A word about what I’ve eaten in New Orleans

Dear readers, it is with tremendous reservation (no pun intended) that I broach the topic of food and New Orleans in the same sentence. So much has been written about what to consume, and where to consume it that I dare not presume to know anything more than what I experienced.

This post is not about what to eat in New Orleans. It’s about what I ate so far during my stay here. Your tastes and needs could vary wildly from mine and probably do. 🙂

Since my plan was to be here for weeks and not days and because I didn’t want to spend hundreds, if not a thousand bucks on food while I was here – most of the places I targeted were of the budget conscious variety.

However, an amazing source of information about resto’s in NoLa is The New Orleans Menu. If you want an exhaustive site with reviews, maps, days open, address, phone, full menu’s etc. CLICK HERE. The site is run by Tom Fitzmorris, who has written a daily newspaper column on this topic since 1981. Needless to say, Mr. Fitzmorris has already forgotton more than I will ever know about restaurants in NoLa. His site is arranged by neighborhood, and where to find a place that is open on Monday, when many places are closed.

TRAVEL TIP: There is a pesky trend of places only being open for breakfast or early lunch, and may close between 1:30-2:30pm. So if you come in for a leisurely lunch, you may be in for a surprise. It is best to call ahead if you aren’t sure and even if they answer the phone and are open, ask what time they close.

A list of budget conscious places where I ate:

  1. The Lucky Ladle – great breakfast, generous portions, reasonable prices (under $10), awesome and personable service by the husband/wife team who run this establishment on Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District. This place is a hangout for locals and is well loved in the neighborhood. Closed Mondays, and the rest of the time they close at 2pm. They accept credit cards and they have a display of tasteful artwork by local painters on the walls. I recommend the “Bob Special”.
  2. Central Grocery – the Muffuletta sandwich is what they are known for and with good reason. For $7.50 you can buy a “half Muff” which is bigger than most large sandwiches. Depending on when you go, I bet there could be a line out the door since it’s in the middle of the French Quarter on Decatur. Accepts credit cards. I’d recommend this for take out.
  3. Slice – after reading Mr. Fitzmorris’s recommendation of this pizza spot on St. Charles Ave. in the Lower Garden District I decided to give it a go. I was happy with my slice of pie with andouille sausage ($3 bucks). It doesn’t have much atmosphere, but it makes up for it in tasty food. Their open kitchen overlooks booths and classic rock plays in the background. They accept credit cards, open Mondays.
  4. The Trolley Stop Cafe – while the food here is basic breakfast and lunch fare, the prices are reasonable (most under $10), and the waitstaff are really nice and helpful. They’ll bring you drink refills before you realize you need one, and they get you your order quickly, plus they’re not looking to rush you out if you want to linger. There is tons of local atmosphere to soak up. Located on St. Charles Avenue near the St. Mary Street intersection. They accept credit cards, but they close around 2pm (except for Thurs/Fri/Sat).
  5. Mona’s – this Lebanese place on Frenchman Street (just beyond the end of Decatur Street at Esplanade) had good hummus with pita for around $5, and many other menu items were under $10. Two locals recommended this spot to me. The service wasn’t good and the decor non-existent. They accept credit cards. (One side of this place is a grocery store. I was able to buy a high quality can of stuffed grape leaves for $3.29. They went perfectly with the Greek salad I made at home.)
  6. Down the Hatch – I cannot recommend the decor and bar atmosphere.. I enjoyed their delicious hamburger and fries and it was reasonably priced (under $10). They accept credit cards.
  7. Dry Dock Bar – you’ll have to take a free ferry on Canal Street across from Harrah’s casino to Algier’s Point if you want to eat at the Dry Dock. I got a hot sausage po’ boy which I enjoyed a lot, but what I dug even more was the gritty, local atmosphere. It’s dark and dingy inside, something Elmore Leonard would like. I ate at the bar and yakked with the bar maid, she made me instantly feel like I was one of her regulars. You gotta love that about a place.
  8. VooDoo BBQ – St. Charles Avenue in the Lower Garden District. I wouldn’t recommend their St. Louis ribs (mine were overcooked) but their side-dishes of creamed corn pudding and sweet potato souffle were worth it on their own to grab as take out items. Although this place feels very “fast food” because you order and pay at the counter then bring a sign with a number on it to your table, they do have very pleasant waitresses who come to your table and ask if you need anything, and get you drink refills.
  9. Leonardo’s Trattoria – St. Charles Avenue, Central Business District. All of their pastas are made in house. They make pizzas in a wood burning oven. Their rigatoni bolognese ($16) was excellent, the service was with a smile. (One small nit – even though the resto was empty, my drink went unrefilled too long into my dinner.) The “decor” is a half dozen televisions all playing different movies on mute (Godfather, Rocky, Oceans 13, Saturday Night Fever, football) and the music playing over the speakers comes from the movie soundtracks of the films being shown. It’s kind of jarring to hear That’s Amore followed by the Bee Gees followed by Italian Opera. I’m just saying.
  10. Stein’s Deli – Magazine Street, this place is as close to a New York deli as you are going to get in New Orleans. I had the hot pastrami on rye with mustard (a NY classic sandwich) and they did it up right. The fact that they had full sour and half sour pickles means they know what they’re doing. I know local New Orleanians like Barq’s but in a deli, a real deli, you find Dr. Brown’s Cream soda. Not only did they have regular, they had Dr. Brown’s Diet Cream. Ahhh, a slice of NY heaven.

NON-budget conscious:

I had the most delicious roast beef au jus sandwich for lunch at Houston’s on St. Charles Avenue. The decor and atmosphere at Houston’s is upscale, with uniformed, aproned waiters, a piano bar, and old fashioned leather booths. My sandwich with an incredible plate of delicious (but slightly greasy) string fries and soda plus tip was a whopping $25 bucks. In my book that is a complete rip off, but hey, I gave it a try and the food, atmosphere and service was, as you’d expect at those prices, excellent.

Places I would SKIP:

  1. Joey K’s on Magazine at 7th – mediocre chicken fried steak, not as reasonably priced as other places, so-so service, bad blackberry cobbler dessert with gummy dough over top and sitting in the bottom of the bowl. I would not recommend this place at all, and I’m not going back.
  2. Domilise’s – I’m sure someone will write a rant about how can I possibly besmirch the good name of Domilise’s because it’s a NoLa tradition, but frankly being packed like a sardine in a tiny, greasy box and paying $11 dollars for a HALF a fried shrimp po’ boy that was nothing special with no available tables…I don’t give a hoot that Anderson Cooper’s picture is on your wall along with other celebs, if you’re not going to be nice to your customers, and have a decent place to sit and not over-charge for mediocre food in a sketchy-looking neighborhood, well, I’m not going back.
  3. Blue Plate Cafe – don’t worry, you won’t come across this place unless you are looking for it. The New Orleans Menu site gave this cafe three stars. I ordered “The Beast” roast beef sandwich. The waiter commented “Good Choice.” After two bites I called him over b/c the beef was dried out and overcooked. The waiter AGREED (the same one who said GOOD CHOICE moments ago) and added, “They make the roast beef here and sometimes they overcook it.” Ummmm…why was this served to me? I sent it back – the only plate I sent back since being in NoLa. The waiter was gracious about it. I ordered a hamburger – medium and it came charred and well done.  Overcooking roast beef is one thing, but any basic diner cook better know how to make a hamburger. Apparently they don’t. I wouldn’t recommend this place. (After I got seated, a line of people appeared out the door, a waiting list materialized and people waited on a bench outside for a half hour to get in. All I could think was WHY, but I know why – it was filled with well dressed white people who like it.)
  4. Surrey’s – Lower Garden District location (1418 Magazine). So, some people like coffee in the morning and couldn’t think of starting a day without it. For those that don’t drink coffee (me) but need caffiene (also me) I prefer diet Pepsi, or if one is not handy, diet Coke. I was informed when I requested my caffiene delivery system of choice that they had run out of all diet Coke. How on earth can a diner or cafe RUN OUT of diet soda? If they told their patrons they ran out of coffee, there would be a riot, right? Let’s just say that didn’t put me in a great mood, but I was determined to eat breakfast here so I glumly agreed to drink ice water. (The waitress was miffed at me for being unhappy that she had no diet soda to offer. I guess that’s my fault??) The $12.50 crab gratin with 2 eggs and garlic bread sounded good, and the eggs were cooked perfectly, the garlic bread was tasty but there were crab shells in my gratin. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to eat crab shells for breakfast and I certainly don’t like paying $12.50 for that experience. I also did not like the untoasted, mushy “crumbs” they used as topping. When I mentioned to the waitress I got shells in my gratin – AFTER I paid – I was treated so rudely that not only would I never go back to such a place, I would go out of my way to tell people to avoid being treated in such a surly manner. And yes, like the Blue Plate Cafe, there was a line at this place.

Overall, I’m disappointed in the food I’ve had in New Orleans since I’ve been here.

What on earth has happened to the dining experience in New Orleans? And why aren’t locals more demanding of good quality, good service and consistency from their restos?

I thought I could eat on the cheap and still have delicious local food made by the locals. It just ain’t so with consistency. The tourist places are over-priced, especially in the French Quarter. There is no way to know if a place has decent food until you try it, and at least half the time it’s disappointing.

Okay, fire away, I know I’m gonna get blasted about this post the moment I publish it. Feel free to disagree, provide your own recommendations, or what have you……

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9 Responses

  1. I don’t know why you’d get blasted, Carol. Most of what you’ve written is positive, and the rest is just your honest disappointment in some places. Many people who write reviews are either gushing about everything or criticizing everything — I tend to not trust either. Your approach gives you a lot more credibility.

    • Hi Charles, thanks for bopping by and for your encouraging comment. I said that mostly because of my Domilise’s remark, and New Orleanians tend to hold their ‘tradition’ places up very high, even if those places are…um…faulty.

      But so far no one has mentioned it, we’ll see if a native pops on here and gives me what-for. In the meantime, I think the blog readers I have are more likely to be from New York or Australia or Africa, so they wouldn’t know. Haha. 🙂

      At a minimum though, I think Mr. Fitzmorris’s site is such an awesome resource, I really wish I found it much earlier in my trip. Unfortunately I just came across it 2 days ago.

  2. Thanks for linking to my web site. . . but why on earth did you not refer to it in choosing your restaurants? No wonder your experiences weren’t up to your hopes. Houston’s? You come to New Orleans to eat in a national chain? Joey K’s a non-budget conscious place? What is your threshhold for a good deal? Chicken fried steak in New Orleans?

    Next time, spend more than $10 a meal, will you?

    Tastefully yours,
    Tom Fitzmorris

    • Hi Tom, thanks for the comment. So many questions! Let me try to answer some of them…

      As I mentioned in the posting, I didn’t find your website until late into my three week stay here. I also disagreed with some of your ratings (for Blue Plate Cafe and Surrey’s) and agreed with your review on Slice. Prior to your site, I was using Urban Spoon, and my hit and miss method.

      We don’t have Houston’s in New York City (that I know of) so I didn’t know it was a chain resto.

      Joey K’s wasn’t listed as non-budget conscious, it was listed as a place to skip – I didn’t like it. And I like Chicken Fried Steak, it’s something I can usually get in “the south” and I’ve enjoyed many times. Also, if a resto puts something on their menu, shouldn’t it be worthy of eating? If you can’t make something well, take it off the menu. 🙂

      And to be frank, yes, I decided not to go crazy and spend hundreds of dollars on eating out while I was here because I was here for three weeks, not the typical 3-day tourist stay. I was budget conscious on purpose, I ate breakfasts and lunches and typically skipped dinners out, and New Orleans should have plenty of excellent places to choose from for diners with ALL wallet sizes.

      My strongest suggestion to you for your site is adding a section for the budget conscious traveler and I bet it’ll be one of your most popular pages.

  3. I met you while you were eating at Stein’s Deli. Unfortunately, Stein’s Deli withstanding, the restaurants you chose to dine at are largely touristy places that locals don’t frequent, and serve poor versions of local cuisene. Next time consult an expert or go to NOLA.com and use the restaurant reviews, shich are ususally reliable.

    • Hey Matt, you’re the wine merchant, right? I’m so glad you decided to visit the blog, thanks. I thought I consulted an expert when I looked at the New Orleans Menu site run by Tom Fitzmorris, although he also chastised me for not going to more expensive restos.

      My conundrum was that I stayed in NoLa for 3 weeks, and I didn’t have an unlimited food budget so I was eating on the cheap a lot of the time. But even when I went to mid-range and not cheaper places, I wasn’t very impressed. I went to a place on Magazine Street, I think it might be called Mayas – it’s a Central/South American place and I ordered two appetizers and dessert and except for the flan which was very good, the appys were terrible. I paid $30 dollars for that experience and I wouldn’t go back there by choice, despite the fact that the servers were nice, the decor was tasteful, etc. The food wasn’t appealing to me.

  4. Some recommendations:Inexpensive: Newly opened Maurepas in the Bywater, Cochon Butcher, Three Muses, Sylvain, Ancora Pizzeria, Mahoney’s Poboys, Dat Dog. More Expensive: Clancy’s, Vizard’s, Domenica, Patois, Rue 127, La Petite Grocery, Irene’s Cuisine.

    • Thanks for the recommendations. I don’t know when I’ll get back down to NoLa again, but for anyone reading the blog it’s great to have these reference points.

      I will say by the time I left NoLa I was “po’ boy’d” out. Yes, I also heard Mahoney’s was good, but I ate too many po’ boys, which is probably an easy trap to fall into.

      The pizza place near me called Slice was really good though, on St. Charles Avenue. I ate there twice and I liked it even better the second time. Great pizza, great service and the quality of the ingredients was very good. The decor was typical of a pizza place, so no complaints there either.

  5. […] CLICK HERE for my guide to budget conscious dining in New Orleans, and a link to an online NoLa restaurant guide: https://cdeminski.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/a-word-about-what-ive-eaten-in-new-orleans/ […]

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