down pile of blah, and it took half a bottle of hot sauce to wake it up. The bread completely disintegrated halfway through the sandwich, so I had to finish eating it with a fork. These are the best of breed? Those Zats creole potato chips were the bomb though. IMO a Chicago Italian beef or a Philly roast pork easily shove aside the po' boy for a place in the pantheon of great sandwiches.
We lucked into some tickets for the Saints game, so that was next up. I'm a big Michigan Wolverine and Chicago Bears fan, but these fans blow away anything I've ever seen in the Midwest. I'm a traditionalist and not a big fan of piped in music at games, but that "Get Crunked" is perfect for New Orleans, loved it! Great fun, great crowd. I know how much the Saints mean to this city, and I really felt privileged to be part of that. Plus they just totally stomped the guts out the Cardinals - Geaux Saints!
Then what? Oh yes, dinner at Arnaud's. Another gorgeous room, beautifully lit. We started with a couple French 75's again, they were good but the service bar isn't nearly as adept at preparing these as the bartender in French 75. Had the shrimp Arnaud (in a remoulade) and oysters Bienville to start. Can't say that I'm a huge fan of the oysters Bienville, although tasty the oysters kind of get lost in the mountain of bread crumbs. Shrimp remoulade were very nice, heavy on the creole mustard which I like. But the real star was the "gulf fish Amandine". Waiter said that they had speckled trout that night, so I got lucky and had the dish prepared with the correct fish. I had this before at Galatoire's and thought it was jusk ok, but here I was blown away. You'd think that in a healthy dose of brown butter sauce and a thick fried crust smothered in a pile of roasted almonds the fish would get kind of lost, but in each bite you still had the fish in the forefront even though it was a fairly thin piece of fish. Everything just worked together in perfect harmony. There's a reason some of these recipes haven't changed in 100 years - once you achieve perfection, why change anything?
Sunday morning left time for one last meal before flying off. Decided to go to Luke, and glad we made that choice. The morning menu is more of a breakfast/brunch/lunch combo, and shrimp & grits is one of the offerings. Lord have mercy, this was awesome. Stonegrond grits mixed with just a hint of mascarpone cheese, some beautiful sauteed shrimp and a silky sauce made from a shrimp & andouille sausage reduction. My wife had the country breakfast, but that was just your regular ho - hum plate. These shrimp & grits were unbelievable, just a fantastic way to cap off a truly enjoyable weekend of great food and drink.
Love New Orleans, what a treasure.
Just curious - New Orleans is such a tradition-rich place, and one of the traditions I greatly admire is the booze-drenched Friday luncheon. I've witnessed what goes on at Galatoire's, so please tell me what do y'all do after you settle up the bill at 4pm? Do you go home and sleep it off, or just move the party elsewhere?
do let August fool. I had a 1pm and left at 4:30 after many cocktails and bottles of wine.
Mr. B's is a great suggestion to grab a bite while bar hopping. You can eat at the bar. They serve a mean burger if you need to load up. Also check out Hermes Bar at Antoines's.
The Rib Room bar is also nice, as is Touche' next door. I like the bars at the Chart Room and Chartes House (which has a fireplace).
To watch the game, you might head to Ernst Cafe, La Cote Brasserie, Luke and Allegro.
These are where most of the tailgating happens. Check to see who has TV's. I think Rib Room is also doing a game special, but again check to see if they will show the game.
Have fun in Drew Orleans, Breesiana! Geaux Saints!
re: edible complex
Thanks for the heads up on Mr. B's, it doesn't seem to get talked up very much but the menu looks great. That picture of the fried oysters on their website should be censored. I'm assuming the full restaurant menu is available in the bar?
You mention Ernst Cafe, La Cote Brasserie, Luke and Allegro as popular tailgating places. What are the chances they'll clear out some and leave some seats available come kickoff?
re: edible complex
You can watch a game at Antoine's? Awesome, I'm all over that. This press release is hilarious, I love the last line:
"New" is not a word one associates with Antoine's. The 169-year-old French Quarter restaurant is a fierce guardian of Creole tradition. But anyone who recently strolled past New Orleans' oldest eating establishment couldn't help but note a major addition: a bar that opens onto St. Louis Street.
The Hermes Bar at Antoine's (725 St. Louis St.) debuted the Friday after Mardi Gras. The official grand opening, though, will be Friday, April 17. Stop by for free Champagne and hors d'eouvres starting at 4:30 p.m. and stay for the 6:30 p.m. ribbon cutting.
"We just waited until after Easter," said Wendy Chatelain, Antoine's director of sales, "for those people who gave up drinking for Lent."
The new bar also has a menu with a new dish: an oyster Foch po-boy, made with fried oysters, Colbert sauce and pate de foie gras. It's the first time Antoine's has offered a po-boy. Customers can also order from the restaurant's full menu.
Will we soon see other changes at Antoine's?
"No, not at this point," Chatelain said. "This is enough."
Hey Fast Eddie, I can totally relate to your Bayona story!! I did the same thing in October with Bistro Daisy..everyone raved, but I can't remember much, leaving me wanting to return. I have eaten in Bayona a few times, the food is excellent, I actually had the garlic soup the last time I was there, which was last january and it was FANTASTIC. The whole fixed price lunch was fabulous. I have eaten dinner there too, always great. I was to August last October and found it to be top notch. I love foie gras and after the waiter told me they would make me anything I wanted even if it wasn't on the menu I asked for foie gras as an appetizer...oh my GOD!!! Foie gras three ways, so rich and creamy, to die for, only thing it was so rich I could barely eat my entree, that said the food is very rich and satisfying, so you don't need a lot of it. Great restauant, great service, very nice choice. I love the Carousel Bar and you can always run across the street and grab some BBQ shrimp at Mr. B's Bistro. Have a great time I head back down January 25th!!! Go Saints!!!