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Trip Report-Bayona, Palace Cafe, Cafe Degas, Herbsaint, Mother's, Rock n' Bowl, Fellini's etc. (LONG!)

Joel | Oct 5, 200403:04 PM

So I went and got married in New Orleans a few weeks back (my then-fiance Ginnie posted recommendation requests for vegetarian restaurants about a month ago)and after perusing the NOLA Chowhound board for a month I feel compelled to post about what we ate:

Lunch-Fellini's Cafe: We had been out looking for the perfect spot in City Park to have the ceremony and came upon this place by necessity and were very pleasantly surprised. I had the pesto shrimp wrap...huge, succulent, FRESH (a real rarity here in Chicago) pieces of shrimp in a creamy pesto sauce with feta and artichoke...she had an eggplant muffaletta. We started with a sun-dried tomato and chickpea dip that was great as well. Considering we just happened upon the place and the extremely reasonable price, we were really happy with the quality and inventiveness of the food and flavors.

Dinner-Cafe Maspero: By this time we had a few relatives and my best friend with us, and we ended up here after wandering the Quarter looking for a somewhat reasonable place she could eat at...she could've just gotten pasta at any number of places but no one felt like paying $30 a head that particular night so we ended up here. It was eh, as could be expected...the fried oyster po boy filled my belly at the least and went down well with a few Abita Ambers.

Lunch-Mother's: The night before I had gone out drinking with my best friend so him and I were ready to have a hearty late lunch...I had heard that Mother's was a tourist trap but curiosity killed the cat and it was right by our hotel so we headed over there at 2:30, thinking the line would be thinned out. Still really crowded. The chaos of the room and ordering system didn't really bother me: no worse than the Valois or any other cafeteria here in Chicago. And my Ferdi special and crawfish etoufee was pretty tasty and definitely hit the spot after a night of bourbon and beer. But no way would I wait 45 minutes and pay $20 for it was good, but not that good.

Dinner-Mid City Rock n' Bowl: We wanted to have a different kinda rehearsal dinner so we came here with everyone and bowled a few games and enjoyed some more Abitas while the early evening entertainment played. Afterwards we went into their little mural room to eat while we drank even more beer and gave our gifts to our attendants...pretty standard bowling alley fare but the read beans and rice here were actually really good...I didn't care for the crawfish quesadilla (too gamy for my touristy palette) but my best friend loved it. We didn't go to Rock n' Bowl for the food at any rate...had a great time.

Brunch-Palace Cafe: So we spent the morning getting married under a gigantic oak at City Park. Perfect. We had made reservations for jazz brunch afterwards at Palace Cafe afterwards for everyone because frankly 1) it fit our budget 2) the menu looked inviting without being intimidating to our family, who, to be frank again, aren't the most discerning and 3)it was near our hotel and looked like a fun atmosphere. We weren't disappointed at all...the crabmeat cheesecake and pan oyster appetizers lived up to their billing and everyone's dinner was great: I had the shrimp meuniere and the sauce was fantastic. The much-touted whiet chocolate bread pudding was tasty as was the bananas foster...and I enjoyed more than my fair share of Ramos Gin Fizzes. I had wanted to try one while I was in New Orleans and I commed the bartender for keeping up with my newfound taste for the complicated buggers. The jazz trio was good fun, too: after seeing our wedding garb they came by and played Satchmo's What A Wonderful World (a song I always found somewhat schmaltzy until that monent) and upon finding out where we were from, played "Sweet Home Chicago." Our waiters were great and at the end of our meal, as my wife and I were descending their main staircase, the staff had congregated at the foot of the staircase and were all was really fantastic. We'll be back, for certain.

Dinner-Bayona: Another one that lived up to its billing. What else is to say. Fantastic service (Suzy)...she explained all the dishes perfectly and was a huge help in selecting the wine after we had ordered our entress and enjoyed our cocktails (I had a Pimm's Cup...I wanted to hit every NOLA cliche). I had the sweetbreads appetizer (succulent...I'd never tried sweetbreads before but thought I should suck it up and take my second plunge of the day), the rabbit andouille gumbo and the much-talked-about duck with pepper jelly glaze...all fantastic. My wife had the goat cheese crouton w/wild mushrooms (delicious...I snuck a few bites), the Bayona Salad with the Great Hill Blue, and the vegetable strudel for dinner. We had the chickpea crepe with fig compote and tahini ice cream for desert...loved it. We ate in the courtyard as the sun was setting and it really was a gorgeous atmosphere.

Brunch-House of Seafood: Well, we wanted to gather everyone for au lait and beignets at Cafe Du Monde but of course it was mobbed at 10 AM on a Sunday and our group of 12 would've waited wife and I just wanted to get it to go and eat it at Jackson Square or the Moonwalk but the older members of our group were getting too hot, so we ended up here (it was on the walk, had AC, and available seating!). The service was awful but I actually enjoyed my breakfast-Beaux Bridge Eggs I believe it was called. Basically poached eggs topped with shrimp etouffee and a side of jambalaya, it was surprisingly fresh, tasty and complex. But we waited forver for it. My wife only had a plate of potatoes (vegetarianism in NOLA yet again!) and they were undercooked, after waiting an hour for our food! I liked the grub, and so did a few others, but mostly a bad experience. SHould've waited for the beignets (we ended up going to CDM much later that evening anyway so all was not lost!)

Dinner-Cafe Degas: False advertising, but great! We came here because we read multiple times that vegetarian entrees were their speciality...but there wasn't a single one on the menu that night! Ginnie ended up having a few ala carte items. She really liked the rosemary gnocchi so all was not lost. My tenderloin with blue cheese compote was heart-attack good, too....we really liked it here but I think our great experiences at Bayona and Palace Cafe and just the great food in NOLA in general had made us blase at this point! I drank a Sazerac here to round out my trumiverate of New Orleans cocktail specialties.

Lunch-Herbsaint: Just before heading out of town we stopped here for lunch. Again, fantastic, for the most part. I got two "Small plates" since I thought it'd be tapas style, but each plate would've been more than enough. The fried frog legs were really tasty, what with the encrusted herbs, but they were just too greasy. On the other hand, the shrimp and green chile grit cakes with tasso sauce was right up there with the best stuff I ate all weekend. Perfecet combo of flavors, great consistency, so creamy and rich and delicious. I loved the bisque here, too. My best friend (stuck with us due to Hurricane Jeanne) had the pork sandwich and loved it, and Ginnie's was well enjoyed too, if only I could remember what she had! We definitely want to come back, I know that much, probably for dinner next time.

On last non-NOLA note we learned on our drive home: avoid "Beauty Shop" in Memphis...not worth the prices and just a vaguely amateurish feel to the didn't seem to have the same amount of care put into like we enjoyed in New Orleans. Nothing else really seems to compare after a weekend of good meals down there!

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