(From our travels) Another one of those venerable “institutions for locals,” the Bon Ton Café has been dishing up Creole/Cajun specialties in the CBD since 1953. Located in an historic building from the 1840s, the Bon Ton is, in fact, New Orleans oldest Cajun restaurant.
The Pierce family has presided over the estab since the beginning, and current chef, Wayne Pierce, actually graduated from dental school, but found his heart, and his ability to get people to say “open wide,” was more suited to having them taste the Pierce’s fine dining, and altering the appearance of their smiles that way, instead of through dentistry.
There’s a certain “down-home” feeling that you get immediately entering the place, partially communicated by the soft-color of the brick walls contrasting with traditional red and white checkered tablecloths.
As one of the pioneers of Cajun cuisine in the city, the owners originally made an attempt to have the cuisine be as appealing to as large a group as possible, and thus have toned down the usual assortment of spices generally associated with Cajun cuisine. So the “heat” is understated, which I found refreshing. I have never thought there is much of a need to make “heat” into one of the main flavor groups, and the Pierce’s accomplish imparting the true flavors of Cajun food on a subtler basis.
Crawfish and crab, though traditionally thought of as seasonal dishes in South Louisiana (crawfish=summer, crab=winter), are served year round at the BTC, and they “do them right.”
The Crawfish Dinner, at $22.00, provides diners with the opportunity to sample five of the house specialties: bisque, jambalaya, etoufee, Newburg, and an omelette – all on one platter.
Crabmeat Imperial, served on toast points, is as pure, simple and satisfying as you can get. I’m guessing the portion runs nearly a full pound.
When most people think of “New Orleans seafood,” trout probably doesn’t pop into the top of their heads, but it’s widely available here, and Bon Ton’s tenderloin of trout, accompanied by their homemade tartar sauce and onion rings, was sublime. Chose your method of prep, fried, grilled, or broiled. I chose the latter, and I chose correctly. This is one of those dishes, though I wouldn’t normally think of ordering, that I would crawl over broken glass for. I just wished they had a “supersize option,” cause it left me wanting more. I ordered ala carte, which came w/ two monstrous onion rings on it.
You know me and onion rings. Bon Ton’s were superb.
The full entrée version of dishes come with a soup, chopped green salad, and desert choice – ice cream, bread pudding or pineapple sherbet.
As my companion had ordered the entrée, we opted for the sherbet, which was disappointing. It had two flavors: “cold” and “sweet” but nothing more.
But that trout…………………arghhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Nothing fishy about that, at all. I’ll be back.
The Bon Ton serves lunch and dinner Monday through Fridays and is located at 401 Magazine in the CBD. 524-3386.