King Cake, Pralines and the last of Louisiana

It all started here

New Orleans, LA

With its inexplicable rules

New Orleans, LA

and improvised confessionals

New Orleans, LA

A shout out to the bar we visited several times during Mardi Gras because they have a “taco truck” serving late night food in the back

New Orleans, LA

It’s a uniquely NOLA experience to wade through the massive dancing throng in a reggae bar and order yourself a quesadilla and a beer to go.

Another uniquely NOLA experience? Pralines

New Orleans, LA

Don’t get them packaged in plastic. Order them sweet, crunchy, warm and fresh from a counter. So delicious it makes your teeth hurt!

I chased down this King Cake, because Mardi Gras requires King Cake

New Orleans, LA

Even though this one had no baby. Gypped!

A salute to road beer silos

New Orleans, LA

And the boys who joined me

Ryan

New Orleans, LA

Corey

New Orleans, LA

Matt

New Orleans, LA

And to an amazing trip.

Au revoir, N’awlins! We’ll be back, don’t you worry. And until then

New Orleans, LA

Peace out.

New Orleans, LA

Sazerac Bar

Before I took this trip, my sister asked me if New Orleans had a signature drink and I told her it was the Hurricane. This might have been true several years ago but Hurricanes seem to have fallen out of favor since Katrina, for obvious reasons.

I didn’t know anything about the Sazerac.

The Sazerac is one of the oldest known American cocktails and it’s basically a whiskey cocktail (originally made with Sazerac brand whiskey) with a secret ingredient. Absinthe.

Absinthe has a magical haze around it, what with references like this one from Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Bram Stoker's Dracula

Plus the reports of it driving people mad and the almost world-wide ban on account of it being potentially poisonous, a ban that stood for almost 100 years before it was again made legal in the US a couple of years ago.

That’s a lot of drama over a liquor. Or rather, a spirit. Anything with that kind of history is going to acquire mythical status whether or not it rightly deserves it.

The Sazerac has absinthe in it, along with whiskey and bitters, and since it’s the official drink of New Orleans, I had to try it. I wanted to drink the best one in town and where better place than the Sazerac bar in the Roosevelt Hotel?

Roosevelt Hotel, New Orleans

The Sazerac bar is a gorgeous old-school gentlemen’s club type of place with lots of leather and wood, deep armchairs and a feeling of entitlement. Not cheap and not my normal thing but sort of delicious.

However, compared to the surroundings, I found the Sazerac underwhelming

Sazerac Bar

And I like whiskey.

I might have liked the Sazerac better on the rocks, or colder, or perhaps with a touch more absinthe. It tasted mostly like whiskey, which meant I could have just ordered whiskey and gotten something I liked better. Or perhaps a different whiskey cocktail like this Old Fashioned that Ryan ordered…

Sazerac Bar

But that said, I would go back and do it all over again because I love the story-telling symmetry of finishing my trip to New Orleans by drinking the official city cocktail in a beautiful old namesake bar.

Even if you don’t like whiskey (or alcohol), make a stop at the Sazerac bar. Rest your feet, order something cold and revel in the dim cool quiet of all that New Orleans history. It’s a great place to while away the hot afternoon and by the time you leave, you’ll be ready for dinner.

Tomorrow, a few last bits and pieces of my far-too-short trip to NOLA.

Adolfo’s in the Marigny

This place was my idea and we nearly didn’t eat here because the wait was a supposed hour and forty five minutes long.

An hour and 45 minutes to eat a place where the doorway looks like this

New Orleans, LA

Now I know that sketchy doorways like this hide amazing restaurants all over the world and the overwhelmingly delicious smell of garlic and tomatoes made me pretty sure even the table cloth would be worth eating, but the real reasons we waited were two fold:

1. We couldn’t find another restaurant on Frenchmen’s Street that caught our fancy

2. Adolfo’s is built over a blues bar called the Apple Barrel and nothing mitigates a long wait for a table like cold beer and live music.

New Orleans, LA

So, we put our names on the list, ordered a round of beers and hung out listening to a great blues guitarist. Just as I was about to order a second round, a guy with a clipboard came down the crowded staircase, he hollered a list of names and no one answered but us so we got the table. The whole process took about 30 minutes.

Many of the reviews online gripe about this long waiting list and the rather lackadaisical manner in which the tables are filled so I’ll only offer these pieces of advice: stand near the staircase so you can hear your name, keep checking back with the host/servers to make sure they haven’t crossed you off the list accidentally and keep an eye on the time. After a certain point their kitchen will close and they won’t seat you even if you are on the list.

The food was definitely worth the 30 minute wait. We ordered a variety of things including the oysters pernod

New Orleans, LA

Spinach and oysters in a pernod cream with crusty bread? Sublime. I could have just had this for dinner.

But of course I didn’t.

Adolfo’s ocean sauce gets a lot of love online so I ordered it over the freshest fish they had available, which happened to be amberjack. The sauce is half crab and half shrimp and crawfish.

Adolfo's

It was incredible but it bore a striking resemblance to the oysters in ingredients and consistency. For reasons of variety, I probably would have preferred Matt’s smoked pork chop instead.

New Orleans, LA

I wish I’d thought to put a dollar bill or a Volkswagon or something next to that pork chop to give you an idea of the scale. That was one gigantic hunk of meat. Richly flavored and delicious.

Vegetarian options were slim so Ryan had pasta and said it was good but I think that you shouldn’t order pasta if you go to Adolfo’s. You can get good pasta a lot of places and you won’t wait 2 hours to get it.

Adolfo’s is fun. We happily waited for 30 minutes and thought it was worth it. I loved the Apple Barrel and the music and I think every tiny 10 table restaurant should be built over a blues bar to give the waiting patrons an amusing way to pass the time. Would I have been as happy had I actually waited an hour and 45 minutes? Hard to say.

As with most of my NOLA restaurant recommendations, you’ll have a great eating experience if you aren’t in a hurry and you settle in. As another reviewer put it “This isn’t America, it’s New Orleans.” The normal rules don’t apply here.

Three Muses in the Marigny

We all got into New Orleans in the late afternoon and found our way to the house we’d rented only to discover that a house in the Arabi is about as far from the French Quarter/heart of NOLA as you can get and still be within the boundaries of the city. By the time we’d settled in, walked around the neighborhood looking for a grocery store (nope) or convenience store (nope) and caught a taxi into the Marigny, it was 10pm. At 10pm after traveling all day, you don’t choose a dinner place so much as walk into the first place that’s open and still serving food.

Ergo and voila

New Orleans, LA

I’d call this visit a happy accident rather than a focused attempt at finding a quality dinner location.

That said, I’d go back and choose this place for dinner because it’s a tiny place with live music and outstanding food. What more do you want for your first night in New Orleans?

This picture is at least 75% less impressive than the food tasted

New Orleans, LA

That’s beet and spinach bruschetta, mac and cheese, and the remains of what I think was sweet potato gnocchi.

The mac and cheese was so good, we ordered it twice

New Orleans, LA

We also tried the lamb sliders (good) and the feta fries, which were also great so we ordered those twice too.

Traveling makes us hungry.

We finished with ice cream made in house

New Orleans, LA

Don’t ask me the flavors… something sweet and creamy, I’m guessing…

Long travel day, a rental house far away from everything, great food and music found by accident and terrible pictures taken as an afterthought.

Hey, welcome to vacation!

Slim Goodies Diner for Breakfast

New Orleans, LA

Who is Slim Goodie? Why does that egg have wings? Would we have loved this breakfast half as much if we hadn’t been starving AND traveled over an hour and a half from one end of New Orleans to the other AND utilized both the bus and the streetcar to get here?

So many questions.

I do know this, I’ve taken a lot of breakfast pictures that make me happy but this one’s my new favorite.

New Orleans, LA

A table crossword puzzle done in ink and showing many differences of opinion, one single pancake to share as a breakfast appetizer, my coffee cup on its 5th fill, a g i a n t plate of delicious food and (unseen) a locked front door because we were the last customers served that day.

That’s shrimp etouffee on top of eggs on top of spinach on top of potato pancakes with the ohsoclever name “Jewish Coonass.” Yep. Howzabout it?

And this pancake?

New Orleans, LA

Sweet potato. And just about the best pancake I’ve ever put in my mouth. Most of the Slim Goodie reviews online mention this pancake, so here’s another one:  It’s light, fluffy and just sweet and nutty enough.  It’s bonkers delicious. Order it.

I don’t know why the Slim Goodie egg has wings but I recommend you follow it. And then eat it.

New Orleans, LA

PS: There were men in lucha libre masks staring down at me from the bathroom wall. I found that… curious.

Bennachin for Vegetarians

New Orleans, LA

It should be pretty clear by this point that New Orleans isn’t a vegetarian friendly city. Creole/Cajun food in general isn’t vegetarian. Pescatarian… yes, but not vegetarian. I would recommend Bennachin primarily to those vegetarians who want to eat something besides salad and another version of mac-n-cheese when they visit NOLA.

Creole food has a lot of African influences so Bennachin fits into the New Orleans food scene quite nicely with a lot of shared ingredients like beans, rice, coconut and sweet potatoes. It’s a busy place, which led to the purchase ‘”walking around beers” while we waited for a table.

New Orleans, LA

And a beverage buffet complete with BYOB wine in styrofoam cups at dinner, cuz we just classy like that.

Bennachin

These plantains reminded me of South American cooking, which makes (some) locational sense given that this is West African cuisine.

Bennachin

I didn’t love my lamb dish because the meat was SO tough

New Orleans, LA

But Corey’s beef was excellent.

New Orleans, LA

And for some reason I didn’t get pictures of whatever Ryan ordered but he loved it (whatever it was) and I do know that it was the first place in a week where he could fold the menu and say “I’m a vegetarian. Just have the chef make me something.” It was worth the whole dinner just for that.

Bennachin food is good and cheap and there’s lots of it. It’s a tiny place and busy; so, like every restaurant in New Orleans, it’s better not to be in a hurry. Bring a bottle of wine and settle in. There are a lot of yummy sounding entrees on the menu.

And just for fun, here’s a picture of the Louis Armstrong arch.

New Orleans, LA

Pretty, right? It’s walking distance from the restaurant so go visit after you eat.

I’ll have a few more NOLA food picks for you next week. Have a good weekend!

Antoine’s in the French Quarter

Café Du Monde is a classic because they make good food. Antoine’s is a classic because of longevity.

Antoine’s first opened in 1840 and they’re America’s oldest family run restaurant. They have a bunch of dining rooms (we ate at their Hermes bar) tons of Mardi Gras memorabilia and bragging rights to a long list of celebrity clientele.

However, a restaurant is only as good as its food and I thought the food was ok but it didn’t bowl me over. They say they invented Oysters Rockefeller so we ordered them.

New Orleans, LA

Nice old school picture, don’t you think?

I’ve had Oysters Rockefeller before and liked them better elsewhere. This thick bready topping overwhelmed the oysters. It didn’t have much flavor and I don’t love the piping because it reminds me of a twice-baked potato in the grocery store frozen food section.

I also got the Oyster po boy, which was also ok but under seasoned with an unbalanced ratio of bread to oysters to sauce. Too much bread, not enough sauce.

New Orleans, LA

The boys got sandwiches that were ok but nothing to write about.

Overall, I shrug and say “Meh. It’s ok.”

I know that we were at their bar instead of the white tablecloth shi-shi restaurant next door, but the food quality shouldn’t suffer because we’re drinking from beer bottles.

Antoine’s might be a long-standing restaurant with a glorious history but there’s much better food in the French Quarter.

Go elsewhere.