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New Orleans report (long)

sara | May 22, 200302:58 PM

I spent the 15th-19th of May in New Orleans, over Tulane's graduation weekend. On several nights a friend and I had progressive meals, hitting 2-3 restaurants per evening--which I find to be a great way to sample a city's restaurants. However, I must note it's much easier to do in a city like New York, where 3-5 spectacular restaurants can be found in a 4 block radius (ie Dec 28 we hit Blue Hill, Washington Park, Gramercy Tavern and Babbo in a 4 hr period and didn't have sore feet!). But we managed to do it in New Orleans, even without a rental car (but putting up w/ some surly cabdrivers who lacked much knowledge of the city layout).

Anyways, by eating no more than 4 dishes per restaurant we managed to enjoy some memorable meals. The most notable and delicious dishes are noted below -- I highly recommend these in particular to future N.O. visitors. (Unfortunately, I don't have addresses/ph numbers, but these can be found on

1. Elizabeth's--- this Saturday brunch was OUTSTANDING. We especially loved the callas (rice-filled beignets), praline bacon, beef tenferloin hash, and goat cheese-stuffed tomatoes. (It's in the Bywater area--we took a cab and walked the mile or so back.)

2. Herbsaint--Last visit I enjoyed the shrimp & grits, and fried frogs legs the most. This time the special farfalle w/ spring peas, ramps, and morels was a standout, as was the gazpacho w/ jumbo lump crabmeat & heirloom tomatoes. The herbsaint cocktail also packed a punch!

3. Stella--We hated the stuffy atmosphere & overly friendly waiter here, but really loved the wontons (presented in a steam basket w/ chopsticks) and the ricotta & lobster ravioli. We also had a spectacular German riesling by the glass.

4. Lilette--This was the standout of our Saturday night which included Herbsaint & Stella as well. The Lilette cocktail was delicious, as was a cab/syrah by the glass. I especially liked the chicken soup w/ egg, the sizzling shrimp (heads on), the duck confit, and the best of all--braised veal cheeks! For dessert I swooned over the crepes Suzette w/ satsumas. The outdoor cafe looked nice, but it was over 80 and humid, and we really liked the space inside, tho it was a bit loud at first. We arrived w/out a reservation around 9 pm and waited about 40 min for a table for two, but had seats at the bar in the meantime.

5. Rene Bistro--We started Sunday evening here w/ amazing French lemonades (with Absolut Citron), baked oysters & frites. We'll go back for more on a future trip.

6. Lee Circle--Thank god the food & wine here was great b/c nothing else went well (two out of 4 waiters on a Sunday night were out sick even tho the place was packed, the remaining two were inept, and there were red termites flying around the room & landing on us and our wine glasses!!). But the veal sweetbreaks, celeriac & asparagus salad, and especially the grilled redfish & crawfish etouffee were outstanding! We had one of our favorite inexpensive wines, a Navarro Gewurtz, and later a toothy sweet bread pudding for dessert.

7. Uglesich--Everything here was as good as I'd remembered it from a trip last spring, and since we arrived at 11 am on a Monday there wasn't a wait. (But by 11:15 the place was packed and the service VERY slow...). I especially liked the fried green tomatoes, shrimp & grits, and the bloody mary. The oysters were good, not great, and I found the shrimp po boy a bit lacking.

8. Casamentos--These were the best oysters I found in N.O. this trip (admittedly, this was May, out of season, and I've been spoiled lately by briny, sweet Stellar Bay oysters). But my non-oyster eating friends were upset by the extremely limited menu. Go here for oysters ONLY.

9. Frankie & Johnny's-- This place is such a great find. Casual, cheap as hell (8 of us ate tons on Friday night for a total bill of $85). The crawfish and seafood gumbo were standouts. The baked artichoke and the special w/ lima beans and crawfish can be skipped.

10. Acme--Not as good as I'd remembered (but last time I sat at the oyster bar). These oysters were very badly shucked and too warm. The jambalaya was mediocre as were the red beans. The oysters in the po boy were totally overcooked--nearly black.

Other little things--we found a two great coffeehouses--one is called Rue-something, on the lower half of Magazine (the one way part nearer downtown) that served incredible coffee shakes, and another called Fair grounds out on Esplanade (handmade painted chairs, games, charming coffee girl, this place was outstanding, as was the clothes shop--360 something-- next door.
I also loved the Circle Bar after Lee Circle--it's just around the corner and the blond waitress makes a mean mint julep.

Anyways, I had a great time & will be back-- tho next time it'll be in a less touristy, and much cooler month--and in oyster season!

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