It’s amazing that over a year later, I can still easily recall the flavors of New Orleans. Combined with the live music, it’s what’s tempting us to plan a trip back ASAP, though we have been trying to avoid “repeat vacations” (except to Walt Disney World, because as I’ve said before, that’s practically like going home—an inevitability). But there’s something about NOLA: Even though we’ve done it, we’d do it all again—if every last detail was the exact same as before, that’d be OK by me. Particularly when it comes to these restaurants, which bear repeating over and over again. This is really one of those times when I wish I was a better food photographer, but onward we go!
We were so fortunate to snag a table within the picturesque courtyard of Café Amelie when we did: The restaurant, founded in 2005, was just about to close its kitchen for the season. Brunch here was a memorable treat. In the early days of August, in the absolutely sweltering heat of New Orleans, we opted to eat in the airy (but hot) courtyard, because it was too beautiful to miss. And when we ordered a bottle of what we thought to be rosé (naturally), and were instead brought a bottle of cold, cold red, what we believed to be a mishap somehow made the experience even better (have you ever tried chilled red wine? It’s oddly satisfying). So, super hot, wrong drink—it doesn’t really sound like I’m commending this spot, does it? But I promise, I am. The entire experience from start to finish was fantastic, down to the very last bite of my chicken and waffle with andouille gravy (and I ate it all). If Café Amelie isn’t my favorite restaurant in New Orleans, it’s certainly close.
Owned by the famed New Orleans Brennan family, Mr. B.’s has been serving its fine cuisine since 1979. It was a must on our list, prompted by the rave reviews of my father-in-law and our love for shrimp. But New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp? That’s its own thing altogether.
Already feeling pretty happy from our pre-dinner visit to the famed Carousel Bar across the street for drinks (I ate so much of the Chex Mix-like bar snack I’m surprised I still had an appetite, but I guess this is who I am), we came ready to get our grub on. Getting our hands dirty, now that was a bit unexpected. With two orders of shrimp on their way (and a gigantic plate of french fries, thanks to yours truly), our affable waiter brought our bottle of rosé…along with some bibs. BIBS! I mean, how messy can shrimp get?!
As it turns out, when they’re cooked in a so-good-you-wanna-cry butter sauce and kept in their shells, the answer is very messy. Our waiter showed me the best way to get the shrimp out of its shell in one swoop (it sounds like it should be easy, but it was oddly intimidating), and then I begged him to stay and do them all for me. Unfortunately, he had other tables to tend to. The nerve.
We were in shrimp freaking heaven. Not only that, but there was plenty of bread to sop up that delectable sauce. And what’s my favorite food? Carbs. So clearly, this makes it to the list of one of my favorite meals, probably ever.
Time out for an unpopular opinion.
I think John Besh might be overrated. Nothing personal, the chef himself seems like a very cool dude, and I really respect him. But after trying two of his restaurants (Borgne and Domenica), we ended up cancelling our brunch reservations at Lüke and opted to go elsewhere. The food wasn’t bad—actually, Domenica had a few rave-worthy small plates—it just wasn’t enough to rival the many, many great options Crescent City has to offer. Good food, good service, and even some inventive dishes—you will find all of those things at a Besh establishment. But the best in the city? Not in my opinion, for whatever that’s worth.
I’m cheating a bit, here: I loved Commander’s so much, it has its own dedicated post. Read, drool, repeat. Oh, fine, you need something to tempt you to click that link? Here, I’ll give you ONE photo. But that’s it! That’s all you get.
The only thing I’d change on our next visit to New Orleans is to add a visit to Cochon the restaurant, because Cochon Butcher, its quick-serve, casual equivalent, brought the house down. Recommended to us countless times, our high expectations for the James Beard-recognized meat counter were met and then some, thanks to one very cool sandwich: Le Pig Mac.
Typically when trying a new place to eat, J and I will each get a different dish—it makes it easier to try more of this new thing. But I guess we both had the same idea about the Butcher’s take on McDonald’s famous sandwich, because we found ourselves arguing about who got to order it (meaning that person would claim ultimate dibs, especially if the other sandwich choice was lousy). Not wanting to risk it, we both got Le Pig Mac, which was the right thing to do, as it was not difficult for each of us to completely devour our orders (are you noticing a pattern with the way I eat? It’s a darn good thing I run. Sometimes. When I remember to).
In case you’re wondering, Le Pig Mac consisted of two pork patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun. Sing it with me now.
I felt really proud of myself on the drive over to Parkway Tavern, much thanks to our Uber driver. “You must be locals, right? I don’t bring a lot of visitors around this way,” she told us. If your goal was to flatter your riders, Uber driver, mission accomplished. For we are explorers, hungry—quite literally—for the best bites we can get our hands on. And you made us feel, for a brief moment, that we weren’t tourists. And that’s something very special.
This place, though by no means a secret, is certainly a gem of a find, and one I’m so glad we made it to. This was, without a doubt, the best po’ boy (or poor boy, as Parkway calls it) I have ever had. The sandwiches we ate here (okay, scarfed down) are completely mind-boggling to me. Unassuming in aesthetics, with simple ingredients I could easily procure on my own, I would never, ever in a million years be able to recreate their flavors. J opted for the Parkway Surf and Turf (roast beef, Louisiana shrimp, plenty of gravy) while I went with the “overstuffed” (indeed) Golden Fried Shrimp. Each featured shredded lettuce and tomato and was served on glorious bread, and I’m just sitting here wondering when I can have one again. And why can’t I make this?! That the folks at Parkway are wizards is the only explanation I can offer at this time. That, and they’ve been doing it since 1911.
Other places we stuffed our faces: Cafe Du Monde (a delectable necessity); Petite Amelie (awesome green juice); Central Grocery (muffuletta as big as your head); District: Donuts. Sliders. Brew. (incredible donuts and now one of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow); Borgne (the fish in a bag was actually pretty cool); Domenica (where a head of cauliflower was the hit of the table); Morning Call (which J claims is superior to Café Du Monde, I disagree); Bacchanal Wine (the most wonderful, enchanting nighttime experience, with a side of many, many mosquito bites); Peche Seafood Grill (a worthy recommendation from one of our Uber drivers).