So yesterday, we established that New Orleans is great for sightseeing, haunted houses and watching your football team let you down in the saddest of ways. But what it is AWESOME for? I mean, truly truly awesome for? Its food. Holy $*&# does this place have some amazing food.
For those who know Erin and I personally, you know that we never say no to two things: happy hour or a meal. No matter what else we have going on, if food or drinks are involved we.are.there. Even if we’re not invited. We just show up. It’s why we’re best friends, really. On a separate but related note, when I travel, I don’t buy myself anything but a keepsake Christmas ornament and occasionally, a funny gift for a friend. I don’t shop. I don’t buy art. I do something I consider way better. Food. I find the best-reviewed restaurants (cheap, expensive and everything in between) and I eat. The only souvenirs I ever bring back from my travels in addition to the aforementioned items? Five to ten pounds. When I came back from Italy in October 2010, I looked three months pregnant.
So when New Orleans was scheduled, I got down to business making reservations. I ultimately settled on three restaurants for official dinner and brunch rezzies: Mike’s on the Avenue, Herbsaint, and SoBou. We also popped into Deanie’s Seafood, Cafe DuMonde, Somethin’ Else Cafe and various establishments along Bourbon and Frenchman Streets. Every last place was delicious.
Deanie’s Seafood: Upon arriving, our bellboy at the hotel – who we tapped for suggestions since he said he was born and raised in NOLA – said we should go to Deanie’s for lunch. So we did and thanked him every day thereafter. We were starving so we ordered a ton of stuff. This started a terrible trend, which was order too much and worry about the consequences later. We got: one Bloody Mary a piece, shared a plate of fried artichoke hearts, and then I got calamari, oyster leek soup and a half-dozen raw oysters. My friend ordered a house salad and a red snapper po’ boy.
As discussed earlier this week, I’m a bit of a Bloody Mary fanatic, and this one was AMAZING. In fact, all of the Bloody’s we had in NO were amazing, but this particular one came with an olive, a pickled okra, a whole shrimp (head on) and was rimmed in Cajun seasoning. Paired with oysters, good lawd. At this point we had been in New Orleans an hour and I knew I was in big, big trouble. In fact, I didn’t take any more photos of the meal after this because I was too busy going to work. This whole post is going to be full of disclaimers like that. Sorry.
For New Year’s eve dinner, we had our first dinner reservation at Mike’s on the Avenue and followed their prix fixe menu. I found Mike’s via the blog, NOLA Food Porn, which was spot-on with its recommendation. I wish I had taken some photos here but we were so busy eating, drinking and being merry that I totally forgot. However, I did find this photo of the steak I ate on their site, which is their Marinated Sizzling Steak with Oyster Sauce. Cooked to perfection. Their cocktail list was also really good. I had one of their cocktails made with champagne and St. Germain, which is a delicious combo.
The next morning, we had to pop into Cafe DuMonde to try the world famous beignets. I am not much for sweets, but fried dough with powdered sugar and a hot coffee is pretty hard to beat when you’re hung over from New Year’s Eve ridiculousness. Definitely worth trying.
However, we were still hungry for regular breakfast, so wandering around the streets we found Something Else Cafe where we got the traditional two eggs, bacon and grits kinda breakfast. I also got a Bloody Mary that was just as delicious as the rest of we had on the trip. For 9.99, the breakfast is worth it. Check it out.
Later that night (still New Year’s Day) most restaurants were closed and for those that were open, a reservation was hard to come by. So when I found Herbsaint, named by the Times-Picayune as one of the top restaurants in the city, and open!, I yelled bingo. I had to do a 5:30 reservation because that was the only time available. Acting like an old person has never been more worth it though. Again, unfortunately, I was too busy almost crying with happiness over how yummy the food was to remember to snap any photos, but my friend and I shared a plate of the Housemade Spaghetti with Guanciale and Fried-Poached Farm Egg and then I dove into the Slow Cooked Lamb Neck with Saffron Fideo and Tomato Confit as my main course.
Full disclosure because I am an animal: the lamb neck was so amazingly good, I ate as much as I could – well, well past the point of being full. This resulted in not being able to even finish one beer (on three attempts) while listening to jazz on Frenchman street later that night and then even later on, waking up from a dead sleep to vomit because I literally ate too much. Do you know how many times I eat past the point of being full? Always. Do you know how many times I have vomited from that? Never. New Orleans finally broke me. It was worth it. You’ve never seen someone so happy while vomiting, I swear to God.
The following morning was game day and so we needed to eat early. Our last stop on the official tour was SoBou (also found thanks to Nola Food Porn) and the lunch was absoutely amazing. Truly unique combinations, like this mango tuna ceviche, topped with a scoop of avocado ice cream and served in a teeny tiny ice cream cone. I know this sounds weird, but it was sooooooo crazy yummy, I wish I had ordered it myself. Instead, I had to content myself with the bite that my friend gave me. I wouldn’t have given me a bite, if I were him.
For my own lunch, I chose something really filling since we had to make this meal last all day. So I went hard – even though at this point during the trip I definitely should have eased up. But that’s not how I liiiiiveeeeee. So I got fried chicken and then bacon mac and cheese. I housed the chicken like it was my job. J-O-B, job, because how could I not? Look how delicious it looks ! And it tasted doubly as good as it looked. I couldn’t make it through the mac and cheese, but luckily since our hotel was just around the corner I dropped it off so I could finish it later. (I couldn’t. But it didn’t feel right not to try.)
I would absolutely, 100 percent recommend any single one of these places if you have plans to be in New Orleans soon. And I highly recommend using local newspaper top 10 lists and local food blogs to find delicious places to eat, no matter what city are you in.
On a not-so-separate note, I’m running a half-marathon in February and the training is what’s helping lose those five pounds I gained. Wish me luck.