I'd heard about barbecued shrimp, but didn't really know what I was in for. Who knew it would end up being one of my absolute favorite New Orleans delicacies? First off, they're not barbecued as in grilled, nor barbecued as in zestily sauced. They list their recipe online, so it's no secret (though they might not want everyone knowing that one serving contains a stick and a half of butter. Jeez, no wonder it's so tasty). The giant head on shrimp come swimming in a brown buttery sauce spiked with lots of black pepper, Worcestershire sauce and assorted Creole seasonings. I could easily just eat sauce sopped up with crusty French bread. The only embarrassing part about ordering the bbq shrimp is how the waiter puts a bib on you with much fanfare. I don't like drawing attention while dining and feel self-conscious when it seems like I've ordered the manly, messy, eaten with your hands meal (James managed to choose a light, girly fish entre, so I looked particularly gluttonous). But it's worth suffering a little indignity for a bowl of rich, spicy shrimp.
Mr. B's Bistro * 201 Royal St., New Orleans, LA
Being my second New Orleans visit, I thought I'd branch out from Cafe du Monde and try the other 24-hour beignet place. It's smaller, indoors, and woody in an old-timey style. The beignets arrive naked, and you shake on the powdered sugar to your taste. It's a nice touch, considering how overboard they go with the confectioners sugar at Cafe du Monde, but to be perfectly honest the fried dough just didn't match up. It lacked the crispy, fried exterior and was merely a soft sweet chewy rectangle. As popular and tourist crazed as it is, Cafe du Monde makes a better beignet.
Morning Call * 3325 Severn Ave., Metairie, LA
On this trip, Liuzza's was our first stop in town. Not because we were
familiar with it first hand, or that it was even at the top of our list, we
simply wanted gumbo and it's the way the itinerary fell. And the gumbo,
fried seafood platter and ice cold Abita were a perfect introductory meal.
(For some irritating reason I always get sick when I eat battered, fried
seafood, and yet I couldn't help myself this time.)
The menu is a mix of regional favorites and Italian-American staples. It
reminded me of Philadelphia (not that andouille and remoulade are rampant in
Philly, it's just the atmosphere). We did poor boys elsewhere during our
trip, but I was completely fascinated by some of their unique offerings. If
time had permitted, I definitely would've tried the fried chicken liver
rendition, as well as their french fry and gravy filled one. That's totally
a Cajun chip butty–who knew?
That they seemed to have a police officer permanently planted out front,
keeping guard, made me a little uneasy (we discovered during our stay that
the city only has 1600 police officers, which is so totally insane I can't
even believe it). New Orleans really has a sporadic, ominous feel to it,
much as I'd imagine NYC used to before my arrival in the late '90s. But all
in all, the cop only added to the ambience.
Liuzza's * 3636 Bienville
Ave., New Orleans, LA
I regret never getting to eat in our hotel restaurant, Gamay, as it was
closed on Sunday and that's when we thought to try breakfast or lunch. The
front desk clerk alternately suggested nearby, Tally Ho and added it's "the
best breakfast in town." We figured this must be some cross-arrangement
(ever the suspicious New Yorkers) since it sounded like a pat response. But
lo and behold, as we rounded the corner, their sign proudly proclaimed "the
best breakfast in town." What do you know? Hearty omelets with a few oddball
options like jambalaya and alligator sausage are a great way to start the
Tally Ho * 400 Chartres St., New Orleans, LA
This was James' dinner choice, which was fine. I wanted to go to Jacques-Imo's
for dinner. We compromised, and he got Sat. night while I got Sun. evening.
Unfortunately my pick was closed in Sunday (we ended up at Mother's
That Ferdi special was just too much, even for a hungry girl like me. If
I learned one thing in my mere two days in New Orleans, it's to stick with
the seafood po boys. The turtle soup was also pleasant. My only regret is
not having room for dessert–those pies looked amazing. I've never seen such
large, firm healthy slices. (2/24/02)
Yay for poor boys (or po boys, I just feel funny saying and typing po),
and only a block from our hotel. The famous Ferdi special almost killed me
last time, so I just stuck with the shrimp poor boy this time around. In
fact, I don't think I branched out from the shrimp poor boy anywhere we
sampled the sandwich. They're always just so good that I know I wont be
The only thing I couldn't figure out at Mother's is the middle-aged guy
called Elvis who hangs out at the restaurant. I don't think hes an employee,
though there were plenty of old photos of him gracing the walls.
Mother's * 401 Poydras St., New Orleans, LA
I never knew what a muffuletta could be (or was exactly, for that matter).
This Italian grocery knows how to make a sandwich. A whole round of bread,
crammed with salami, provolone, olives and other marinated goodies, makes a
beautiful oily mess. Wash it down (I dare you to eat more than half) with
Barq's in a bottle for a gratifying experience. (2/23/02)
I've never tried a muffaletta anywhere else but here, so it's not as if
I have a broad range of experience to compare with. But I like to believe
this is the quintessential version. I'm not even sure why it's a New Orleans
specialty, there's nothing particularly Cajun about it. In fact, the massive
sandwich would be right at home in my own heavily Italian-American
neighborhood, Carroll Gardens. Around these parts, they make some fine oily,
meaty, cheesy sandwiches, alright, but it's the olive salad that really adds
something. Or maybe its the bread. Or the swampy air? There's just something
about a muffaletta. (7/13/04)
CentralGrocery Company * 923 Decatur St., New Orleans,LA
As it was on the streetcar line, we couldn't resist stopping here on our way
back from the zoo. Jalepeno poppers and a blue cheeseburger spoiled my
appetite for dinner at the Gumbo Shop. It was my only non-regional meal of
the trip. Gut-busting blasphemy.
St. Charles Tavern * 1433 St. Charles Ave., New Orleans, LA
Who knew beignets and chicory cafe au lait could be so addictive. I couldn't get enough of those fried squares of dough–we went twice in one day.
What confuses me is how cans of Cafe du Monde coffee made it into Hong Kong Supermarket in Sunset Park. I noticed more than a few Asian waiters at the cafe. What if there's a covert smuggling operation going on? Who cares as long as I benefit. Now, if they'd only find a way to sneak warm, sugar-covered beignets into my neighborhood too. (2/23/02)
New Orleans is odd in that many (though certainly not all) tourist heavy haunts still offer good food. It's pretty rare in NYC to find a place that pleases visitors as well residents. Caf du Monde is crowded, potentially confusing (people seem to have a hard time figuring out if youre supposed to just take a table or wait to be seated, and then whether or not someone is supposed to come out and take your order) and youre in dangerously close proximity to overzealous street performers. But its all good. At least the beignets are. I try not to get too unnerved by all the women in scrunchies and fitted denim shorts, and men in polos and their pleated khaki shorts.
I'm trying to figure out the Vietnamese/Caf du Monde connection. In NYC, youll frequently see cans of the stuff in Vietnamese restaurants, often integrated into make shift shrines. Almost all the wait staff at Caf du Monde are Vietnamese, as well. I could understand a Japanese fondness since they have franchises in Japan. But Vietnam? Is it just some odd hold over Francophila, or is there something deeper at work? (7/13/04)
Cafedu Monde * 1039 Decatur St., New Orleans,LA
My first meal in New Orleans was not a disappointment. I picked the oyster
po boy, and was minorly baffled when they asked, "do you want that dressed?"
I love going places where you don't know the dining procedures. The hardest
decision involved picking dessert off the hand-written dry–erase board
(there were three in the small space and the odd thing is that each of the
10-12 choices were written in different colors, yet the same corresponding
color on each board. Someone is anal about the daily specials). And it's an
impressive roster of sweets too. Oreo pie, pineapple upside-down cake, sweet
potato pecan pie, turtle cheesecake, and peanut butter chocolate chip pie.
Try getting those in NYC–sometimes we're too sophisticated for our own
I hadn't realized how gay and how large the clientele was on our
previous visit. I started wondering if there wasn't some kinky feeder/gainer fetish
occurring in front of my eyes. Not that I was prevented from enjoying my
food. The front door was locked and you had to be let in, something to do
with some criminal maniac loose in the neighborhood. How would the person
who let you in know whether or not you were the criminal? Bizarre, and very
un-NYC. Don't quote me on this, but I swear there was also a machete right
near the door. For protection, I assume.(7/04)
La Peniche * 1940 Dauphine St., New Orleans,LA