Pass the Gumbo, eating our way through the Big Easy: New Orleans, Part 2

February 20-24, 2014

For me the number one attraction of New Orleans is the food. Who doesn’t love Cajun cuisine? Give me a bowl of crawfish etouffee or a tasty gumbo any day (or every day) along with blackened anything and of course a po’boy with fried shrimp, oysters, catfish, whatever, on a crunchy French roll.

This is my first blog post of just restaurant reviews, so give me your feedback.

Café Du Monde: JJJJ (Rating 4 smiley faces out of 5)
Not to be missed is the famous Café Du Monde. Although pretty busy and usually overrun with tourists, the Café Du Monde is still a great place to take a break from sightseeing. One other small complaint, the wait staff seems fairly indifferent. We stopped here a couple of times this visit and I didn’t receive a smile or any response beyond a perfunctory taking of our order and delivery of food. Perhaps the staff is harried, but I didn’t get a warm/fuzzy from the people. No matter, like at Krispy Kreme, there is nothing better than a hot donut, so they can be as surly as they like, I’m a customer. Here’s a shot of the inside dining area:

Café Du Monde’s sign declares: “The original French market coffee stand, serving Café Au Lait and hot beignets (French doughnuts) 24 hours a day, year round. This familiar New Orleans landmark has been located in the French market since the 1860’s.”

An order of beignets & coffee:

Holly & Rebecca enjoy the Café Du Monde’s patio while awaiting their beignets:

Before visiting New Orleans, I suggest you make dinner reservations for your stay, because the restaurants are not to be missed.

Here are a few suggestions & warnings:

Antoine’s: JJJ (Rating: 3 smiley faces out of 5)
Overall, I was disappointed with Antoine’s this visit. It was just OK. Not bad, but not great for the prices they charge. The food was nothing special and it seems to me that restaurant has relaxed its dress code. I seem to remember from years ago that one dressed up to go to Antoine’s, it was a little more elegant, the kind of place where men wore a jacket and tie – I did, and so did some of the other patrons, but some looked a little like they just rolled in from Bourbon Street. Overall, my suggestion is go to Antoine’s if you really want to see a New Orleans institution – its fine. If you are going for great food, there are better restaurants. Here’s their website:

Here is a photo of Rebecca and Holly at Antoine’s restaurant in the French Quarter.

GW Fins: JJJJJ (Rating: Five smiley faces out of five)
We had a much better meal at GW Fins. If you are looking for a really nice seafood restaurant in the French Quarter, I would definitely recommend this restaurant. Not inexpensive, but really good food with great décor and a helpful and professional staff. I will definitely return here on future visits to NOLA. Here’s a shot of the outside of GW Fins:

JJJJ (Rating: Four smiley faces out of five)
Despite my general philosophy that too much of a good thing is fantastic, we did take a break from the classic New Orleans French/Cajun/Seafood joints to have an Italian dinner at Domenica. This is a casual Italian restaurant which seemed moderately priced and the food was good if not really remarkable. My only real complaint was the noise level. When we were there the restaurant was busy and as you can see from the photo below, the dining room is open with hard surfaces, and the resulting cacophony is little difficult to take. (This is the only photo in this blog post I didn’t make. This photo is from the restaurant’s website.)

Domenica is located on the street level in the Roosevelt Hotel, built in 1893 and recently renovated. After our dinner, Holly and I enjoyed walking through the beautifully restored lobby of the Roosevelt to take in its 19th century beauty and grandeur. They don’t build them like that anymore.

JJJJ (Rating: Four smiley faces out of five)

Famous chef Paul Prudhomme started the blackened redfish craze. This trip we went to K-Paul’s for lunch, which is served deli style. Order at the counter, get a number and find a table. We chose to share a po’ boy and a bowl of gumbo and both were really good. I don’t remember if I’ve ever been to this restaurant for dinner, but my guess is that’s when it really shines. On my next trip to NOLA, I’ll make a point of having dinner at K-Paul’s.

JJJJJ (Rating: Five smiley faces out of five)
Speaking of celebrity chefs, we went to Emeril Lagasse’s eponymous restaurant in NOLA’s Warehouse District. Food, service, décor, all first-rate. I’ve been here before and I would go back again. I’ve also been to some of Emeril’s restaurants in Las Vegas, and I like this one the best. It’s not inexpensive, but if you want a very nice dinner experience, I think Emeril’s is still an outstanding choice in NOLA. Here I am posing with Rebecca outside the restaurant. We have smiles on our faces because we just finished a wonderful evening’s meal.

Commander’s Palace: JJJJJJ (Rating: Six smiley faces out of five – sort of like “11” from This Is Spinal Tap)
Emeril Lagasse famously got his start in NOLA as the chef at Commander’s Palace. Commander’s Palace is still by far my favorite restaurant in New Orleans. I like everything about it. The food is great, the service is friendly and very professional, and the dining rooms are comfortable. Commander’s Palace is a great place to have a special and elegant dinner. We took the street car to the Garden District and took a self-guided tour of the houses and gardens. (More about that in my next blog post.) Then we headed over to Commander’s Palace for a relaxing and satisfying evening topped off with my favorite dessert, Bananas Foster. If you haven’t been to Commander’s Palace – GO!!

A little history from Commander Palace’s website: “Here in the Garden District George W. Cable entertained Mark Twain; here Jefferson Davis spent his last days. And here, in 1880, Emile Commander established the only restaurant patronized by the distinguished neighborhood families. He chose the corner of Washington Avenue and Coliseum Street, a site that had been in turn, part of the J.F.E. Livaudais Plantation and the faubourg of Lafayette. In 1854 it was engulfed by the city of New Orleans and by 1900 Commander’s Palace was attracting gourmets from all over the world.”

Our waiter prepares our Banana’s Foster table side:

Breakfast Joints:

Daisy Dukes: JJJ (Rating: three smiley faces out of five)

Daisy Dukes is a 24 hour coffee shop type restaurant. You have to love a restaurant with a handwritten sign taped to the front door that reads: “If you Throw UP in here we will charge you $50.00. Don’t come in if you don’t have the money!” Given the level of alcohol consumption generally during Mardi Gras and the fact that this restaurant is always open, I suspect that drunks stumbling in and emptying the contents of their stomachs on the floor is a fairly regular occurrence, at least frequent enough to warrant posting the sign. As most reviews say: “the best thing about the food, is that this restaurant is always open”. Or put it another way: The food may not be great, but the portions are generous and the food is good enough. Plus we had a friendly waitress. Let’s just say, that if you are looking for a breakfast joint in the French Quarter and don’t want to spend a lot, this restaurant is OK; I would return.

The Ruby Slipper: JJ (Rating: two smiley faces out of five)

Our hotel Bellman sent us to The Ruby Slipper for breakfast one morning. While the restaurant itself is nice enough, we didn’t think much of the food. I’d say the food is a little better than edible, but not quite good. We ate it, but we didn’t enjoy it. I probably wouldn’t go back.

1 reply

  1. Hi Mark, Great reviews. We would agree that Commander’s Palace is the best place we ‘ve found. The food looks almost too good to eat but, for heaven’s sake, don’t make that mistake!

    See you soon but don’t expect Commander’s Palace. The view may be even better but the chef obviously has not been trained by anyone you ever heard of. Mary

    Sent from my iPhone


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