Was fortunate enough to be in New Orleans on business twice in the past month and, hard to believe as it may be, managed to get in a few good meals!
First visit was in early October. Arrived mid-morning and after checking in headed straight for Acme Oyster House. Sat at the bar, had 1 & 1/2 doz. raw which were excellent, followed by a "Peacemaker" oyster po' boy which was also outstanding, all washed down with a couple of Abitas.
After attending to business that afternoon, I rode the St. Charles streetcar to Riverbend for an early dinner at Jacque-Imo's. Although I was sorely tempted by the chicken liver appetizer, I couldn't pass up trying the alligator cheesecake for starters instead; very light and tasty. As for the entree, I was torn between the stuffed pork chop, Austin Leslie's famous fried chicken, and Godzilla Meets Fried Green Tomatoes (soft-shell crab); I ended up chosing the chicken after having confirmed Mr. Leslie's presence in the kitchen and while it was fried perfectly I was somewhat disappointed with what I felt was a lack of seasoning - good but not great in comparison to other fried chicken I've had (most notably Gus's in Tennessee). I did love the corn maque choux and greens offered as side dishes.
The following day I had an early breakfast of scrambled eggs with black ham, grits, and biscuits plus a side order of roast beef debris at Mother's, all wonderful as always.
After concluding business in the morning, I then proceeded with all deliberate speed to Galatoire's for a late lunch. I was able to sit in the main dining room downstairs and the food was every bit as great as I remembered from past visits. I started with the classic oyster en brochette appetizer and followed that with the sublime broiled pompano topped with crabmeat and unbelievably light souffle potatoes. As far as I could tell, Galatoire's remains essentially unchanged in all material respects which, in my opinion, adds to its charm.
On my second trip I arrived just in time to catch lunch at Casamento's for the first time ever. Again I started with a dozen raw followed by an oyster loaf; the difference between Acme's po' boy and Casamento's oyster loaf lies primarily in the choice of bread as many of you may know (Acme uses the traditional french bread while Casamento's employs a thick, slightly sweet sliced bread similar to Texas toast); both are excellent and I don't know that I could pick a favorite without more sampling - too bad, huh?!
That evening I again rode the streetcar to Riverbend and had dinner at Brigtsen's for the first time. What a place! The setting is charming (restored old home with several intimate dining rooms) and the service is top drawer but both are easily surpassed by the food. Although sorely tempted by the butternut shrimp bisque, I began with the rabbit tenderloin appetizer (after much deliberation and coaching from the waitress) and was quite pleased with this choice -tender perfectly cooked rabbit on top of an andouille parmesan grits cake with spinich and a creole mustard sour cream sauce - which was a good as anything I've ever eaten. For my entree I had the roast duck with cornbread dressing and honey pecan gravy; it was wonderful but not quite as good as the rabbit. Against my better judgment, I let the waitress talk me into ordering the pecan pie with caramel sauce and was happy I did; I had jokingly asked if they ordered it from the nearby Camelia Grill but she assurred me it was both homemade and much better than their neighbor's - of course she was right.
Since it was so close to my hotel, I again opted for an early breakfast at Mother's the next morning.
After completing my business I was able to visit Uglesich's before heading to the airport. I had never been there before - what a treat! I got there about 2:30 after the peak crowd and was able to walk right in. Mr. Anthony was right there behind the counter; I ordered 1 doz. raw for starters, the fried green tomatoes topped with shrimp and remoulade sauce, and on his recommendation picked the Shrimp Uggie over the Barbecued Shrimp and Oyster combination plate. Everything was wonderful! As you might expect, I didn't need any dinner that evening.
As I guess you can tell, oysters are a favorite of mine and I was curious to see if I could detect any appreciable differences in the quality or taste of the oysters at Acme, Casamento's, and Uglesich's. While there were some slight differences in taste, these were insufficient for me to draw any conclusions. All of the oysters at each restaurant were excellent - fresh, just salty enough, firm, and good-sized - and I enjoyed them all equally.
I would whole-heartedly recommend all of the places mentioned above. I did learn on my last visit that Austin Leslie was leaving Jacque-Imo's at the end of October, apparently for a rest rather than another job, and so I pass that along for those who might have plans affected by that development.
I have been occasionally disappointed with some places in New Orleans on prior trips but on these last two times every pick was a winner - guess I should have made time for Harrah's, too!
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