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Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans’

New Orleans, LA – Casamento’s

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I love old-timey places that have survived and thrived over the years, and certainly Casamento’s fits that description.  The consummate oyster restaurant in New Orleans, it’s been open continuously since 1919.  Except when they close every June, July, and August, much to the dismay of locals, who eagerly await it’s reopening every year.

With a menu long on locavore supplies and tradition, Casamento’s dishes out raw oysters ($11 a dozen in 2013), and fried seafood plates and “loafs”, or poboys sandwiches, using their own special bread, and eschewing local tradition of French bread for poboys.

While the joint had been the setting and backdrop for numerous movies and television shows over the years, it’s the inner workings, the kitchen, that make this restaurant shine.   Try the gumbo, some of the area’s best, as are the soft shelled crabs.   That’s what Burgerdogdaughter had the other day when we dropped in.

I went with a catfish poboy, as it’s nearly impossible to be able to afford catfish in Portland, OR, where I reside.   Down these parts, it’s dirt cheap and delicious.

We split a dozen raw oysters to start.

Casamento’s should be on every tourist’s list of ‘must stops’ in the Big Easy.  Be prepared to wait for a table, and it’s cash only.  Menu.

Casamento's Catfish Po Boy

Catfish Loaf

Casamento's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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New Orleans, LA – Dat Dog

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A pal invited me to the haute dog place in New Orleans, “Dat Dog”, and it was over the top delicious on the tubular nutrition vehicle offerings.   Unimpressive website that tells you nothing, but the experience and first bite tell you everything.

These are quality sausages, made by a variety of purveyors.   My pal went for the crawfish dog, ground crawfish, seasonings in a casing,  it was damned good.

I opted for two selections, a traditional german wiener, and a “Slovakian”,  which was pure pork, seasoned, lightly smoked.

Both were excellent.

Fries were highly seasoned crispy shoestrings, adding cheese is a mistake, go with them naked.

Selection of beers, lots of outdoor tables, incredibly noisy, cash only.  Uptown neighborhood Nola, near the snooty college Burgerdogdaughter went to.

Earlier review by NOLA reporter here.

Dat Dog New Orleans

Slovakian, German Wiener, Crawfish

 

Dat Dog on Urbanspoon

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New Orleans, LA – Tommy’s Cuisine

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(From our travel archives) Where do ex-spouses of great restaurants go? Why, down the street to start their own. Tommy Andrade (nee “Irene’s”) is happily serving the public a little bit of Italian and a little bit of Creole at “Tommy’s Cuisine,” 744 Tchoupitoulas.

I had noticed this place out of the corner of my eye several times, and had hoped to get there. Ended up sampling it last night, due more to circumstance than design, but will make it a point to be a repeat customer.

Convention traffic made it a full house on a Monday night, but no reservations meant only a 20-30 minute wait, my only real gripe about that is one must stand at the bar (there are no stools), and, as the place is crowded to begin with, you find yourself occasionally negotiating your space with the wait staff. If you make reservations, that might not be a problem.

I don’t know what quality there is that gives a restaurant the atmosphere that creates what I am about to give you my observation on: some places are crowded and you feel like you are dining with the people at the next table. Tommy’s didn’t have that feel at all. Despite a full house, and tables that are somewhat close together, one doesn’t come away with that “claustro” feeling that one gets from other places. I feel that way at Clancy’s, for example.

A gregarious host and an enthusiastic wait staff might make all the difference, as does the ambience of the room, which is dark and intimate, with crisp white linens and gleaming stem and flatware.

The menu is straight forward and leans towards brevity. There are a couple of daily specials in all categories, and these are printed on a separate menu. Last night there was one “off the menu” special as well. Do you think this means it was a last minute inspiration? Leftovers? Or simply a printing gaff? Doesn’t really matter, does it?

Starters are in the $7 range, and include baked oysters, mussels marinara, escargot, and a pan sautéed oyster and shrimp dish. We had last’s night “special” appetizer which was a lump crab concoction, perhaps rolled in bread crumbs and sautéed, ample enough to share, and very good.

Two salads (a Caesar and a mixed green) and ten entrees (chicken, veal, crab, shrimp, fish, duck and lamb) round out the menu. The nightly specials were a choice of trout preparations, and we tried two of those, and they were both very good.

I prefer a more natural approach to fish, and opted for meuniere, as opposed to the local standard of seafood adornment and cream sauce. While they were both excellent, I preferred mine. As good as the Bon Ton, which I consider the local authority on trout.

Although it is not detailed on the menu, each plate includes a starch and vegetable, our starches last night were Brabant potatoes (a larger chop than other places, and slightly less crispy, but good nonetheless), and a “twirled pile” of garlic mash, very light on the garlic. One of the vegetables was a very lightly sautéed, still crunchy asparagus, which was more than fine.

Bread is a sesame strewn crusty French, accompanied by unsalted soft butter.

Passed on dessert, of course, but were told by several people that they were very good. Reasonable prices, with entrees in the mid teens.

Tommy’s Cuisine serves dinner nightly from 5:30. 581-1103 for res.

Tommy's Cuisine New Orleans

Tommy's Cuisine on Urbanspoon

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Lacombe, LA – Sal & Judy’s

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Sal & Judy's Lacombe Louisiana (From our travel archives) Sal Impastato is from Sicily – having come to a America as a young man 50 years ago, and worked in restaurants in NOLA and TX, Sal finally got to open his own place several decades ago – on a quiet country road in Lacombe, Louisiana.

“People” say “Italian” in New Orleans and thoughts usually go to Mosca’s, on the West Bank.  Lacombe is probably the same distance or a little bit longer, in the opposite direction, but light years apart in their food, preparation, and service.

It was my first visit to Sal and Judy’s, and it was memorable, to say the least, because I was a guest of the owners, and ate in the kitchen.

And I am here to tell ya – me, “mr. I seldom use superlatives,”  Sal and Judy’s is incredible.  We plowed through the menu with abandon, sampling numerous appetizers and entrees.

Starters included crab claws in a cream/lemon/wine sauce; baked oysters with Italian sausage; a crab stuffed giant “cannoli” sauce piece of pasta with creamy cheese sauce.  Entrees ranged the gambit – lemon breaded veal, pasta with red gravy, seasoned rib eye steak, and at that point I either lost count or consciousness.

Waiting for my host earlier, I had sat at the bar for a few moments, and listened to the phone ring time after time, and here the reservationist say “No, sorry, sold out that night,” or “sorry, the only seating we have that night is at 5PM,” and similar remarks.  You have to plan ahead to go to Sal & Judy’s, and it is a plan worth making.

They have a private room as well for your (smaller) events, and I believe, but am not sure, they do some catering.

“Best Italian in New Orleans.”  No question.

Some Sal & Judy’s products are available in your local grocery, including a half dozen pasta sauces, a few salad dressings, and olive salad.  All are the exact same product you will find at the restaurant.

Sal & Judy’s is at 27491 Highway 190 West, in Lacombe, LA. Reservations            (985) 882-9443      

 

Sal & Judy's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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New Orleans, LA – Buffet Round Up

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(From our travel archives) I am in buffet heaven, if there is such a thing. I’ve previously written about a couple; I hit the other two “main attractions” in the past few weeks.

Number one, in all manners of speaking, was the House of Seafood Buffet, at 81790 Highway 21, in Bush. Like most restaurants in these parts, they are open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, and they live up to their name. There used to be a restaurant in my hometown whose slogan was “If It Swims, We Have It,” and I think the same could be said for the House of Seafood. In addition to the usual fried entrees you will find at any indigenous restaurant, locally, the HOS has their boiling pots a brewing, and you will find ample boiled selections to go along with your other choices. They also have very respectable beef dishes, delectable fried chicken, and a whole host of salads and sides, as well as the traditional desserts in the area.

The second stop was the Ole South Seafood and Buffet, at 15273 Highway 21 South, in . Boasting similar opening days and hours as the HOS (but I believe Ole South is open on Sundays, call first), and a cavernous three room dining hall, the Ole South runs a distant second to HOS in my opinion – for selection, at least, but not for quality. Both restaurants prepare their food fresh, and Ole South also has a carving station with ham and beef, which HOS did not. Ole South has probably half the serving table size as HOS, but has accompanying prices which are less.

I’ve never been much of a buffet person, but I like these places, and there should be some of these in the city. We seem to have dozens of Asian buffets in (the best, by far, is Oki Naga in ), but none of these “local dish” places. I’m curious as to why. It may well be the cost of rent, because these places in the hinterlands are huge.

I didn’t ask the prices before I went in, and since waitresses at both restaurants asked if we wanted the “buffet” I assume menu items are available as well. Seems like if you deduct the price of your beverage (HOS has pitchers of tea on the table, Ole South has waitresses pouring, but they get busy), I would guess that HOS runs about $15 per person, and Ole South about $12. Both are good values, but I would return to HOS, and probably not to Ole South. Just personal preference.

Sidebar: Another recent stop was in Angie, at Stuart’s Café, which is open from 5:30AM til 9PM daily. I don’t know when they get to rest with those hours, and we could certainly use a place with similar hours in Mayberry, where most restaurants aren’t open early in the week. I had the “double meat cheeseburger” at $4.00, and for one of the very few times in my life, I couldn’t finish it – it was huge.

But I was intrigued by another menu item, which I’ll have to check out next time: “meat on toast.” Doesn’t that just set your mouth a’waterin’?

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New Orleans, LA – Pelican Club Review

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(From our archives) I had some out of town visitors the other day – eschewing my dining suggestions, they wanted to go to the Pelican Club, on Exchange Place in the Quarter. The owner chefs, Richard Hughes, and Chin Ling, despite having heritages that come from tenures at other fine dining establishments, carry fusion a bit into the too distant future, trying to combine Creole, Asian, Italian, and Southwestern flavors into dishes that end up being a ‘combinaison malpropre’ or, to put it simply: a mess.

Once again you will find my opinion at odds with Tom Fitzmorris, and the Times-Picayune, but that’s fine with me, I tend to disagree with most everything both of them say – on dining or any other issue.

The restaurant is a study in contrasts – the front bar, where you enter, is dark and wooded, intimate; the dining rooms are brightly lit, marble-floored, with local art decorating the walls.

One of our party suggested in advance it seemed “Key-Westish,” but I didn’t get that at all. Perhaps the Creole flavor of some of the artwork inspired that thought.

If one had to choose a brief description, from the cuisines listed above, I’m guessing the restaurant would fall into the “Louisiana seafood-Asian” fusion category, though why chefs think they need to keep reinventing cuisines is beyond me. Some work, most don’t.

For example, there’s a clash of balance in the duck-shrimp spring roll appetizer; duck is a heavy flavor, and shrimp is easily influenced by the flavors that surround it. It’s served with sauces from a variety of Asian cultures, further complicating what should be subtle, into the overbearing category of tastes.

Escargot, with crawfish, mushroom duxelle, and tequila garlic butter sauce was another miss: a piece of snail nestled beside a crawfish tail, hidden under a broiled butter cap that tasted only of burned garlic, and nothing more.

In addition to some fairly standard fare (beef filet, jambalaya, a trio of duck entrees served in unison), Hughes and Chin depart from the ordinary at that point, and venture into the slightly bizarre. Soba noodles, a Japanese vegetarian (buckwheat) pasta usually served cold for breakfast or a snack, are offered stir-fried with vegetables, and optional shrimp. Seared yellowfin is offered over rice noodles with a teriyaki sauce. Pecan and coconut crusted tilapia (can a restaurant possibly serve a less expensive fish?) is plated with a mélange of Asian vegetables, fruit, new potatoes and a citrus beurre blanc. I challenge you to count up the number of cuisines attempted in that!

Italy and Louisiana collide in the Louisiana Cioppino Seafood and fish, served with linguine; with a tomato, basil and garlic sauce with Parmesan cheese.

Service was very good to excellent. My final “beef” about the place is the constant traffic to the washrooms, the entrances to which are located in the center of the main dining room, and, as the night grows on, because of the marble floors and relatively bare walls, the noise level can grow to deafening.

Still, being in Exchange Place, the restaurant has a bit of a “bistro” feel to it, and the lack of street traffic out of the front adds to that. I think it’d be great to eat at the bar (if they permit that) in the Spring and Fall, if the doors or windows are open.

But that’s probably a flashback to the time I lived in Paris, and one could lounge for hours as a sidewalk café.

Here, of course, that’s impossible. Our French-heritage city doesn’t allow sidewalk dining in the Quarter.

Go figure.

Pelican Club New Orleans

Pelican Club on Urbanspoon

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New Orleans, LA – Charlie’s Steak House

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(From our archives) In a city known for great seafood, and as I have written before, I’m delighted there are so many great steakhouses here. Especially ones that have endured w/o change over the years. For the past 70 years, Charlie’s has been selling the “sizzle” right along side the best of them, but doing it with considerable panache despite being a “bare-bones” operation. (No pun intended).

Charlie’s doesn’t take reservations, and doesn’t bother to print menus. With less than a handful of choices to make, your waiter will run through the choices aloud, standing next to your table: “small, medium, or large T-Bone, or 9 oz filet; au gratin or fried potatoes; iceberg wedge salad with dressing.”

That’s it.

Except of course, he’ll ask you if you want onion rings for an appetizer, which, of course, you should say “yes” to. Charlie’s rings are the thin and crispy kind, and one order is probably enough for two couples to share. There were two of us at dinner last night, and we hardly made a dent in the pile, despite ravenous appetites and the taste treat in front of us. (Note, Charlie’s is one of the few places that makes their rings with a seasoned flour especially FOR the onions – it’s not a seafood batter, and contains no corn meal).

Dinner moves along at a pretty fair pace – when you’ve been preparing these few items for this many decades, you get your systems down to a science.

We started with the iceberg wedges, both opting for Charlie’s very thick and creamy blue cheese dressing – at least 6-8 ounces on a 1/3 head of lettuce with a few tomato wedges. The dressing might just be the best in town. I just said creamy, tho, didn’t I, and creamy is not the correct description. It’s packed full of chunks of blue cheese crumbles, full of flavor and bite.

The steaks came just as we were finishing the salads (well, we didn’t finish, they were too big), and were cooked and served precisely as ordered. Diners are lectured by their waiters not to touch the plates (the bubbling sizzle is even audible), but a disbeliever at the table next to us didn’t pay attention to the instructions, and spent the rest of his dining experience with one hand stuck in a glass of ice water.

We chose their famous au gratin potatoes as a side, and it was overkill — soaking in sharp cheddar, which had a nice cap of broiled, black cheese covering it, we barely managed a couple of spoonfuls each. Nor did either of us manage to finish the filets. Desire is one thing, capacity is another.

As always, we skipped desert – which traditionally at Charlie’s is a heaping bowl of local favorite Angelo Brocato’s spumoni; but we did have coffee, which we weren’t charged for.

The waiter, as is the custom there, I am sure, asked if we wanted to take any of the leftovers home, and I said no, but being the “funny guy” that I am, I reached for the Worcestershire and said “But I am taking this.”

The waiter replied “hold on a second,” turned around, and placed an unopened bottle in front of me, and said “at least take a new one.”

We were in/out, and fully sated in less than 90 minutes. Charlie’s attracts a very mixed crowd of blue-hairs from the neighborhood, students, and people that are just plain lost and stumble in.

When you walk in, you think you might be in the wrong place, as you see a small bar on your left, the kitchen in front of you, and no tables in site. But you’ll quickly be shown a table, and the rest of the evening’s enjoyment is left to you.

The restaurant is short on ambience, but big on quality and flavor, and, after all, isn’t that what we are paying for?

Charlie’s is off Napoleon, right behind Pascal’s Manale… Lunch Tue-Fri, dinner, Tue-Sat. 4510 Dryades Street. 504-895-9705 . No reservations. Casual. Off street parking available.

Charlie's Steak House New Orleans Louisiana

Charlie's Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

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New Orleans, LA – Upperline

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(From our archives) Proving once again that, as in most categories, reviewers don’t know shit from shinola, Tom Fitzmorris gave the Upperline “Four Stars;” the Times-Picayune lauded it with “Four Beans;” it has received the Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence,’ and Frommer’s called it “Best Contemporary Creole” in the city.

What a load of hooey.

Ensconced in an old house halfway between the Garden District and Uptown, the Upperline has been catering to New Orleans hoity-toitys (and wannabes) for the past couple of decades.

Extensively decorated inside and out by the works of New Orleans artist Walter LaBorde, the art on the walls at least provides a distraction from the uneven service and the culinary disasters being placed in front of you.

Chef Kenneth Smith was born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and attended Delgado’s Culinary program, and it shows. One can only assume that the balance of his education came from watching Food Network shows on Nouveau California cuisine, where he learned “smaller is better.”

The days of diners paying extra money for less are over, Mr. Smith. Didn’t you get the memo? A thimbleful of one more version of Turtle Soup isn’t something to rest your reputation on. One of our party wasn’t even sure if that was any particular variety of terrapin (in the smidgen of protein that was in the thimble) ……..but may have been seasoned bovine, instead.

The $7.00 caesar salad was an ordinary iceberg wedge, a smidgen of dressing, and a single anchovy decorating the plate.

Smith’s version of cassoulet, certainly not a “Creole dish” to begin with, was comprised of a very large plate, with a piece of duck, 12 white beans (yes, I counted), and a single razor thin slice of an absolutely inferior piece of andouille. I’ve had canned versions that are significantly better, on more than one occasion.

Fresh gulf fish was drum (of course), which has replaced the over fished “redfish” as the poisson of choice at New Orleans restaurants. I give credit to the waiter for at least admitting that – many places don’t. Served either grilled or meuniere, it’s not only not spectacular, it’s just sautéed fish.

Like most other aspects of life in New Orleans, the most boisterous fans (and promoters) of a dining experience like this, are those that haven’t been exposed to the outside world. New Orleans society embraces it, because they know nothing different.

I was pleased to see Stilton as a dessert choice, not many places in New Orleans offer a post meal cheese selection; when I was served it, however, I understood their enthusiasm for this wonderful English cheese as a menu addition – the Upperline’s ROI on the less than a teaspoon serving of cheese, accompanied by a half dozen roasted pecans, had to have been several thousand percent, based on a normal Stilton price of $10-$12 a pound (ordered from England, even!)

Other desserts include “the best pecan pie in town” (even the cello wrapped ones at Circle K are better in my opinion), and “Burgundy Pear Sorbet,” which is heavy on pear, and non-existent in the Burgundy department.

The table bread was a non-event, as was the butter, which was heavy in cream content, but light on flavor. The restaurant’s tap water has a peculiar undertaste, is served without ice, and water alternatives were not volunteered by the wait staff.

Service was moderately attentive, considering the crowd (at least on Friday nites, the restaurant insists on you eating on THEIR schedule, not YOURS, and has two seatings).

Easily a $300 tab for four, the Upperline disappoints at every turn. Southern Living Magazine says “If you can eat at only one fine restaurant in New Orleans, make it the Upperline.”

I think not.

Upperline New Orleans

Upperline Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Help Rebuild Hubig’s Pies – A New Orleans Legend

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The Simon Hubig Pie company didn’t get its start in New Orleans, but it is where it moved from “baker” to “legend”.  Opening in the Faubourg  Marigny neighborhood (adjacent to the French Quarter) in 1922, Hubig’s has been making up and distributing its wide line of pocket sized fried pies ever since.

Surviving Katrina, Hubig’s was rolling along like clockwork, supplying Crescent City denizens with their delicacies until the night of July 27 of this year, when the factory suffered a devastating fire.

You can help get Hubig’s back  into the mouths of hungry South Louisianans, by purchasing officially licensed merchandise right from their website.  Buy the goods here.   Thank you for supporting this local business.

Hubig's Pies, New Orleans

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New Orleans, LA – Antoine’s Review

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Antoine's New Orleans(from our archives) My daughter and (then) her boyfriend were in town last week, she wanted “classic cuisine,” and although there aren’t many places I favor more than Gallatoires, for some reason (DOH!) I decided to take them to Antoine’s. The good news is, having two underage guests at dinner greatly cuts down on the bar bill. The bad news is, maybe copious amounts of alcohol would have made dinner better.

Now I’m all for tradition and all that. Antoine’s is, according to some, the oldest continuously operating restaurant in the country, and still under the original family’s guidance. That’s just wunnaful, I guess. There are stories of families who have worked there longer than, well something, and “waiter jackets” that have been passed down from one generous to the next. That’s fine too.

We dined on Saturday night, and were promptly seated. Though I had made reservations, we really didn’t need them, even though the city was full of conventioneers. Some big rooms are intimate, and some are just loud and garish, and I think Antoine’s falls into the latter category.

Service was attentive, but unobtrusive, and that’s important, although our primary server, really didn’t seem to be too interested in our experience. Perhaps that’s because most days I resemble a crazy looking David Crosby (there’s a visual, huh?), and since I was accompanied by two teenagers, perhaps the server thought we were just “passing through,” like most other diners that night.

We weren’t feeling adventurous, so we stuck to those dishes which Antoine’s is noted for: the pompano, oysters rockefeller, and so on. The starters, a salad, and escargot, were fine. (How can you goof up anything you soak in garlic and butter? I always thought sponges would taste ok that way).

The mains were just “ho-hum.” My daughter’s first inclination was to go for the bouillabaisse, but she waffled at the last moment and went for the trout, a decision she regretted. I went for the pompano en papillote, which is one of their “usuals,” but it could as well have been served on an airplane. The only thing interesting about it was the shrimp was rather flavorful, but the white wine sauce? White gravy whose sole (har har) purpose seemed to be to hide the fish. Which I am not really sure if it was pompano, I forgot to ask, and many restaurants are substituting other fish for both pompano and redfish. Be sure to ask your server!

I didn’t notice what the boyfriend had, I was trying my best to pretty much ignore him all weekend, and he was confused about the quantity of cutlery anyway.

We split the crepes suzette for dessert, and it would have served more than three, for they completely overdid the liqueur and brandy. The coffee was OK.

$180 for three, with only one cocktail in the bunch. That was mine, and it was vodka on the rocks. Come to think of it, that wasn’t very good either, and the olives were downright embarrassing.

There are finer places in NOLA to get classic continental cuisine. IMHO, Antoine’s isn’t worth the necktie required to get in the door.

Antoine's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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