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New Orleans Trip Report

Trip Report, March 16-19. Warning - LONG post!

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Trip Report, March 16-19. Warning - LONG post!

Stan | Mar 30, 2004 12:22 PM

On the way down, stopped at Don's Seafood in Lafayette. They seemed to think of themselves as very swanky, and the hostess gave us the eye (we were dressed casually). The waitress was very nice, though. The food? Yawn... Oh, wait, the bisque was quite good, although it seemed more like gumbo to me than bisque. One of the kids had been dying to try fried alligator, and it was also quite good. Not a bad first step into the world of Louisiana cooking, but not memorable.

We had beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde the night we arrived. Standard fare, always good, reliable, I like their coffee, can't visit N.O. without having a beignet. One of the kids got a whiff of vomit on the sidewalk, though, and almost added to it. The joys of dining al fresco!

Day 2 (Wednesday).

Breakfast at Mother's. Don't miss it! The thick, hot slabs of ham were to die for.

Lunch at Bubba Gump's. Yeah, it's a tourist trap, and our waiter irritated me from the start. Bad jokes and cuteness don't go nearly as far with me as snappy service and hot food. The food was good, though. I had the Cajun Shrimp Salad. My wife got the big bucket of shrimp, which was nice and hot. I like the seasoning they put on it. It was above expectations.

Dinner at Bon Ton Cafe. We've always had an excellent experience there, although other people we know only think it's pretty good. Service was above and beyond. The manager stopped by and thanked us for waiting so long for the table (about an hour, although they had told us it would be an hour and a half, maybe two hours). My wife had the red fish Bon Ton, which was excellent (order that). My daughter had the cubed sirloin in cabernet sauce and it was terrific. I had crawfish Newberg, which was also very good, but very rich, and my taste buds were tired of it before I could finish it. Do NOT miss the bread pudding. The bourbon sauce is wonderful, but it's not for recovering alcoholics! (That was another trip, and we still hear about it today. Oops.)

Day 3 (Thursday).

We had leftovers for breakfast, then lunch at Mother's. After yesterday's breakfast, I had to find out what the Ferdie (with extra debris) was about. More of that ham (now cold and sliced thin), and hot roast beef on excellent french bread. Really remarkable, and not to be missed. Their bread pudding is strange looking, but really very good. We definitely felt it was worth the wait (30 or 45 minutes, my wife says it was an hour).

We planned for dinner at Jacques-Imo's. Knowing that there's always a wait of a couple of hours, and with two kids in tow, we wandered around the French Quarter looking for something decent to eat so we wouldn't starve to death waiting for a table at Jacques-Imo's. We had such a hard time finding something that everyone could agree on for first dinner, and we really wanted to eat outside. We were getting tired and cranky and just wanted to find *something,* and had the misfortune of settling on Pere Antoine's. This was the worst dining experience I can ever remember. Maybe in the bottom five, although neither my wife nor I can actually come up with four other contenders.

Our waiter stopped by, and was very chatty, including mentioning that it was supposed to be his night off, but they were short-handed, so he was stuck working and had too many tables. He sounded like he had a cold. We should have just left. But it felt so good to sit down, and it was open air, and there was such a nice cool breeze...

I went to the bathroom, and there was no soap. Well, there was a dribble in the bottom of the dispenser, so I added water to it and managed to wash my hands.

We could not catch our waiter's attention to save our lives. During the course of the meal, we observed a few other parties having lively discussions with what appeared to be the manager, and then leaving in disgust. Oh, we should have left. I have to give the waiter credit for constantly thanking us for our patience.

We had a bottle of wine, and my wife was about halfway through her first glass when I noticed that there was lipstick on it. Knowing that my wife doesn't wear lipstick, I pointed it out, and we shared my glass, until I was finally able to get the waiter's attention and asked if she have get a glass without lipstick on it, explaining that it wasn't her lipstick. He rolled his eyes and took the half-full glass away and eventually brought a glass that at least looked clean. Did he offer to comp the wine, or even to bring a glass of wine to replace the one he dumped down the drain? It's amazing how small gestures like that can rescue an experience from the brink of disaster, but not this time.

One of the appetizer plates was dirty (I mean, really filthy), which he noticed as he was dealing them off the stack he was carrying, and he snatched it back and said he'd bring a clean one, but he never did, so one of us just ate off of the serving plate from one of the appetizers.

We had finished an entire bottle of wine (minus the half a glass) before dinner arrived. Not really wanting to reward this service by buying another bottle, we stuck with water from then on. I would guess the water glasses are 8 ounces, and by the time he refilled them for the first time, we had finished dinner. Over and over, we had to ask for simple things like more soda for the kids, when we could manage to get the waiter's attention, and without a lot of success even when we did.

The waiter promised to bring bread "in a couple of minutes" several times. When he at last delivered some, there were two loaves in the basket, and he flung one onto the table, and simply picked it up and tossed it back into the basket. We just ate off the other loaf, and after we ate the last of it we noticed the marinara sauce that was dried onto the inside of the basket. Ewwww!

I don't remember what we ate. It was unremarkable, although one of the kids got a sausage sandwich and the sausage was quite charred. Oh, here's the receipt... That's right, my wife had the chicken and sausage gumbo, in which she found exactly one tiny piece of chicken and two tiny pieces of sausage floating in what New Orleans people could only describe as a broth, because it could never qualify to be a roux. I guess we should be thankful we didn't find anything more interesting! I had half a muffaletta, which wasn't bad, didn't thrill me. The fried eggplant appetizer was really pretty good, kind of hard to mess it up. The crawfish pie was not very hot, quite chewy, but I don't really know what it's supposed to be like (I assume hot would be appropriate, though). The stuffed mushrooms were quite boring.

During the interminable wait for my credit card to be returned at the end of the meal (by now worried that we weren't going to make it to Jacques-Imo's), my wife went to the ladies' room, and there wasn't even a dispenser for soap (always makes me wonder how the employees wash their hands), and there was actually fecal matter on top of the toilet tank and in the sink.

I guess the main point is what we started telling everyone who stopped on the sidewalk to read the menu: DON'T EAT HERE! It was so bad that I can't imagine it was just an off night. No, it definitely seemed like they are only in business because there's a steady supply of dumb tourists like us who don't know any better.

Jacques-Imo's, on the other hand, was outstanding. The Maple Leaf bar, next door, helps make the wait enjoyable. A real slice of life. The Jacques-Imo's hostess kept running into the bar to call people's names. That's a good setup. It's nice that you can bring the drinks outside, too, so we sat on a bench with the kids and passed the time, which was less than we anticipated. We got there at 9:00, and they said the wait would be two hours, but we knew they close at 10:30, so I asked about that. The hostess said that they take anyone who comes in before 10:30, even if it takes until 1:00 in the morning to feed them.

Everyone is very friendly. We ate on the back porch, so we walked through the kitchen to get there, which is pretty cool. The cooks said hello, with big smiles, as we went by. The place is very loud, I mean we had to yell our orders to the waitress at the top of our lungs, so if that's a problem, you'd better pass. In fact, the waitress didn't hear my wife trying to order the fried rabbit appetizer. But the food... Oh, man! It was so good. They put cornbread on the table that made everyone happy. Very sweet and buttery. I'm usually a purist about cornbread and sugar, but this was really good and fresh and hot. Then came spinach salads, each topped with one fried oyster and a creole mustard - sesame dressing that really set our mouths for the entrees. Paneed duck, fried chicken, country fried venison, and blackened tuna with oyster/champagne/brie sauce (that was mine). I wasn't crazy about the two oysters that were lightly sauteed and laid atop the tuna, but the sauce was wonderful - mellow and complex, and the tuna (I ordered it rare) was flavorful and tender and delicious. And no lipstick on the wine glasses.

It really aggravated me to realize that our meal at Pere Antoines had cost more than this one. We kept marvelling at having such a horrible experience followed by such an outstanding one within a few hours. We were so glad to have made the trek to Jacques-Imo's and waited for a table, and will definitely do that again.

We didn't ever make it to Brigtsen's. There's only so much you can squeeze in. *Sigh*

Day 4 (Friday). Going home day.

We decided to eat in the hotel restaurant - long drive ahead of us. (JW Marriott's Midi Restaurant). Not bad, really very good among hotel restaurants. Their coffee is very respectable, not the watery brew you find so many places, especially in hotel restaurants. The bacon is worth mentioning. Very thick, with a little peppery thing going on. Belgian waffles were very good, made to order on the buffet.

We stopped at Parrain's in Baton Rouge for lunch. It was very good and the portions were very large. The green goddess dressing was amazing. We had boudin balls for an appetizer (boudin filling, deep fried), which were remarkable. The grilled drum was excellent. Good steak, good pasta with crawfish, shrimp and crab. Great service.

We wouldn't have known to stop there if it hadn't been for chowhounds.com. How did we ever get by without you??

Stan

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