NOLA feeding frenzy report
Thanks 'hounds for many helpful tips! Can't wait to come back - so many places we didn't get to try. Here's my re-cap:
JACQUES IMO’S – If I only had a Strawberry Abita and the free garlic cornbread muffin at the bar, it would have been enough. But we also had the fried chicken – amazing, perfect, grease-less - and the crazy Carpetbaggers Steak – way too much: with oysters, onions, bleu cheese and hollandaise, but pretty darn delicious. We skipped the alligator “cheesecake” appetizer – heard that was a good call. Each entrée came with two sides – corn maque choux was my favorite (even if I don’t remember exactly what it was), mashed sweet potatoes were very good, beets were just okay and I forget the fourth. But it was better than the beets. We were too stuffed for dessert, I am sorry to say. Amateurs, on day one of the eating extravaganza. We would not make that mistake again.
ELIZABETH’S – This may have been my favorite breakfast ever. Started with coffee and the calas – could be the best $5 you will ever spend – perfectly fried fritters of rice pudding dusted with powdered sugar. They beat the Café du Monde beignets hands down. Praline bacon is a must-try. Next time I’ll ask for it extra crispy. Had a “light” meal of eggs, biscuit and grits. Sounds simple, but everything was perfect. Their biscuits taste almost eggy, denser than others – like the child of biscuits and challah - really good. As we were eating (we got there before 8:00am – were the first people there), the waitress kept writing specials on the board – one more delicious and heavier-sounding than the next – I don’t remember the specifics, but they were even more outlandish than the regular menu item of bananas foster French toast. I’ll be back.
(Sidebar: After waiting over 30 minutes for two different cabs to pick us up, we channeled Blanche du Bois and asked a kind stranger to drive us back to our hotel. Apparently United Cab is the only company to call in the city – 504-522-9771)
WILLIE MAE’S SCOTCH HOUSE – Had high hopes since many call it the best fried chicken in America. It’s not. It was good, but it’s VERY greasy. I thought Jacques Imo’s was better. The cornbread was yummy and the side of green beans gravy and rice was pure comfort. Mac and cheese was great too. Bread pudding, not so much. Next time I’ll be trying Lil’ Dizzy’s for fried chicken.
PALACE CAFÉ – A Dickie Brennan restaurant on Canal Street. We went because it was across the street from our hotel and we were still kind of stuffed after fried chicken lunch. Lovely place – an old retail store – an okay but not memorable meal. Skip it. Oh, I just reviewed the menu online to refresh my memory. You might want to stop in for the crawfish mac and cheese, after all! A comparatively light bite. The oyster loaf hit the spot, too. No need to try the crabmeat cheesecake appetizer. So, if you’re in the neighborhood, it’ll do.
SAZERAC BAR at The Roosevelt Hotel– Home of the cocktail that shares its name. A nice place for a drink, and they give you plenty of bar snacks. Lovely old hotel – worth a peek at the lobby if you don’t have time for a drink.
DOMENICA’s – We were starting to O.D. on “stuff stuff with heavy” as Calvin Trillin would say, and we were feeling lazy after the Sazeracs, so we just popped into this John Besh Italian restaurant, also at The Roosevelt.(I guess he’s the Danny Meyers of NOLA, but a chef too) Was the best pizza I’d had in years (and I am from New York!), great kale salad, and delicious banana zuppa inglese – our requisite dose of Heavy.
CAFÉ DU MONDE – While I love donuts, and am now a calas convert, I’m not a huge fan of the beignet. But it’s obligatory to go, right? Very fun to watch them being made – walk around to the window in the back.
COMMANDER’S PALACE – There’s a reason they’ve been in business since 1880. Yes, 1880. Everything you would hope it would be. And more. Gorgeous place. We were in the “bird room”. Old world charm, but updated, not dowdy. Started with their renowned garlic bread. Was surprised to read about garlic bread in reviews of a place like this, but now I understand why they’re known for it. Was very happy to have just a tasting of the famous turtle soup in a trio of little cups of soup – along with gumbo and the day’s special of shrimp bisque – my favorite. But you do have to try the turtle soup (tasted sort of like Manhattan clam chowder), if only for the way they top it off with some Sherry. After that, I probably should have skipped my excellent entrée of pecan-crusted drum (a tasty Gulf fish) and just had the grits and dessert. (Erica had the lamb chops. They were perfect.) Their grits are nothing like other grits you’ve had. A fluffy, light mound of creamy white deliciousness. And the desserts! Perfect strawberry shortcake (lucky us, it was in season) and, just as it’s written on the menu: “The Famous Bread Pudding Soufflé - The Queen of Creole Desserts. Must be ordered 20 minutes in advance”. Yes. It must. And, they forgot to mention, it’s served with a whiskey crème Anglaise. Of course it is.
By Sunday I was ready to fast. Then I stopped at a flea market and happened upon the FRENCHEEZE FOOD TRUCK. While they’re known for their grilled cheeses, I couldn’t resist The Wilbur – from their website: “pulled pork, bacon & blue cheese topped with sweet & tangy homemade BBQ sauce on a french roll”. Could you resist that?
And right beside the truck was a table with an assortment of delicacies from TEE EVA’s. (Fortunately I had recently found my notes from my trip to New Orleans in 2000 and remembered my admonition to “go go go to this little pie/snowball stand a block or so from Casamento's.”) I limited myself to one pecan cream cheese mini pie. But why?
http://www.tee-evapralines.com/ - Alas, their current website isn’t as charming as the one from 2000, which said "Sorry we can't ship you a snowball."
I am ready to book my next trip!
Funny that you didn’t venture outside that comfort zone-Steak,fried chicken, mac & cheese, pizza until Commander’s Palace. Consider more seafood on your next trip. It’s also not quite as heavy as some of the other dishes.
LisaZee (I'm a Christine Z myself), I loved your report, but have to say Tee-Eva's and Casamento's are probably more than a "block or so" from each other, since Tee-Eva's is 5201 Magazine and Casamento's 4330, but hey, same street and all, I guess.
I don't mind that you didn't load up on seafood this trip, because that is what is so great about New Orleans, there are many many ways to satisfy whatever appetite or cravings you might have in that wonderful city. Pork, beef, chicken, pizza, pasta, daube, eggs, grits and grillades, calas, whatever..there's plenty more to choose from even if you're not into seafood.
Thanks for posting your experiences, Lisa, it's appreciated.
i agree that Jacques Imo's fried chicken is wonderful..my personal fav. i disagree on the Alligator Cheesecake -- it's good, and quite unique.
however, you also advise against Palace Cafe's Crabmeat Cheescake, which i also think is wonderful and pretty much the reason for going to PC...so our savory alignment may be different from each other.
+1 on Domenica's banana zuppa inglese. favorite dessert right now.