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Visiting from LA (Los Angeles, that is!) Inexpensive French Quarter dinner for a group of 20-25?

Hi NOLA 'hounds.

I need your help!

I'm helping to organize a dinner for about 25 graduate students who are in town for a convention. We're visiting the first week of December.

Here's the criteria:

- This is for a Saturday night dinner at 6pm. We will need to be near Lafitte's Blacksmith at 8pm for a walking tour, so the restaurant shouldn't be too far away.
- This should be relatively inexpensive- think $20 or under for entrees (they're students, after all)
- Cajun!
- Must be able to accommodate a group of up to 25
- GREAT food

I keep coming back to Napoleon House, since they're not too far from Laffite's and although it's not exclusively a Cajun restaurant, there are several Cajun items on the menu and it seems quite affordable. However, I have no idea how well NH could accommodate our group and I welcome any insight.

What other suggestions would you have to fit our criteria?

Many thanks! Very excited to visit your city, as this is my first time.

Mr Taster

-----
Napoleon House Bar & Cafe
500 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

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  1. I don't consider the Nap House to be remotely Cajun...although they have boudin on the menu. The problem you're going to have is that most places in town will make a superficial nod towards cajun (as in the boudin or maybe a crawfish etouffee). K-Paul's will give you what you are looking for but his dinner prices are too steep..the smaller lunch menu would work if you could re-arrange your schedule. Cochon might work but it is a hike (although it is do-able).
    I know I am forgetting something. I never really bother with Cajun in the City, preferring to do it at home or when I am out in Acadiana.

    -----
    Cochon
    930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130

    10 Replies
    1. re: hazelhurst

      I am a total newbie when it comes to Cajun and Creole food, so bear with me.

      Unfortunately, Cochon cannot accommodate a group this large, and their party room reservations require a minimum of 40 people.

      I've got a call in with Napoleon House. Will let you know how that goes.

      K-Paul's is definitely out of budget for this group. We cannot reorganize the schedule because lunchtime the students will be at the convention.

      I've looked at Gumbo Shop- I see some very mixed opinions about the place. Also, the sign says "Creole" not Cajun. I know there's a difference in tradition and ethnicity, but I don't really know what they are. This interesting article helps to clarify a little:

      http://www.tabasco.com/taste_tent/men...

      I've been looking also at the oyster houses-- Felix's and Acme. Not sure if either is appropriate for a group of 20-25.

      Any other input is greatly appreciated.

      Mr Taster

      -----
      Napoleon House Bar & Cafe
      500 Chartres St, New Orleans, LA 70130

      Cochon
      930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130

      1. re: Mr Taster

        I think the recommendation of Gumbo Shoppe is a pretty good one under these circumstances. I have taken out-of-towners there who were on a short schedule (and therefore not up for my customary three + hour lunches) and it has been perfectly satisfactory but it IS mostly touristy in my opinion.

        "Creole" is what gave New Orleans its food reputation and it has variants, such as the so-called "haute creole" that Commander's invented about thirty years ago. The surge of interest in Cajun Country caused many New Orleans places to, as I noted, give nods in that direction. There are, as the article you attached notes, similarities but there are amrked differences. Grillades in new Orleans is completely different from grillades in St. Martinville.

        If you are more interested in the Creole aspect, there are more options but many of the old, little places have vanished, others have made changes to appeal to what the diner thinks he is looking for. I'm trying to think of a place that would fit your price point...I'm blocking out something out I know. Something like GW Fins is over the $20 and is good but gimmicky.

        I've reached the point in my life where I can think of a dozen or more places that would be perfect BUT they are all gone today. That's no help.

        1. re: hazelhurst

          Thanks for this, Hazelhurst.

          I just called Felix's. They do not have a problem accommodating our group with reservations on a Saturday night. They seem to have a traditional Cajun menu, a full bar, and a great price point. Looks like an easy 10 minute walk down Bourbon street to our destination.

          Am I missing the downside here? Felix's is sounding pretty good right now.

          Mr Taster

          1. re: Mr Taster

            Anyone older than 50 can recall the Acme v. Felix's argument bouncing back and forth, coming down on one side or the other at least a dozen times. It's a favorite parlor game. (Once, in college, we took a gang down and started ant Acme, staggered across teh street to Felix's..that was just raw oyster night and Acme won that one, for me, but truth is Felix's was fine, just not as salty.) I don't know how their turtle soup is...maybe someone else out there can chime in. The menu is fairly basic stuff. I really only go when I want a dozen freshly shucked oysters before dinner elsewhere in the Quarter. I've really heard no complaints at all of late.

            1. re: hazelhurst

              Agree totally, other than Oysters Felix is a big letdown, but those Oysters are great.

          2. re: hazelhurst

            Hazelhurst,

            Did you find reference to $20/person? I looked, but then, I did declare Wine-Thirty over an hour ago, so maybe that accounts for it.

            I do agree with G W Fins, provided that the price is not too high. They are above $20 per main, but not by THAT much.

            Hunt

            PS - Did Wilton's again, passed on the flounder (the Brits know sole, but not flounder), and the meal was great. Thanks for that rec.

            1. re: Bill Hunt

              Bill

              I figured that GW Fins would not break the budget by too much and would give a broader range (with the now-mandatory "twist") than Felix but I don't think, for a mob that size and the time constraints, that Felix's would be a bad choice. My only problem with Fins is the reaching too far (for me) of such things as pumpkin-seed crusted fish.

              Glad Wilton's came up to speed. Their boullion is comme-il-faut and the game is always excellent. Terrific oysters, too. Last trip I practically ran there to escape the goddamn trendy crud that had infested Canterbury.

              1. re: hazelhurst

                One in our group had the oysters at Wilton's (a mixed bag of six), and enjoyed them. They were great, on all counts, though I did not test the flounder again - been there - done that.

                Felix's would be within the price range, but I would worry about the seating, but that would depend on how busy they were. You know how I feel about it - I am from the half of the family, that always went to Felix's, while the other half was across the street. [Grin]

                Hunt

              2. re: Bill Hunt

                "This should be relatively inexpensive- think $20 or under for entrees (they're students, after all)"

                1. re: TaTee

                  Hm-m, from their current menu: http://www.gwfins.com/nola/dailymenu/ it appears that they have two entrees just over US $ 20, and most of the rest are but a few $'s above that.

                  Maybe I missed something important?

                  Hunt

        2. The Gumbo Shop would work for a group that size and budget.

          1 Reply
          1. re: ezron

            Just called the Gumbo Shop.

            They do not take reservations on weekends. He advised us to arrive extremely early when the dining room is empty, around 5:00 or 5:30.

            I'm finding that many of the restaurants (the ones in our budget range) will not take reservations. That puts us in the peculiar situation of not having enough people to reserve a party room (as with Cochon) but too many people to be accommodated in the general dining rooms.

            Tricky.

            Mr Taster

            -----
            Cochon
            930 Tchoupitoulas St., New Orleans, LA 70130

          2. http://eatnola.com/faq/

            Check out Eat. I haven't eaten there or heard much, but it has your menu, location, cost, and will seat your size group.

            1 Reply
            1. re: collardman

              Collardman beat me to it...so I will second the suggestion for EAT. It is BYOL, so that ought to help out the budget. Yall would probably take up one of their rooms, so call now and make a reservation.
              Do not ask to all be seated at one table...just one room...much easier for conversation and the servers.

              -----
              Eat Restaurant
              900 Dumaine St, New Orleans, LA 70116

            2. Mr. Taster,

              Maybe I missed it, but did not see an actual budget.

              I would look into G W Fins (if the budget is OK), as they are a short walking distance from your tour. They have a private room, but I cannot recall the seating. We used it for 14, and there was plenty of room, but you are talking quite a few more. Call, and ask.

              They feature local seafood, with several "local" preps. Some of those preps do trace back to Cajun cuisine. As others have mentioned, there are some notable differences between New Orleans Cuisine, and Cajun, though some Cajun influences DO come through. In very general terms, New Orleans Cuisine is more rooted in Creole, but that can be very, very broad. It differs from Cajun, at a pure standpoint, but as mentioned, some Cajun influences HAVE crept into many New Orleans recipes, and treatments. Guess that it depends on the chef, and on the culinary historian, to get to the bottom of that. Still, for an enjoyable dining trip, it is not that important. It's about the food on your plate, at that moment. If local seafood works, and with several different "local" preps, the room is large enough, and the budget right, then G W Fins would be my rec.

              Enjoy,

              Hunt

              1. Mr Taster

                FWIW--I think that the Gumbo Shop would have the foods that many rightly or wrongly consider "cajun" (gumbos, etoufee, blackened fish etc)

                2 Replies
                1. re: ezron

                  I understand... but doesn't Felix's offer similar fare? My primary concern is that the food is great, and Felix's seems to be universally loved whereas there's some division about Gumbo Shop.

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    FWIW
                    I too am a fan of Felixs......but only for the oysters

                2. HELP!

                  We decided on Eat. Left email and voicemail messages which they lost(!!). When they finally got back to me, they told me they were full.

                  They recommended their sister restaurant Vacherie. How is the food here? Does it meet my criteria for budget and food? Typing this from mobile app at airport so am not able to easily look info up myself now. Will check your answers when I get off plane. Time is running short and I am getting a bit worried.

                  Thanks in advance!

                  Mr Taster

                  2 Replies
                    1. re: Mr Taster

                      MR. Taster, a look at Vacherie's menu, looks good to me. might be perfect for your group.

                    2. Hi Taster

                      Cabs are cheap, use them, get out out of the Quarter as often as you can to eat...knowing your posting proclivities from the LA boards I suspect you will find most French Q food overpriced and of lesser quality than you'll find in other parts of the city.

                      That said, Galatoire's is a excellent choice, as is Felix's (but only for the bivalves, IMHO). If I had to take a group of out-of-towners (or even just myself) somewhere that was really affordable, and gave the experience of NOLA, I would consider Franke and Johnnies [I really think you will love F & J's], Liuzza's, Jaques Imo's, Bon Ton, or any of the great po-boy places (Parkway Bakery, etc).

                      Sazerac Bar is a fav. Mandina's is a place I never miss when I go down to the other LA. Try and see a band at Maple Leaf or one of the Frenchmen St clubs (music in Quarter is, like the food, mostly lousy compared to the rest of town). Other Oyster joints I love are Casamentos and the Oyster Bar at Pascale's Manale. Walk along Magazine St, have lunch at Coquette, brunch at Cafe Atchafalaya (Bloody Mary Bar!!!!). Soak up the city but you gotta get out of the FQ to really know what rocks there.

                      18 Replies
                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                        We have a scant 2.5 days so I felt it would be better to stay in one area rather than going all over town. I did plan on Willie Mays for the chicken but that was the only one I had seriously considered. Felix's has been set for dinner for several days now and is locked. I may have time to take one more taxi ride so given that my schedule includes cafe Du monde, galatoires, nap house, sazerac bar, Johnnie's... what should I use my one taxi ride for? Some spectacular creole shack in the bayou maybe? B-) w

                        1. re: Mr Taster

                          Also Galatoires for Saturday brunch w my wife or Sunday without.... is Sunday really that much better?

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            Galatoire's has no brunch...It has the same menu all day, from 11:30 to closing...you can go at 3:00 if you wish. Sunday will have the dressed-up church folk..Saturday is likely to be more relaxe but you should still dress in coat & tie etc..

                          2. re: Mr Taster

                            My 3 cents:

                            Mandina's is 10 mins from the Quarter and unforgettable.

                            Frankie and Johnny's is more like 20 mins from the Q. I doubt they have live boiled crawfish this time of year, but if they do, I would hit that.

                            Mosca's is about and hour from the Q. If you can possibly get in, and have more time it is a justified legend.

                            PS It is Willie Mae's (I think you have been thinking of the Say Hey Kid :)

                            1. re: Ciao Bob

                              What to order at mandinas? On plane now! :-)

                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                The Standards there in my gang are trout meuniere (although since Miss Hilda died thirty years ago there were lots of complaints that it was no longer fresh fish off the morning truck b/c no one wanted to get up early enough to meet the truck)., turtle soup, the wop salad (now sailing under the monnkier "Italian Salad").

                                1. re: hazelhurst

                                  Yup.... I also like the crab fingers when they got em. The turtle soup with sherry is amazing.

                                  1. re: hazelhurst

                                    I have my doubts about whether it's still trout, but I've always liked the trout almandines (sic) and order it almost every time I go to Mandina's.

                                  2. re: Mr Taster

                                    You can take the Red Lady (red street car) from the FQ to Mandinas.

                                      1. re: Ciao Bob

                                        OK! Sorry for the delay in reporting back. New Orleans has cast its voodoo spell on me. What a marvelous city. The group I was traveling with was primarily into the Bourbon Street scene, which I had virtually no interest in other than to walk up and down the strip once for the experience. So my wife and I wound up doing a bunch of exploring on our own.

                                        The first place we wound up was at Coops Place- one of the only places serving notable food at midnight. A little dive bar (in the sort of decrepit elegance that I would find defines the feeling of NOLA) near Marigny. I made the rookie error of ordering a Ramos Gin Fizz, which sent the waiter on a tirade of "we don't serve fancy drinks. We don't serve hurricanes. Bourbon street is not New Orleans culture..." etc. I wanted to say "whoa dude, I'm not one of those guys... but I just got off the place and didn't know that a Ramos Gin Fizz is a fancy drink." I looked at the menu and they have sazeracs (which, to my mind, is a fancy drink) so I ordered that. I was surprised that it arrived in a plastic cup (which I was to learn later is kind of the way drinks are served in NOLA). It was fine-- but I was to find later on that it was pretty sub par when compared to the sazerac at Nap House. Anyway, as for the food-- jambalaya deluxe with rabbit and andouille was my first taste of NOLA. Dense, hearty stuff. Delicious. Followed up with a bowl of gumbo deluxe. Dense with that creole seasoning. I don't know what I was expecting, but the gumbo was soupier than I expected it to be. GREAT red beans and rice (I think it was here... or was it Felix's? Deeply flavored with smoky tasso.) Our group tried to order more food around 1:30am when the kitchen staff was trying to go home, and this short, feisty Creole lady came out of the kitchen screaming "Who the fuck is ordering more food?!!!" Our waiter put his hand around her shoulder and walked her back to the kitchen. He came back out and said politely, "The kitchen is closed." Welcome to New Orleans :)

                                        On to Cafe du Monde at 2am. The place was filthy, littered with debris of powdered sugar, napkins, crumbs, etc. We were served stale beignets under an absurd mountain of powdered sugar. But at least there wasn't any wait for a table.

                                        The dinner I arranged at Felix's was great. The oyster shucker guys were great. We chatted about the differences between eating oysters in Boston and NOLA. The char grilled oysters were off the hook... essentially they are covered with a topping of Parmesan, breadcrumbs, butter, white wine, and other bits of ambrosia before being char grilled so that the concoction reeks of unctuous, savory smokiness. Wonderful. The plain shucked oysters were lovely... clean tasting and tender, with just a squeeze of lime and cocktail sauce. Other people got the other menu items... jambalaya was great (better than coops) but the gumbo at Coops was better. The poboy looked anemic, on pale yellow bread. The etoufee was similarly lacking. So you were largely right-- stick with the bivalves, though I'd order the jambalaya again.

                                        Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) I didn't have enough room to eat much at Felix's because of our lunch at Galatoire's. We arrived around 1:30 on a Saturday. No crowds. Most tables empty. Had a serviceable sazerac-- served in an actual glass. None of the burn that I experienced at Coops, but the drink tasted slightly different. I think I recall that Galatoire's doesn't use rye. Ordered Oysters Rockefeller. Gorgeous dish. Turtle soup-- a little viscous, deep brown roux, delicious. Could not detect any turtle meat. My wife ordered pompano with lemon caper butter sauce-- absolutely perfectly cooked fish. Tender and perfectly cooked from head to tail. I ordered the "stuffed eggplant" which really was a wispy thin slice of eggplant topped with a mountain of crabmeat bechamel stuffing, shrimp, and lump king crab. Delicious, but I think I preferred the perfect, simple execution of my wife's fish over the mountain of cardiac arrest inducing gluttony on my plate. Dessert was a spectacular warm bread pudding with sliced bananas and the house special coffee, cafe brulot- brandy, citrus liqueur, citrus wedges, cinnamon, cloves, set alight (and drizzled the FLAMING HOOCH onto the tablecloth-- jeeebus, do they do this for everyone or did our waiter just want to set us on fire?) and then combined with a strong brewed coffee. I've got to say, the show was worth it but the coffee itself was.. *cough* rather strong.

                                        Made it to Johnny's for the poboys (the Johnny's special was SPECTACULAR.... (beef with grilled ham, american and swiss, served hot and wet- we got ours dressed with lettuce, tomato, etc.) and the fried oyster was fine. We took our poboys up to Treme where we caught our very first Second Line... Dumaine Street Gang. What an experience... the more I dig into the history, traditions and stories of New Orleans (such as the origins of the second lines) the more fascinating it becomes.

                                        Totally unspectacular arranged dinner by my wife's school at Bourbon House.

                                        Napoleon House-- best sazerac of the trip. Finally got my "fancy drinks" in-- the Pimm's Cup and Ramos Gin Fizz. The sazerac was wonderfully smooth-- went down almost too easily. The other two concoctions were fine, not terribly notable. The egg white fizziness of the RGF was interesting. Got the muffuletta, my first. I read about the controversy of the heated muff. Tried it. It was fine. I later read some chowhound reviews talking about how bland their olive dressing was. I remembered thinking that as I was eating it, but I didn't know any better. Got a whole muff from Frank's on our way out of town (plan was to eat it for dinner on the flight back to LA, so I asked them not to toast the bread). MUCH better olive dressing on Frank's-- kind of surprised by comparison at how bland Nap House's was. (Central Grocery was closed, so no opportunity to try theirs for comparison).

                                        On way out of town we stopped at Willie Mae's Scotch House for the fried chicken. They threw in a large white meat breast even though we didn't order it. Lovely people. Chicken was simply BURSTING with juice- even the white meat. Super crispy, flaky skin-- like thin potato chips, and nearly as salty. Bland and soupy red beans and rice (it was Monday, so I was hoping for more). Surprisingly bright and beautiful side salad.

                                        I'm in love with New Orelans. It's definitely high on my list to return. I feel like I've just barely tapped the surface of the place (food-wish and otherwise) and I can't wait to go back.

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          Mr Taster, i am so glad you "got it". New Orleans has so many layers, everytime i go , i discover more. i have been going since 1989 and it still fascinates me.

                                          1. re: Mr Taster

                                            Fantastic, Taster...you did quite a lot with very limited time.

                                            It reminds me of how I got "bit" by the city on my first visit around 15 years ago, and have ever since returned yearly (or more). Coops is a fun spot.

                                            Next time try the Muff from Nor Joe's in Meterie...that's the one to bring on the plane!

                                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/386241

                                            1. re: Ciao Bob

                                              Wish I knew about Nor Joe's before... I wonder if the taxi driver would have included that stop in the $33 flat fee to the airport? :)

                                              Mr Taster

                                            2. re: Mr Taster

                                              OH Coops. I'm glad the drink 'issue' didn't put you off. It's really some of the best food although the atmosphere can be a little uneven, but never so bad that I won't go back. The gumbo CAN be a little off sometimes; but yes, it is, by and large, much more soupy than your notion of what it is 'going to be'. It seems to be much more about the depth of flavor than about the thickness.
                                              I think some restaurants seem to thicken it up because that's what some people might be expecting??? You can really tell when there is a bunch of cornstarch in it and that is a big disappointment.
                                              Some of the BEST I've had is at Cochon, Herbsaint and at Liuzza's in mid city. I used to ALWAYS order it at Coops but I think I've moved on to the pasta dishes or the Red Beans and Rice. It was phenomenal last time I was there. Now you can get on that cycle of planning your next trip when you are barely home from your first !

                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                Loved your review. Back of the house people are pretty much the same everywhere and that's why they try to keep them in the BACK of the house :-)

                                                Also loved your flaming hooch comment. And, yes, it would be a good name for a rock band.

                                                As you have found, the middle tier restaurants are often hit and miss, depending on the dish and day. It takes a good place to be on all the time and even the best in N.O. slip from time to time.

                                                I look forward to your return and furthur exploration

                                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                                  Great report! I'm also glad you "got" it. I hate it when people don't understand the place.

                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                    sounds pretty good.

                                                    though you didn't make it to a lot of great joints.

                                        2. Jack Dempsey's would be a lot of fun and certainly different from the usual stuff in the FQ. It's all fried stuff, but you get lots of it and it is mighty tasty for some; others hate it. I've enjoyed it every time we've gone...

                                          1. Try Muriel's in Jackson Square....

                                            http://www.muriels.com/html/privatepa...

                                            Emeril's NOLA Restaurant....

                                            http://www.emerils.com/restaurant/2/N...

                                            I also had a private party at Herbsasint, outside of the FQ for about 25-30 that wasn't too bad...