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Eating Your Way Around New Orleans

  • Submitted by: Lan Sluder
  • Website: None Available
  • Submission Date: 04th Feb 2005


In New Orleans, good food is at least as important as sex or a career. Local delicacies are as varied as boiled crawfish, oyster pie, pompano in a paper bag, red beans and rice, chicken and sausage okra gumbo, French-fried potato po-boys and bubble gum sno-cones. New Orleans Creole food -- not Cajun food, which is a country cousin of Creole and not widely available in New Orleans -- is one of the unique cuisines of the United States.

As food is such an integral part of the New Orleans experience, interliners may want to begin their dining tour in the suburban areas around the airport. (For all the restaurants, prices for one, without drinks, wine or tip, are: Inexpensive, Under $10, Moderate, $10-$29; Expensive, $30 an up.) Andrea's (3100 19th in Metairie) is a perennial winner of awards as one of the best Italian restaurants in the area. Moderate. About 25 miles west of the airport, through swamps via I-10 and I-55 to Manchac, is Middendorf's, a classic Louisiana seafood house specializing in catfish. Moderate. Another off-the-beaten track spot is Mosca's, across the Huey P. Long Bridge at 4137 U.S. Hwy. 90 West. Mosca's is the quintessential Italian-Creole roadhouse, plain on the outside but full of laughter and good food inside. Oysters Mosca is one of the great dishes of New Orleans, plump oysters baked with olive oil, herbs, garlic and bread crumbs. Moderate.

But good eating goes into high gear in the city limits of New Orleans.

One-half of the fine restaurants listed in The WPA Guide to New Orleans in 1938 still are in business almost 60 years later, a record for longevity likely unmatched in any other American city. But besides the old-line classics such as Antoine's, Galatoire's, Arnaud's, Tujacques, and Commander's Palace, a revisionist generation of chefs at newly famous restaurants such as Mister B's, Bayona, Peristyle, Emeril's , The Windsor Court Grill and NOLA, has restated and reinvigorated New Orleans cooking.

Start with the most New Orleans of restaurants: Galatoire's, on Bourbon Street but not of it. In a break with tradition, Galatoire's now accepts credit cards, but still not reservations. Wait in the line on Bourbon and meet the locals who love this French-Creole place, or come early for dinner or late for lunch to avoid the crowd. Jackets for men at dinner here. Galatoire's is one of the few spots with a formal dress code, although fine restaurants in New Orleans tend to be dressier than in most other cities. Galatoire's is a single large room, mirror-lined and loud. The waiters, many of them there for decades, can be brusque, but never haughty or mean-spirited. The platonic meal here is oysters en brochette, trout meuniere almandine, puffy brabant potatoes, crusty French bread and dark, rich Galatoire's coffee, served in a silver pot. Moderate to Expensive.

Not far away, at 430 Dauphine, is one of the best of the newer restaurants, Bayona. Chef Susan Spicer came to fame at the Bistro at Maison de Ville, then opened this larger place. The menu is eclectic, mixing Caribbean, California, classic Creole and other elements in surprising new ways. Moderate to Expensive.

For a big splurge in New Orleans, you can't go wrong at Commander's Palace, in a lovely Garden District setting at 1430 Washington. Commander's has the best turtle soup in New Orleans, with superb veal and seafood entrees. The service is impeccable. Expensive.

But you don't have to spend a lot of money to eat well in New Orleans. Mother's, on Poydras near the Convention Center and the Mississippi River, is now open all day. A speciality is the roast beef debris po-boy. Inexpensive. For another special New Orleans sandwich, try a muffaletta at Central Grocery, 923 Decatur in the Quarter. It's a uniquely New Orleans concoction of olive salad, meats and a special round bread. Inexpensive.

For oysters and other seafood at moderate cost, try the Acme Oyster House at 724 Iberville in the Quarter, Inexpensive to Moderate, or Casamento's, Inexpensive, Uptown on Magazine near Napoleon. Uglesich's, 1238 Baronne, is in a bad neighborhood, but business people flock here for oysters shucked to order. Inexpensive.

Steak lovers, surprisingly enough in this seafood town, will find some of the best red meat anywhere in a New Orleans-style steak, traditionally served sizzling in butter with parsley. Ruth's Chris Steak House, the world's largest premium steak house chain, got its start here. The location at 711 N. Broad Street is usually packed with locals, enjoying big steaks with a little politics on the side. Expensive.

New Orleans has many neighborhood restaurants off the tourist track. Among the classics: Mandina's at 3800 Canal, Moderate; Upperline at 1413 Upperline, Moderate; Compagno's at 7839 St. Charles, Moderate; Ye Olde College Inn at 3016 S. Carrollton, Inexpensive to Moderate; Liuzza's at 234 N. Telemachus, Moderate; and the 24-hour Hummingbird Grill at 804 St. Charles in the wino district, Inexpensive; Delmonico, 1300 St. Charles, Moderate.

One of the many memorable smells of New Orleans is its coffee, roasting in the warehouse district or wafting up from cafes. Coffee in New Orleans often has chicory in it, which gives it a thicker, richer taste. At the Cafe du Monde in the French Market, open 24 hours a day every day, have a cup au lait with an order of beignets. Inexpensive. P.J.'s is the original gourmet speciality coffee shop in New Orleans, now with several locations. Inexpensive.

You can even get a great hamburger in New Orleans, a half-pound one at Port of Call, 838 Esplanade at the edge of the Quarter, Inexpensive, one cooked under a car hubcap at the Clover Grill, 900 Bourbon, Inexpensive, or a diner-style burger at the Camellia Grill on S. Carrollton at the Riverbend, Inexpensive.

For dessert on a hot summer day, even better than those sticky pralines (which few New Orleanians care much for, anyway) are sno-cones, made of finely shaved -- not crushed -- ice with flavors and perhaps other toppings poured on. Hansen's Sno-Blitz, 4801 Tchoupitoulas (CHOP-a-tu-lus) is the most-famous, and perhaps the best, of the sno-cone shops, which are generally open in warm weather only. Inexpensive.

Almost Good Enough to Be Great Anywhere Else:

The average restaurant in New Orleans is better than most great restaurants in cities where people don't love food. Here are restaurants you'll enjoy because they're almost good enough to be great anywhere else:

Mister B's, 201 Royal. Moderate. A new classic that never fails to please.

Emeril's, 800 Tchoupitoulas. Founded by the former head chef at Commander's. Expensive.

Bistro at Maison de Ville, 733 Toulouse. Moderate to Expensive.

Brigtsen's, 723 Dante Uptown. Moderate to Expensive.

La Provence, in Macombe. A country inn with impeccable food. Expensive.

Charlie's Steak House, 4510 Dryades. Authentic New Orleans neighborhood steak house. "Guard on duty." Moderate.

Bud's Broiler. Several locations. What McDonald's would have been if it had been founded in New Orleans.

Arnaud's, 813 Bienville. The best shrimp remoulade in New Orleans, and the excellent veal dishes. Moderate to Expensive.

Coop's, 1109 Decatur. Cheap, good, popular. Inexpensive.

Versailles, 2100 St. Charles. French and formal, on the Avenue. Expensive.

Angelo Brocato, 214 N. Carrollton and 537 St. Ann. The finest Italian ices in New Orleans.