Dining on our trip to New Orleans

Pirate’s Cove

We kicked off the trip with lunch from Pirate’s Cove in Pass Christian.  The old restaurant was a beachfront institution; an order at the counter joint with Formica topped tables bolted to the floor (or maybe varnished 2 x 6 picnic tables, I’m not totally sure).  Either way, it was known for po-boys- crispy shrimp or roast beef swimming in gravy.  There was even a little arcade in the back corner, which contained Joust, along with other 80’s classics.

Wolfe said you can’t go home again, and that is sadly true in this case.  The restaurant has moved, not surprisingly, farther from the beach, and is now a take-out place with a couple of picnic tables out front.  The fried shrimp po-boy is still pretty good, but the roast beef is a pale imitation of what I remember.  Watery, insubstantial gravy and chewy slices of unremarkable beef.   It seems pre-packaged and lacks any characteristics of a house-made product.

I realize the proprietors have suffered tremendously in the 6 years since Katrina, and I wish them all the success in the world, but I hope they can one day recapture the deliciousness that was a Pirate’s Cove roast beef po-boy.

For the record, the best roast beef po-boy I’ve ever had, bar none, was from the long-defunct Dan B’s in Bay St. Louis.  Flavorful, peppery gravy and tender, unctuous roast beef that was pot-roast tender.  I think they probably cooked the whole thing in a crock-pot for hours on end.  It was delicious.

French Charley’s

We had a great meal at French Charley’s in Pass Christian with our friends Chuck & Katie on Friday night.  It is a cool place, with a great outdoor bar overlooking Pass Harbor.  We saw Robin Roberts holding court in the bar as we headed in to eat.

The food was good- well conceived and solidly executed.  I look forward to eating there again.

Jourdan River Steamer

Jordan River Steamer is a favorite of my mom’s, and mine.  It’s a time honored concept- huge platters of boiled/steamed seafood served family style.  It works, and it works well, because of great execution by Hank & Lori Plauche.

Our food was delicious- an impossibly large platter of shrimp, crabs, crab legs, lobster, etc.  It’s a fun meal for a group, and the boys delighted in tearing into the diverse crustaceans before them.

It’s worth the trip!

Bourbon House

The Bourbon House is a favorite of mine.  It’s not the best restaurant in New Orleans, but it’s the one I try to visit every time I’m there.  It sits in the French Quarter in the same block of Iberville Street as Acme Oyster House and Felix’s, and it serves a similar, albeit slightly upscale menu.

DIGRESSION- You can always spot Acme because of the line on the street.  If you ever walk by Acme and there’s not a line, go in, because the food is good.  If there is a line, however, go to Felix’s or the Bourbon House, because New Orleans has too many good restaurants to wait in line.  

As I said before, Bourbon House has the same menu as Acme and Felix’s, but the execution is just a little better.  Better shrimp, better oysters, better salads, better everything.  In fact, the oyster bar is the best I have experienced in New Orleans (though I’m ashamed to admit I have not been to Casamento’s).  The draft Abita is without a doubt the finest beer on earth.

The Bourbon House will always hold a warm place in my heart, as it was the place I first re-connected with New Orleans when I returned in November, 2005 after Katrina.  I will always remember sitting at the bar, rapt with attention as the oyster shuckers and bartenders shared experiences, gossip, suffering, and prognostications.

The Gumbo Shop

Disappointing.  I should have known better.  How does a native New Orleanian end up at the Gumbo Shop?  Over the years, I have heard favorable things about the food , so we decided to give it a try as we headed away from Jackson Square during an early summer rainstorm.

I knew it was a mistake from the moment we sat down.  Sullen, indifferent staff hawking a menu of tired, lazily prepared tourist-trap fare.  It’s really disappointing.  To try and fall short is one thing, but to quit trying is unconscionable.  I had a similar experience at Muriel’s one night when we took a group of out-of-town friends and ended up in the front room sitting through a meal that was but a pale imitation of what I’ve had when seated in the back of the restaurant surrounded by locals.

As my son Davis once said, “Why wouldn’t you try to do your best work?”  Why not, indeed?

Butcher (at Cochon)

Unbelievable, transcendent meal.  The best of the trip, and they were only sandwiches!  It was that good.  Go there, and go soon.  The picture below is of a muffaletta, we also had a BLT with housemade bacon and a turkey sandwich with bacon and greens.  It was unreal, and I can’t wait to go back for lunch on October 7, 1011.

Rotolo’s Pizza

Rotolo’s is an utterly unremarkable French Quarter pizza place, at the corner of Toulouse and Chartres.  I mention it for two reasons.  First, they had a picture hanging behind the bar that caught my attention.  It was a grainy, pixellated picture of Brett Favre, printed on copier paper with a cheap inkjet.  Favre was walking across the Superdome turf, looking thoroughly beaten, after the 2009 NFC Championship game.  He had 2 small Rotolo’s pizza boxes in hand, as they provide catering for the visiting team at the Dome.  For a brief moment in June, 2011, that picture took me back to the exultation in Miami after the Super Bowl win.

The second reason is that the bartender/waitress was stoned to the point of uselessness.  Without repeated, forceful prompting from me, we could have never closed our transaction.

The pizza wasn’t bad.

Cypress Cove Marina

Cypress Cove Marina is in Venice, Louisiana, at the south end of the world.  ‘Down the Road’, as my patients in Gretna used to call it.  I took the boys down for an early morning fishing trip, departing the Quarter at 5AM with lines in the water about 8:30.  After 2 hours of furious action, we were back at the marina, limited out, by 11:00AM.  Louisiana fishing is like nowhere else, and is not to be missed.

After cleaning the fish, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at the marina, surrounded by a motley cast of oilfield workers, charter captains, coasties, and various others.  The food was hearty and delicious, and hit the spot after an early long day.  If you need info about the charter- please comment or email.

Stella

We enjoyed dinner at Stella with our friends Gene and Nicole on a Thursday night.  Stella was widely agreed to be the best restaurant in New Orleans when we departed in June, 2005, and it is still among the best, if not the best restaurant in the city.

We had a great meal with our friends, enjoying great atmosphere, service, and food.  I had a ‘duck study’ dish, pictured below.  It included duck presented four ways, roasted, confit, wonton, and debris in miso broth.  It was good, but a little disappointing.  I was dubious when I ordered, and I should have trusted my instincts- “jack of all trades, master of none”.  In the future, I’ll stick to dishes which allow the chef to make me a single dish, instead of 4 x 1/4.

Camellia Grill

The Camellia Grill is a New Orleans institution, and perhaps the only local restaurant I would wait in line to enter.  The original is uptown in the Riverbend, near the meeting of St. Charles and Carrolton Avenues.  A new location has recently opened in the French Quarter, at 540 Chartres Street.

I’m thrilled to say it is every bit a good as the original, and it’s an accurate reproduction almost to a fault.  The omelets were delicious, along with all the traditional Camellia Grill favorites.   

Hansen’s Sno-Bliz

There are no words.  This place defies description.  Have you ever heard of a satsuma-vanilla bean snow cone?  You gotta go.

Mondo

Mondo is a fairly new Susan Spicer project in Lakeview, our old neighborhood, at the site of the old Barataria.  We enjoyed a great meal there with our friends Chip & Michelle.  It is a stylish, welcoming place, and the menu is an interesting blend of neighborhood haunt and ambitious urban restaurant.

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