roast beef po-boy at R&O in New Orleans spills
out of the side of the sandwich.
Day leaned across the marble counter at Camellia Grill and
gave my buddy an animated post-meal fist bump.
energy transaction," Day said with a smile as wide as
the Mississippi River.
was also a welcome mat. A brotherly hug. Reassurance that
no matter what you’ve got going on, as long as you’re
at Camellia Grill throwing down a bacon cheeseburger and a
trademark freeze, everything’s going to be alright.
Orleans just has a way of making you feel at home.
the words of charismatic New Orleans band leader Kermit
Ruffins, "If you’re feelin’ down and out, and you
feel there’s no way out, you get dropped off in New
city infuses you with a resilient energy that comes in
many forms: music, dance, drink, food. Always food.
and his junior high classmate Leon Martin have worked at
the uptown diner for more than 30 years, entertaining
customers with their indefatigable enthusiasm while line
cooks crank out juicy burgers, gargantuan omelets and
mind-numbing freezes — frothy drinks made with ice, ice
cream and milk or juice.
double-horseshoe counter allows staff to interact with
each customer — a floorshow for good energy
transactions. Try and leave that place without a smile on
was my first trip to the 68-year-old restaurant that, with
its four columns, resembles a Greek temple devoted to
gluttony and bonhomie. By the time we jumped in the cab to
head back downtown, I had added another place to my can’t-miss
list. It’s no small roster.
much as any town I’ve visited, New Orleans elicits the
evangelist in people when it comes to dining and drinking.
Tell a friend familiar with the Big Easy you’re headed
that way and sit back and let the suggestions roll in like
a summer storm: brunch at Commander’s Palace; that
garlic-packed pasta dish at La Petite Grocery; cocktails
at Bar Tonique. Here comes the rain.
my most recent trip, I decided to hit places I’d never
visited. Well, mostly. My past few trips all started (and
ended) with a visit to Cochon Butcher. It’s a new
tradition I have no interest in abandoning.
Donald Link and Stephen Stryjewski opened the modernist
take on the Old World butcher shop in the Warehouse
District in 2009, around the corner from their restaurant
Cochon. They took down a wall and expanded the shoebox
deli to a full dining room and bar earlier this year, but
you can still expect a wait for one of their sublime
sandwiches at lunchtime.
you wait, you can admire a refrigerated case stuffed with
house-cured meat and homemade sides such as duck confit,
boudin blanc, andouille, smoked hot dogs, cole slaw and
and crunchy powdered ciabatta envelop three types of
salami (coppa, cotto and sopressata) and tangy and peppery
arugula on the Gambino, the Butcher’s take on an Italian
hero and one of my favorite sandwiches in the country.
pastrami and pork belly sandwiches boast big flavor and
artisanal attention to detail, but for a taste of classic
New Orleans po’boys, we took a 15-minute cab ride from
downtown to R&O’s in Metairie.
your way through Lakeview, the devastation of Hurricane
Katrina echoes off the pristine new houses that dot the
rebuilt community. R&O’s was spared by a matter of a
few hundred feet. The A-frame restaurant is located across
the road from the Bucktown Marina Harbor, just a couple of
blocks west of the 17th Street Canal, where a breached
levee led to historic destruction.
restaurant that started as a little 10-table operation
across the street in 1980 is owned by Roland and Ora
Mollere and operated by several of their children. A menu
of veal parmesan, spaghetti and red gravy and pizzas is a
testament to the Italian influence of the area, and you
can find crunchy soft-shell crab or fried oyster po’boys,
but you need to try the roast beef. They dip half of the
sesame-seed flecked loaf into a rich beef gravy that laps
up against the sides of the bread and then pile a messy
heap of slow-roasted, lean beef bits onto the other. You
want that bad boy fully dressed (shredded lettuce,
tomatoes, pickles and mayonnaise). It tastes like culture,
hard work and love.
snaps with a sweet conversational whip, and no matter who’s
waiting on you, your name is gonna be "baby" and
hers will be "yes, ma’am." Decorated in neon
beer signs and fleurs-de-lis, the busy restaurant offers a
great opportunity to wade in the unique sounds of the New
Orleans accent — where vowels puff and round before
snapping off at the end. R’s get swallowed, syllables
get elongated or eliminated and consonants in the middle
of words drape their arms around each other and disappear
into one sound. It is part Bronx, part Boston, part
nasally Midwestern and all New Orleans — a squawked
trumpet played atop the bellowed slide of a trombone.
its handsome wicker chairs, art deco flooring and white
tablecloths, chef John Besh’s Luke in the Central
Business District has a more genteel feel than R&O’s,
but the seafood gumbo will make you roll up your white
Oxford sleeves and drop your elbows to the table. The
sumptuous roux, packed with shrimp, spicy sausage and
crabmeat, flexes with brawny soul, and the croque monsieur
sandwich disappears behind a melted drape of Emmenthaler
cheese. But if you want to feel like a seersuckered trial
lawyer, it’s best to start lunch with a scotch and the
grand seafood platter, a tiered spire ringed with oysters,
shrimp, clams, crab and mussels.
kitchen at the restaurant that opened in 2007 puts
delicate grace notes on a robust dish of pte — nutmeg,
smoked paprika and allspice in a dish that tastes like
pork chocolate — with refined touches of pickled
watermelon rind and a layer of sweet Moscato gelee.
who has built a seven-restaurant New Orleans empire,
beginning with August in 2002, is part of a long line of
celebrity chefs who have brought national acclaim to New
Orleans. Another member of that lineage is Donald Link,
the Cochon Butcher co-owner, whose flagship restaurant,
the impeccable Herbsaint, is located just a few blocks
and partner Stephen Stryjewski’s latest hit, Peche
Seafood Grill, opened in April 2013 on Magazine Street
between Cochon and Herbsaint. The airy, high-ceilinged
restaurant won the Best New Restaurant in America award
from the James Beard Foundation this year and also
garnered the restaurant’s chef, Ryan Prewitt, the Beard
honor of Best Chef in the South.
restaurant, with its bare pine ceilings, concrete floor,
distressed wood columns and construction lamps, lends an
air of hip urbanity to the window-wrapped seafood
restaurant. A raw bar that sits at the opposite end of the
restaurant of an overcrowded bar delivers ruby slabs of
tuna with rich and piquant aioli and Louisiana oysters the
size of an elephant’s ear.
wood-fired oven turns out a plate-erasing whole flounder,
charred and flaky on the outside and tender and meaty
inside and drizzled with an emerald salsa verde that
shimmers atop the smoky fish. Bronze hunks of fried
catfish remained crispy in a spicy chili broth, with
pickled greens giving a tangy finish to an
Asian-influenced dish. The international flare subsides on
a dish of catfish smothered in a deep, complex roux that
reminds you exactly what city you’re in.
Peche takes a refined approach to seafood restaurant as
gastropub, with an aesthetic that would be as fitting in
Chicago or Portland as it is in New Orleans, the old guard
remains resilient, representing the Acadian and Creole
cuisine most associated with the city. Chef Frank Brigtsen
opened his eponymous restaurant with wife Marna in 1986,
and I imagine the menu has seen few changes since. I would
venture the unparalleled hospitality and dated interior of
the restaurant built inside a 150-year-old former
bargeboard cottage are about the same, as well. Sometimes
there’s no need for change.
spent the early part of his career working for chef Paul
Prudhomme at Commander’s Palace and K-Paul’s Louisiana
Kitchen before bringing Brigtsen’s to uptown with
food comes at you with the delicacy of a bear doing a
second line dance and wraps you in its warm embrace, from
a file gumbo studded with rabbit and andouille sausage to
a cochon du lait surrounded by a sea of rich gravy and
topped with rafts of crackling skin. The dinner was
highlighted by a massive roasted duck with crispy skin,
the gamey meat enlivened by a tart dried cherry sauce and
grounded with humble dirty rice. The only way to finish a
meal like that is with a slice of decadent pecan pie
floating on a glistening pool of caramel sauce.
was my first visit to Brigtsen’s, but I felt as if I’d
been there before. And I knew I wanted to go back. New
Orleans has a way of doing that. It’s a place full of
ghosts that welcome you home. A place that feeds your body
and soul. A place to hide and to recharge. A place to
shake off pretense, drop out and relinquish yourself to a
cultural current that’s been flowing for hundreds of
years. It’s a place where you can find something new and
have it still feel familiar. It’s the reason there’s
no place I’d rather be dropped off than New Orleans.
NEW ORLEANS RESTAURANTS
Dante St. 504-861-7610, Brigtsens.com
S. Carrollton Ave. 504-309-2679
Tchoupitoulas St. 504-588-7675, cochonbutcher.com
St. Charles Ave. 504-378-2840, lukeneworleans.com
Magazine St. 504-522-1744, pecherestaurant.com
Metairie Hammond Highway. 504-831-1248
always happy hour in one of the world’s best drinking
cities. I could list 50 places to drink in New Orleans,
but we will keep it to five.
St. Charles Ave. theavenuepub.com
place offers about 50 beers on tap, with styles from all
over the world. Hole up downstairs or head up to the
balcony at the weathered spot that’s open 24 hours a
day, every day of the year.
St. Charles Ave. thecolumns.com
a cocktail in the Victorian Lounge or on the front patio
at this grand 131-year-old hotel in the Garden District.
75 Bar at Arnaud’s
Rue Bienville. Arnaudsrestaurant.com/French-75
with fine Southern gentlemen and ghosts in this elegant
bar where you can get a Ramos Gin Fizz in the middle of
the land of Jell-O shots.
Chartres St. cocktailbarneworleans.com
to this clean, bright French Quarter bar when the weather
is nice and the doors are left open and enjoy a
Prohibition-era cocktail on the edge of the madness.
Royal St. royalstreetinn.com/r-bar
crying. No stupid drinks." The signs tell you all you
need to know about this fun and moody dive located in the
Faubourg Marigny just outside the Quarter.
Chartres St. 504-581-1200, wfrenchquarter.com
refined oasis in the French Quarter features a beautiful
courtyard pool, gym, chic themed guest rooms and a swanky
restaurant, SoBou, from the Commander’s Family of
Restaurants. Rooms start around $299(asterisk).
Royal St. 504-523-3341, hotelmonteleone.com
grande dame of French Quarter hotels, this massive and
ornate beauty is home to 600 rooms, a rooftop pool and the
famous Carousel Bar & Lounge, the 64-year-old
revolving merry-go-round bar where the Vieux Carre
cocktail was invented. Rooms range from $129 to $399.
St. Charles Ave. 504-962-0900, thehotelmodern.com
on Lee Circle, this modestly priced boutique hotel sits at
a nice middle point between the Garden District and the
French Quarter, and its elegant Bellocq bar serves some of
the best craft cocktails in the city. Rooms start around
vary depending on season, day of week and availability.