This visit to New Orleans resulted in some interesting conclusions. Our group has visited several times and enjoyed the food tremendously each time. For the most part, we have not had a bad eating experience, however the service has not been equal. With that, I will give a quick review each place we visited.
Dragos: Char-broiled oysters! What they are known for and for good reason. Ordered it to try it and damn glad we did. The fried catfish was delicious. The seafood pasta had a nice, but not overpowering kick to it and the fried ravioli with crawfish cream sauce was simple yet tasty.
Jacques-Imos: One reason why we enjoy our annual jaunt to the Big Easy, is that we have so many unique experiences, of which Jacques-Imos is no exception. A step above in exterior ambiance from Ugelischs, inside is also very visually unique. The cornbread muffins were exceptional. On the menu, they had, what must be, an Atkins approved pork chop stuffed with beef and shrimp! The sauce on it was terrific. Most of us had seafood, which I am glad to report that none of the dishes tasted "fishy."
Elizabeths: Now a must for breakfast each time we come to New Orleans, Elizabeths is simply good food and a lot of it. A breakfast from here could hold you off until a late dinner. They didnt have tables outside this time, which was a little disappointing, because it was a beautiful day. Now I am a breakfast person, prone to the usual egg dishes, but I am glad I swayed from the usual. I had the strawberry stuffed French toast and was in heaven. The pralines bacon is the only meat I know that can be eaten as a dessert.
Marigny Brasserie: A last minute switch. Originally had reservations at Marisols but got scared from recent bad reviews. The food was good, but nothing that exceptional that merits the prices or a return visit. If you have this as a choice, I suggest to opt for another place. Perhaps Upperline or Peristyle.
Commanders Palace: An annual Sunday brunch place for us. The food was great as always, but am getting tired waiting for consistent good service. Aside from that, I would still suggest it as a stop if you have never eaten there, but wish you luck to get the great service that they are known for. Drink enough of the nice and tasty Bloody Marys and it may not matter. Just stay away from the coffee.
Fiorellas: Not sure if I read about this place on the boards here or elsewhere, but this is one of those dives that serve good food. Located off the French Market, its not likely to be on many visitors lists, but if you like comfort food, this is the place. The fried chicken here was a tad better than Jacques-Imos. A lot of the menu items come fried, but if fried is not for you, they have a few non-fried items, one of them a great pasta with a terrific marinara sauce and sausage.
Camellia Grill: I heard they had great omelets here, but it was early afternoon and I was in the mood for a cheeseburger. Fortunately, I got a taste of their pecan waffle and almost ordered that too! Originally intended as a stop for a light meal because we had plans for a big dinner, I will plan to stop here again to indulge in some more filling dishes and some pie.
Emerils: The food was great, but it seems Emerils empire has gotten too big for its britches. Like Commanders, we had been originally impressed with service on our first visit, but have since been disappointed in that area. I ordered a double cut pork chop with a chipolte mole sauce. I asked the waiter if the sauce was spicy and he said no. I was glad to find out he was wrong. Not burn your tongue hot, but definitely a "kick it up a notch" taste. However, I had to send it back. While I know pork is safe to eat even when its a bit rare, in this case, the middle was more raw than rare. After searching for my waiter for several minutes, he brought it back to the kitchen, returning with it long after everybody else at the table had finished eating. Undercooking seemed to be the problem that night. A couple of other tables also sent their food back. I also heard the pastry chef had left to work at Elizabeths, which might explain why the banana pie seemed different this time around. It had more of a cheesecake texture. Personally I enjoyed it, others preferred the more pudding-like texture from last time.
Petunias: Plenty to choose from on their breakfast menu. If youre a breakfast person, this place, along with Elizabeths, are a must. Great grits and ham. Plenty of crepe variations to satisfy almost every taste. While some have had the Bananas Foster crepe as their meal, we order it as a dessert to split among us.
Central Grocery: We bought our airline meals here--the muffelatta. The owner is a bit nasty in attitude, and it seemed like they skimped a bit on their muffs since last year, but truth be told, I still enjoy them. I had a taste of Franks muffelatta, (a few storefronts down) but his olive salad is more like a sweet relish. Centrals olive salad is still the best as is their muffelatta. I had muffelattas in other places, but I still keep coming back here.
In the end, it seemed the simpler places had friendlier, more attentive service. If you believe that a dining experience is both food AND service, you may want to reconsider Emerils and Commanders if you plan to go. Maybe places like Fiorellas, Elizabeths, even Jacques-Imos tend not to set your expectations too high so everything seems better than expected. But if that is the case, Emerils and Commanders best keep that in mind because they are not meeting the standards they originally set.