A group of friends spent Feb 18-22 in New Orleans. As we gleaned most of our restaurant recommendations from Chowhound, we wanted to post a report.
Friday night--we had thought of trying to make it to Bon Ton (info said it closed at 9:30), but two of us got in late, so we walked around the corner to Coop's instead. Pretty good food here. We liked the gumbo and I enjoyed my cajun fried chicken, as well. We ended up going back again on Sunday night when other friends came in late, and our friend enjoyed her crawfish etouffee. In fact, my fiance liked the etouffee at Coop's better than what he had at Pascale's Manale, but more on that in a moment. Didn't like the Abita Amber very much, but they had the Abita Bock on tap, which I liked much more. That night we walked along Bourbon Street just to check it out. Wow! Many smells greeted us as we walked. We had a quick drink at Pat O'Brien's for the heck of it but it was too crowded to get a good look at the courtyard. We ended the night at Cafe du Monde. The beignets were nicely cooked, though I realised that I'm not not particularly a beignet gal.
Breakfast at Elizabeth's. This was worth the 20 minute walk in the gorgeous sunshine. The service was friendly and we appreciated that they served us Bloody Marys (high marks from those who had them) and orange juice while we waited. Two of us had Eggs Elizabeth. Tasty! One had the strawberry cream cheese-stuffed French toast, which tasted very much like a strawberry yogurt push-up from childhood (in a good way). Another had the goat cheese tart with spinach salad. Tart was very creamy, so the sharpness of the vinaigrette was welcome. We all shared the praline bacon which was less sweet than I feared it would be (as I don't have much of a sweet tooth). All of us wanted to go back to try the delectable sounding house-made desserts, but we never made it. Next time!
Dinner was at Brigtsen's. This was by far the best overall experience of the trip. We were delighted by the service--every person we spoke to was gracious and friendly. Our friend is a vegetarian who doesn't like very spicy food but who is willing to eat chicken on occasion. The only chicken dish was 'picante'. She placed herself in the server's and chef's hands and was beautifully taken care of. The server made our friend feel that it was her pleasure to find a way to fit her food needs and the plate they gave our friend was in some ways the best one of the night. The corn side dish with sweet potatoes, in particular, was fabulous. Added to all of this, they only charged our friend $8! The situation could not have been handled better. I had the roast duck, which I enjoyed but couldn't finish. I started with the rabbit and andouille gumbo, which was better than Coop's. Another friend had the crawfish shortcake followed by the gulf fish in bearnaise sauce. She liked both. My fiance had the shrimp remoulade followed by the seafood platter. Even though he's not a huge oyster fan, he ate up every bite on his plate (there were two oyster selections, crawfish thermidor and two or three other things as well). We were surprised to find that the real stand-outs for us were the desserts. The cafe au lait creme brulee had the perfect texture and flavour (the crispy-to-creamy ratio was ideal to me). We were fighting over it. The pecan pie was good, though not extraordinary. Everyone else liked the banana bread pudding (I can't abide cooked bananas) and we were all in love with the ice cream trio, particularly the peanut butter ice cream with chocolate bits. The house cocktail (sidecar) was also delicious. I have had food as good elsewhere, but I would go back to Brigtsen's in a second for the combination of quality food and superb service (for what we like).
Jazz brunch at Marisol. We'd wanted to get here for dinner, but couldn't fit it in, so opted for brunch. Again here, the service was very friendly. We found the menu highly creative and interesting. However, though the food was good, we felt that the menu sounded better than it actually tasted. We started with the foie gras en bocal. The foie itself was fairly stringy and it just didn't have the flavour I was hoping for. This is perhaps unfair to the dish, because what my mouth really wanted was pan seared foie gras. I had the Breakfast Seoul Bowl, which was egg noodles, poached eggs, chicken dumplings in a spicy sesame soy sauce. I loved how different it was from anything I've seen on a brunch menu, but the dumpling texture and flavour could have been improved. Two of the party had the Devils Mess, which they liked but didn't love. The other person had the two eggs any style and regretted that she wasn't asked how she liked her fried eggs because they were a little runny for her. I am not sure I'd rush back to Marisol, but I did appreciate the creativity of the menu and the jazz was pleasant.
Sunday night we met up with some relatives of my fiance. We ended up at Pascale's Manale for dinner. I had a shrimp pasta dish and my fiance had the aforementioned crawfish etouffee. Pascale's wouldn't have been the first choice for either of us (atmosphere isn't really our style), but i must say that the seafood was impeccably fresh. My shrimp was some of the sweetest I've ever had. We stopped by Mulate's afterwards, as the relatives are keen Cajun dancers--we had a great time watching them.
As this was our only opportunity to check out Uglesich's, this was a non-negotiable part of our plan from the beginning. We liked the owners and had a fun conversation with the champion shucker as we waited for our food. We had feared the line (as we got a late start), but found their seating system very clever. There were six of us and we were able to sit together, surprisingly. Though we liked the folks and the type of place (we love neighbourhood places), we liked but did not love our food. Two had the Shrimp Uggie, one had a shrimp and oyster po' boy, another the fried shrimp plate. We also had the fried green tomatoes with remoulade (this was well liked) and the fried oysters with melted blue cheese (also well liked). It is possible that we simply ordered the wrong items, but we felt we'd done okay. The shrimp at Pascale's tasted fresher to me, though we did appreciate that the fried foods were not at all greasy. We're very glad we went, but the food didn't make our hearts sing.
In the afternoon we went on a culinary history tour, which was interesting though less about food than we'd hoped. By the time the 2 1/2 hour tour was over, we were dying for a drink, a rest and some food. We ended up at Napoleon House right before the kitchen closed. The food was ranged from not so great (cheese board and charcuterie plate) to the mediocre (muffaletta--Central Grocery was out of bread so we couldn't try theirs). The Pimms Cup was delicious, however. We had an incredibly strange service experience (our server seemed like he hated us for the first three quarters of our visit and then suddenly warmed up when he overheard us say something that indicated some of us were from Chicago), but that added to the story.
One success worth mentioning was our candy discovery. We'd been tasting pralines all around town and hadn't found any we really liked. We didn't like any of the candy at Laura's, nor did we like the pralines at the two places in the French Market we tried. However, we'd spotted Leah's Candies as we met at Antoine's for the culinary tour. We checked it out before hitting Napoleon House and were delighted with the quality. We got a selection of chocolate-dipped items (almonds, pistachio, dried cranberries, pecan brittle) as well as a creamy praline. The chocolate was of much higher quality than at Laura's. We appreciated that the nuts were toasted in all of the candies and loved the pecan brittle. We would definitely return here on our next visit.
Monday's dinner was Pelican Club. There were six for dinner that night, so we wanted a place that took reservations. Other posters had said what a fun place Pelican Club was, plus the online menu showed vegetarian options. This was probably our least successful meal. We hadn't realised that the dining room would be quite so loud--perhaps that's where the fun atmosphere comes from, but we found it hard to converse. Everything seemed a little bit more expensive than it needed to be for the quality. Again, it's possible we ordered badly, but with six of us we did a good cross section of the menu. One of our friends really enjoyed the stuffed pork chop, I know. Our vegetarian friend was disappointed that the veggie options that had been on the online menu were not the same on the actual menu. I had filet mignon (I know, probably not the best choice), which was only okay. The desserts all looked kind of old but were surprisingly tasty. The service here also seemed falsely friendly, a huge contrast from Brigtsen's. I don't think any of us would go back.
There were so many places we wanted to try but couldn't given our various constraints. A poster from a month or so ago mentioned Evelyn's Place, which sounded like something we would all enjoy, but the timing didn't work out. We had tried to get into Upperline for Sunday's dinner, but had been put on a waiting list even though we called a month ahead. We wanted to try Dick and Jenny's, as well, but weren't sure if there were veggie options and Brigtsen's nudged it out as first choice for Saturday night.
We had a great time in New Orleans and know that we ate better than we would have done on our own thanks to the reading we did on Chowhound. We look forward to a return visit.