A Month of NOLA Eating
So here's a quick "what we ate" post. I've been a fairly regular
visitor (from Boston) to New Orleans for about 12 years now, but
usually only spend a few days at a time.
My civil engineer girlfriend has been in NOLA for the past couple
months working on a coastal restoration project. This opened the door
for me to head down for a while (free lodging!) and try out a lot of
places that I hadn't been, as well as the chance to revisit some old
favorites. It's impossible to eat highbrow food for a month straight,
both gastronomically and financially, so we purposefully opted for
lower-brow places this time.
I read Chowhound for suggestions and often get some useful advice.
One of the characteristics of both the New Orleans topic and the
Boston topic is that the same restaurants end up cropping up again and
again (Boston's actually worse for this: if you didn't live here, I
swear you'd think there were only 12 places to eat in the city). To
offset that some and offer a different perspective, I figured I might
as well give a little back. So without further ado, here's what we found.
First some really excellent places, in no particular order:
Boucherie -- as I'd said earlier, this is a place run by people who
love food and it shows. The Waygu brisket and fries was a snazzy riff
on a steak frites that worked for me. The fries, especially, were
nicely done (I'm not a big fan of tarted up french fries really, so
that's saying something). The duck confit and roasted banana
potsticker app was notable because it could have missed the mark and
been too sweet but wasn't. Ditto the Thai chili chess pie for dessert.
Stein's Deli -- we had lunch earlyish and missed what must be awful
crowds. Their spin on the muffuletta was pretty damn good, I
particularly liked the bread which was denser than what's usually used
and I think it helped the stuff-to-bread ratio.
9 Roses -- I sort of missed that NOLA has a sizable Vietnamese
population until a waitress pointed out that on the other side of the
river there are some kickin' Vietnamese places. We went here for a
Sunday lunch and were not disappointed.
Irene's Cuisine -- I can imagine not really liking this place much,
given the crowd; however, the service was top notch (particularly
notable because we were there outrageously early as more of a late
lunch than dinner and still weren't rushed) and the food, while not
exactly stretching the limits of what could be called interesting, was
solid and well prepared. I'll go back.
Cochon -- duh. Cochon is always a must. I've never had a bad dish
here and recommend saving room for dessert. I think the fried head
cheese would be outlawed in most other states for being just a shade
Dante's Kitchen -- another neighborhood place that makes you want to
live in that neighborhood. We started with some surprisingly good
house drinks and shared a few smaller plates, including a watermelon
and feta salad that was a knockout and, crazy as it sounds, a
Louisiana fried rice that was killer. The service was a little
lukewarm (there was, apparently, a problem with ordering course by
course; our waitress wanted the whole order up front ... if they were
at all busy, I might have sympathized, but they weren't).
Green Goddess -- yum. Stopped in for an early lunch and was not
disappointed by the duet of crab (one hot, one cold) or the stuffed
tomato. We were, however, blown away by the sheer excellence of the
bacon caramel sundae. It's a good reason not to be a vegetarian.
The Joint -- pretty much exactly what a BBQ place should be. The
brisket, pulled pork, and mac & cheese were especially notable.
Stanley -- OK, I admit, I've put off going here because I thought it
was a tourist trap. Not so ... had the Breaux Bridge Benedict and was
not sad about that at all. The excellent service deserves a mention
too, I was there solo midweek, they were slow, and the service was
just chatty enough without being overbearing.
In the "good but not perfect" category:
Degas -- went for brunch and liked it a lot. The dishes (I had a lamb
chop special) were dead on, the service was great. The portions were
a little on the overly large size (the worst offender here was a
smoked salmon with vodka cream, bilini, and cavier app that could have
fed a family of 3). It was also annoying that they had four cheeses
on offer, you could get a 2 piece selection or a 4 piece selection,
but they did the choosing. So to get the cheeses we wanted to try, we
had to opt for the larger size. Really? That's silly.
Luke -- just fine. And it's not every day that there's a bar stocking
Bitter Truth bitters and slinging apple "martinis." The bartender
kindly steered us clear of the oysters. We went for the fois and the
charcuterie board and weren't dissatisfied. The choices there ranged
from "hot damn" (the head cheese) to "eh" (the pork terrine). The
fois, however, was spot on and a bargain.
Mona's (the Marigny location) -- the food here's just a little better
than I'd expect. Certainly an better than passable lunch choice.
Port O'Call -- I changed my spots and had a ribeye instead of a burger
and boy was it good. Obviously the atmosphere is going to either for
you or not; for a late dinner midweek, it was great (and the beer was
cold). The get particularly good marks for actually giving me a rare
steak, not medium rare because the cook got scared or something.
Elizabeth's -- hmm. I've had fried chicken here that was really to
die for. Plus, I mean, how can you go wrong with praline bacon?
However, this time around we went twice, once for dinner on a slow
mid-week night and the chicken was only OK. It really needed another
few minutes cooking but (I suspect) the lack of being busy might have
rushed the cooking some. We went for brunch as well, and that was top
notch (even if the servings were silly big). The service here is
always worth writing about and these visits were no exception.
Desparado's -- well hey, they do a not bad at all late night pizza and
were 3 blocks away from where I stayed ... what's to hate? Plus their
music selection on the occasions I've been there was a-ok.
Praline Connection -- indifferent (but competent enough and not
hostile anyway) service but an excellent meatloaf lunch (and from the
bites I had, the smoked sausage was decent too) and cold beer. They
were very conveniently located though, and open at lunch.
St. Charles Tavern -- a place I can imagine not liking, but I do.
I've done a good amount of drinking here over the years but ate here
(on steak night!) for the first time on this trip. Hey, it's a $12
steak and potato and it was cooked correctly. I've read reviews
indicating horrible service; that's never been my experience.
Chris's Cafe -- a little place out in Metairie near where my friend
works. It's not much to look at (in fact, I suspect it was a Dunkin'
Donuts not too long ago) but the food coming out of the kitchen is
good. I had some white beans and sausage that were as good as
In the "I'm not sure what I think" category:
La Peniche -- it was (very) close and almost always open and the food
wasn't bad but there's something about it all that I don't
particularly care for ... I wish I could put my finger on it.
Adolpho's -- I want to like this place but the food falls short. I
had a dish called the "veal ocean" which was fine, but really just one
note. Still, a good spot with a group and a super location. (Any
excuse to drink at the Apple Barrel will do.)
Sukho Thai -- another place that was convenient for lunch but was only
OK. On the one hand, their drunken noodles were done "Thai hot" and
certainly had both heat and flavor, but the chicken was dry, as was
the beef in a green curry. So maybe lunch isn't there thing or maybe
I'm ordering wrong, I'm not sure.
Wasabi -- there's no doubt that the sushi here is very fresh and
tasty, but damn, does it have to be so big and confused? Worth
another go with more careful ordering.
Lola's -- we had a couple of excellent dishes here, the seafood paella
and the lamb stew and the garlic mushrooms were just the thing;
however, the ceviche was far too sour and amateur an effort. They
made, to my mind, a huge service gaffe: mid-app our server asked us if
we could switch tables. We didn't mind but (a) he should really have
waited until we were through with our apps (in fairness, he waited
until we were finished before moving us) and (b) some token of thanks
would have been appropriate. OK, but not great hospitality.
In the "huh, that's far better than I was expecting" category:
Ugly Dog Saloon -- we've sat so many times at Cochon looking out at
this place that we had to try it and weren't disappointed in the BBQ
at all. It wasn't at the level of the Joint, but it held its own and
the service at the bar was enthusiastic. It's the first time I heard
a football crowd cheer at the food-related pre-game show anyway.
Buffa's -- Chicago beef sandwich, ask for swiss on that. And happy
hour 4-6 PM *and* AM. Nice.
Yuki -- I'm not sure I loved all of our food choices here, but some of
it was really exceptional. Their beer selection (including some large
format Hitachinos) rocked.
In the "won't be caught dead here" category:
Slice -- terrible pizza. We sat at the bar in the lower garden
district location and ordered a special. We got it straight out of
the oven and the crust wasn't just soggy, it was wet. Maybe the worst
pie I've ever encountered; we left all but two pieces.
Bennachin Restaurant -- apparently west African food. It might be
that I don't know enough about the cuisine, but it seems to me that
"apricot lamb" should have a trace amount of apricot in it. Add to
that indifferent (and slow!) service, and you get a definite
Mimi's -- it's with some reluctance I even bring it up, but just about
everyone we spoke to mentioned Mimi's as a go-to spot. I wasn't
impressed. The food was heavy, unappetizing, and not well considered.
I don't say that drinking here is out of the question, the scene is
pretty hip (though we did have an erroneous beer charged on our tab,
which is sloppy bartending), but the food isn't worth a revisit.
In the "bars of note" category:
Tonique -- obviously a bar run by someone who knows his bartending and
at the price point, maybe one of the best deals on craft cocktails
anywhere. The sort of place that has a Cold Draft machine but doesn't
feel the need to mention that to the clientele. Combine that with a
surly bartender and it's an A+.
Cure -- damn fine drinks and appropriate nosh. But they do like to
talk about their Cold Draft machine (and, indeed, "ice program"). The
cocktails are unique and damndably well balanced (I'm a bitter
cocktail fan and their list is weighted in that direction); they'd do
well to just serve the drinks instead of talking them to death though.
Tujaques -- classic pre-prohibition drinks at a damn fine bar without
all the pretense. I get a kick out of the cocktail menu which is
pages long and has a lone vodka entry. Nicely done. Plus Paul behind
the bar is one of the most knowledgeable guys in any city on the
subject of classic cocktails. Big thumbs up.
The R Bar -- haircut and a shot, $10 on Mondays and a shrimp boil on
Fridays. Need I go on?
What I missed from Boston:
Americanized Chinese Food -- hey, I know that it's declasse to admit
liking boneless spareribs and general tso's chicken, but I do. Where
do you find it in NOLA?
Oysters -- I think I've had so many eastern coast cold water oysters
that I'm conditioned to like them small, salty, firm, and raw. Gulf
oysters never seem to shine raw and cooked I'm not very keen on. Is
there a season when gulf oysters are particularly good raw?
Thanks to all you natives who make NOLA the place it is!
542 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116
930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130
1940 Dauphine St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Stein's Market & Deli
2207 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130
St Charles Tavern
1433 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70130
736 Dante Street, New Orleans, LA 70118
601 Gallier St, New Orleans, LA 70117
3312 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119
333 St Charles, New Orleans, LA 70130
539 Saint Philip St, New Orleans, LA 70116
1031 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116
801 Poland Ave, New Orleans, LA 70117
Port of Call
838 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans, LA 70116
4905 Freret St, New Orleans, LA 70115
307 Exchange Place, New Orleans, LA 70130
1212 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116
823 Decatur Street, New Orleans, LA 70116
Hoa Hong 9
1100 Stephens St, Gretna, LA 70053
Apple Barrel Bar
609 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, LA 70116
Buffa's Restaurant and Lounge
1001 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans, LA 70116
Ugly Dog Saloon & Bar-B-Que
401 Andrew Higgins Dr, New Orleans, LA 70130
1120 S Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA 70118
1913 Royal St, New Orleans, LA 70116
3127 Esplanade Ave, New Orleans, LA 70119
630 Mandeville St, New Orleans, LA 70117
8115 Jeannette St, New Orleans, LA 70118
820 N Rampart St, New Orleans, LA 70116
New Orleans, New Orleans, LA
All -- thanks for the additional recommendations!
It's not like I *have* to have the stuff, but I do like to try out the local "Chinese" wherever I am. Plus I often work funny hours (exacerbated by the time zone difference) and the leftovers help with the godforsakenly early mornings.
As for the oysters, I'll be back during the winter, so I'll give it another go. I admit that the fault lies with my expectations, not the oysters per se. In fact, I have had killer Gulf oysters at the (now closed) Bank restaurant. That seemed to have a lot to do with the proprietor really caring about exactly what oysters he was serving. That's not really different than the scene up north, it's maybe that I know where to go and what oysters to choose.
I'm glad I'm not the only person disappointed with Dante's Kitchen. The point about the "schmucky management" is dead on; they're certainly not fostering the sort of hospitality you'd expect (and usually find) in NOLA. Brigsten's is on the list of places to get to (the "we should go here" list is longer than the "we went here list") ... we ran out of time.
The Mimi's I referred to is the one in the Marigny. There's a good chance that I'll end up there again sometime just because so many people I know regularly go there when they're in the area (particularly late night). I'll do my best to approach it with an open mind.
Again, the recommendations here have been useful. I may not always agree on where to go, but Chowhound is very good at steering one clear of where *not* to go. With so many places, the latter is just as important. Cheers!
736 Dante Street, New Orleans, LA 70118
Sukho Thai - the drunken noodles is the only dish i come back for. the curries and soups have only disappointed (especially when they started charing xtra for the rice. wha...?)
Mimi's - i actually really like their tapas, tho the menu changes. that they serve food until 3-4am is a plus, and that its all in my neighborhood bar is remarkable. the most popular item by far is the "Mushroom Manchego Toast" w/ sherry cream sauce; its awesome. the salmon on cucumber w/ creme fresh & caviar is also very refreshing. "Goat Cheese Croquettes" w/ honey is also good. i miss the prosciutto-wrapped prawns. my problem w/ them is the prices -- for very small plates i didnt mind $5-6, but now its crept up to $7-9. too much for a few bites per plate in a pub, imo.
Re. Mimi's, I agree with you, kibbles, that their tapas, while a bit pricey, is a very respectable bar nosh especially in the wee hours. I do miss the Chris DeBarr days at Delachaise though. He delivered outstanding late-night bar food.
3442 Saint Charles Ave, New Orleans, LA 70115
Five Happiness on Carrollton or Chinese Kitchen on same street,,,,There's a proliferation of Chinese places like that in the suburbs...(I see Five Happiness was mentioned),,,,
re oysters, if you're not used to Gulf oysters, you may be comparing them to others, when they are kind of in a group by themselves....In my opinion....P&J has the best oysters (again IMO)....
There are some great Vietnamese restaurants and bakery in Eastern New Orleans as well....
Five Happiness Restaurant
3605 S Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA 70118
3327 S Carrollton Ave, New Orleans, LA 70118
great report. moved 7 months ago, and dying to get back to get my fix.
Mimi's in the Marigny? or the Italian Mimi's in the Harahan area?
for Chinese, China Rose in Metairie or Oriental Triangle in Old Jefferson. and if you're up for a ride, Trey Yuen in Mandeville. Kim Anh's in Harahn will satisfy both your Chinese and Vietnamese hankerings.
600 N Causeway Blvd, Mandeville, LA 70448
3501 N Arnoult Rd, Metairie, LA 70002
About Dante's Kitchen: I have stopped going there because of the very issue you raise - service with attitude. The fault, dear reader, lies not in the stars nor in the waiters but ultimately in the schmucky management. I do not miss the place. The food is not bad, but Brigtsen's just across the street far outshines it. As for Americanized Chinese food, try 5 Happiness on South Carrollton.. It's all there: sweet and sour pork, chow mein, egg foo young - they even Americanize the spelling. Re.oysters, I'll have to get that oyster zone chart and watch the weather reports. But why stop there? I suggest before putting an oyster in one's mouth that one read its resume closely. And then interview its life coach, spiritual director and academic advisor.
'But wait a bit,' the Oysters cried,
'Before we have our chat;
For some of us are out of breath,
And all of us are fat!'
723 Dante St, New Orleans, LA 70118
Good call on 5 Happiness. I lived only a few blocks away from August Moon, so the drive to Mid City was always a PITA. Erik Schwarz, huh? The same one coming to St. Pete? I am a NOLA transplant now in Tampa. Good luck on your trip.
Thanks for the info on Dante's Kitchen.
736 Dante Street, New Orleans, LA 70118
August Moon Restaurant
3635 Prytania St, New Orleans, LA 70115
Good grief! Helluva grading system....I like it.
Oysters are, of course, always better in winter. If you want to be Really Serious (as a friend is) you look at rainfall and determine when the beds have been washed out, then allow a few days for salinity to creep back in. You can get the oyster zone chart from Wildlife and Fisheries.
When I'm in Boston you'll find me either in Fenway or at Locke-Ober, in the cafe. I'm the one who looks like he has been there since 1950.