First things first, Katrina can still be felt in many ways. As it affects tourism and dining, many jobs have been filled by "Stepford" workers. They exist, but just barely. I know New Orleans is laid back, but this is different. I visited twice within 10 days, and I felt this vibe at 2 different hotels, and several different restaurants. It is not a deal-breaker, the city is still a favorite BUT New Orleans is different than it was.
Now for the good news ... I had one of the 2 finest meals I have EVER had at "COCHON". Like the best meal ever (Nobu) each dish was earth-shattering good. Even the sides were breath-taking! Though loud (my bad @ 8pm on a Saturday) and a bit rushed (I slowed the busing and the courses as I had less desire than they did to "turn my table over") all in all, I was THRILLED!
I'm not a deset person, but the chicory ice-cream reflects how inspired these folks are. Every dish is spectacular, and as I said upon finishing "Take me to the "Lectric Chair"!
"MURIELS" in Jackson Square was also GREAT! It is THE place on a Sunday Night. Ate there twice, and 2 different tasting menus offered thrills galore! It is classy yet comfy, and except for the miracle of bad cobbler (how do you screw Cobbler up?), every dish was poetry. Bread pudding, oyster stew, short ribs, and deviled crab were highlights.
The other miracle was on Louisiana Street 2 or 3 blocks north of St. Charles. I asked the staff at my hotel where I could get a Poor-Boy Sandwich in a place where there was no one who looked like me (Caucasian). They directed me to a Market (Grocery Store) where I was indeed the only person who looked like me. They made me a Poor-Boy and a Muffaletta Sandwich for my train trip to Chicago. Both were GREAT! The oysters crisp, and sweet. The cold-cuts spicy and fresh. I was so glad I ventured "OUT".
Prior to several meals, I hit "GRAND ISLE" for raw oysters. The prices were easy, the staff outnumbered the patrons, and it is near the casino, and hotels. Having said this, I would get NOTHING there but a drink and oysters. One night the oysters were mad fresh with that sweetness I had read about, but never tasted. A night later they were a day older, and like every good oyster I have ever had. A week later, they were mad fresh again, so I knew that I had not dreamed it.
Now for the bad news ... "Mothers" was a dead zone. No spark, huge prices for the absolute lack of ANYTHING special. Had not a bus-gal taken pity of me, I would still be waiting there for my order that never arrived. Upon arrival it was AWFUL and it was a simple breakfast. I tried it a week later, and it typified New Orleans phoning it in post-Katrina. My second breakfast was worse than Denny's at 4 times the price. Nobody cared, and the food reflected this malaise. The managers or owners sat around as much as the staff did. I felt foolish for wasting my money twice, but shame on me.
All in all, New Orleans was the glorious place I remembered BUT heed my words, as once prepared, it is far easier to accept the bad with the VERY good.