Recap of Single Traveler Eats and Drinks (and Drinks)
A review of my one-person (me!) trip to New Orleans this past weekend. Long-story-short, work travel and some botched afterplans left me to run amok in this great city.
One thing I would note is crowds were moderate and I had no issue getting a table for one in most situations.
Arnaud's, dinner: well, I always avoided the old standards, but, why? Service excellent, food decent, drinks well prepared (service bar, not French 75). I got the impression that this was a restaurant that was still capable of serving good food, but was not surprising anybody's taste buds.
Bellocq, after dinner drinks: Nearly deserted, though the next night I noticed they were packed. Decor was suitably West Elm vampire and darkly lit. I ordered a Manhattan, which is a touchy subject, but it accomplished all of the great potential this drink has in the hands of a good bartender. They had a decent rye selection, which is to be expected by now from most good bars.
It occurs to me that there are a couple breakfast/lunch meals that either got obscured by all the gin martinis or were foregone altogether in favor of raw oysters (at places I cannot recall!).
Pravda@Parastroika afternoon drinks, staff were smart and skilled--excellent Hemingway daiquiri, cold but not full of distracting ice slush; specialty cocktail, featuring tequila and vanilla, was a good idea; gin martini made to exacting standards. Hip but not off-putting vibe.
Irene's, dinner. Well, this place is mostly a nostalgic revisit for me. There never has been, and there still doesn't seem to be, much mention of this restaurant, despite that it's always packed. My soup was great, the fish special (Caprese with avocado and thangs) was very good, and the cheesecake was flavorful but not cloying. Service was the best I received my entire trip. The grappa menu was a novel turn of events (but also reminded me why I forget grappa).
Snug Harbor, night drinks. As I figured, their jazz show was already sold out by that afternoon, but I went and sat in the bar and got the free show on their TV. All about the lively crowd here. Typical cozy wood panelled feel. Frenchmen is a must-visit street for any NO excursion.
Luke, brunch. I've read a fair share of mixed reviews, but I rather liked it. Maybe dinner is a different matter. My serving duo were warm and perfectly timed. Drinks menu was weird for brunch. Food was very good, if not inventive (which is forgivable for brunch dishes).
Ramos Fizz tour (my own). Not sure why I did this, other than no other place in the world knows what this drink is, so I figured I better get it in now-
Sazerac Bar: Ramos Fizz--expensive, solid B+, on the dry side, which I like, vanilla was a tad out of balance with the orange flower water, frothy enough.
Napoleon House: Ramos Fizz and Pimm's Cup--just to see, I had to get a RF here, but, yeah, I got what was coming to me: a reasonable approximation from a churn-house bar. The Pimm's Cup was delish, though, just as I remembered.
Carousel Bar: Ramos Fizz, Sazerac--a solid RF, but no orange flower water and the froth was not incorporated. It was basically the 1-dimensional drink that many people think the Ramos Fizz is. The Sazerac I ordered was far better, if a tad on the watery side.
Olde Absinthe House, where to start? Julie was my bartendress, pretty much knew everything about drinks, and had an awesome personality. She started with a Sazerac, then a La Louisiane, and somehow talked me into allowing her to make me two RFs. Technique and flavor . . . her Ramos Fizz was *ne plus ultra* and the best of my tour.
Sylvain, un-dinner--didn't quite make it. They weren't crowded, but they didn't seem to know how to seat people, either, so I shuffled down to Pelican Club.
Pelican Club, dinner at the bar. Good bar, very good kitchen. I had a baked oyster dish and the barbecued shrimp with linguine. The space was small and polished but energetic. Piano jazz that night.
Arnaud's French 75, after dinner drinks. Upscale, like an antique store you can't afford anything in, and intimate. I had a Vieux Carre and the Last Word, which rounded out my flagging journey of liver abuse. Both made with expertise, such that I didn't mind the prices. Intriguing mix of patrons. Fun, mellow, and cool . . . not snobby.
Stanley, brunch. Crowded as all get out, but the food was inventive for brunch (ordered the Breaux Benedict and highly recommend). Award for finest poached egg and offering two methods of onion rings on the menu.
As always, you just can't cover enough places when you visit New Orleans. For every restaurant you go to, there's 10 you wish you had gone instead. But that's why you come back again!
You know, I felt the same way. If I had to just blind recommend, Sazerac Bar seems like they would be the most consistently good, no matter when you go or who makes it. I think I just got lucky at Olde Absinthe House by getting Julie. I wasn't even going to order a RGFizz until she brought it up first.
I liked your comment on Arnaud's and think it applies to Antoine's too. The food is not bad but is not "competitive" in the modern market. While many visitors want "the best" that New Orleans has, you can still get good food from the old war horses.
As for your grappa view, I've had grappa in many places, some pretty expensive, and I keep hoping I'm going to find one that's good! I guess I'm a slow learner. Now that you can find pisco in bars you may want to try it. I've found every pisco I've tried straight to be smoother than grappas.