New NOLA Spots

Less than 24 hours after getting back to San Francisco from New Orleans I found myself watching the Saints win their first road playoff game in team history against the Eagles (apologies to Joe Tobin, no apologies to Kevin Shea). Exactly what I expected to go wrong in the game went wrong: Drew Brees threw two interceptions against a team that leads the leauge in takeaways. Despite this, the Saints still won because exactly what I didn’t think would happen did: the Saints defense showed up HUGE and Mark Ingram suddenly became an (almost) every-down back.

To celebrate the Saints season lasting at least one more week, I’d like to share with everybody my takeaways from a few new restaurants I tried while out in New Orleans. If you know me personally you might be aware that I have a Google Doc of about a dozen or so things to go see and, most importantly, eat in New Orleans that I gladly hand out to people who are visiting there. Some of these might make it onto the doc, but for those that don’t its less about how good they were and more about their location.

These are in order of when I tried each.

Don’s Specialty Meats

If you ever find yourself driving from Houston to New Orleans you’ll notice several signs off the road for boudin and cracklins, mostly near Lafayette. I usually drive right by them because I always stop at Prejean’s restaurant for a mid-trip meal. Its perfectly situated halfway between the two aforementioned cities and they have the best gumbo you’ve ever eaten. This time, however, I couldn’t help myself. I still ate lunch at Prejean’s but I bought a cooler and some ice and stopped at Don’s, which is just within a mile or so of Prejean’s anyway. Don’s isn’t a restaurant but rather a pit-stop with, according to locals, the best boudin and cracklins in town. Oh, I should probably explain that boudin is a type of sausage made with pork liver and rice and cracklins is basically Louisiana’s version of pork-rinds. I bought some cooked boudin for the cooler and a small bag of cracklins, just to try a few before lunch. Cracklin’s are amazing, fried pork skin with cajun/creole seasoning bursting with hot fat. I ate about three pieces until I had to stop to keep my heart from exploding. I ate the boudin the following morning with eggs. Its harder to describe the boudin because it looks like sausage but when you cut into it shredded pork and rice fall out. It’s really, really good and something you have to try if you get the chance. Just don’t sacrifice the trip to Prejean’s to make it happen. Pro-Tip: Since Don’s knows people are just passing through and will need to store their boudin in coolers until they get to their destination they sell a variety of cheap styrofoam ones at the store.

Nuvalari’s

This place is in Mandeville so I don’t imagine anyone reading this outside of the North Shore will go there but I have to give this place some credit. Its in the city’s old downtown and has the type of food and atmosphere you’re more likely to find in a sought-after New Orleans establishment. Finer, Brennan’s-style food is on the menu (think grilled redfish with lump crabmeat) and its unbelievable. The restaurant itself looks great, with an old bar that is made out of finely carved wood. My old man took me and Steph here for dinner, and we were very grateful.

Lüke

Lüke is a restaurant that I found out about from Tom Fitzmorris’ food show. Its a John Besh restaurant, whom you might recognize from Iron Chef. What makes this place unique is its inclusion of German-themed food, apparently inspired by a forgotten era in New Orleans cuisine. There’s plenty of French food on the menu, though. We had crab bisque to start and the California-forbidden foie gras, which came in a ridiculous deck-of-cards sized portion. We split an entree, the pork shank with sausage and pigs belly, which I’d recommend. The prices aren’t cheap but the portions are huge so it winds up being a pretty decent deal if you split the main course. Everything was amazing, its probably the best German food I’ve had. Even better, its in the CBD which is a quick stroll from the French Quarter but doesn’t attract the regular onslaught of tourists you see a few blocks away. If you find yourself in Nola and you’re more of a meat-and-potatoes guy, definitely come here.

Elizabeth’s

I always tell everyone who is going to New Orleans to hop in a cab, go Uptown and eat breakfast at Slim Goodies. Now I believe I’ll tell everyone who is there for more than one day to also hop a cab to the Bywater and go to Elizabeth’s for their other morning meal. The Bywater is located in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, formerly a very poor and notoriously sketchy neighborhood that is now inexplicably gentrified and often referred to as, wait for it, “hipster”. I’ll give you the gentrified part, for sure, but maybe we just have bigger hipsters in San Francisco. The people at Elizabeth’s look just like that, people. And even if it was crawling with moustachioed dudes from Brooklyn I’d still eat there. Its delicious. There’s poached eggs on fried green tomatoes and eggs with fried chicken livers topped with pepper jelly. All kinds of awesome. The portions here are huge and the caloric alchemy is diabolical (the fried chicken livers come with a heaping portion of buttery grits. I mean, come on). You may want to walk back to the French Quarter after eating here, and apparently nowadays you can.

Sylvain

On first glance, this restaurant reminded me a lot of the places we have in San Francisco. Lots of wood, very dark, romantic lighting, a hip, attractive staff. The menus used old-timey font and have smug, asshole phrases like “Daily Soup Preparation”. The big difference, however, was that the food wasn’t overrated. Unlike those shitheads in the Mission who charge $25 for fried chicken the folks at Sylvain actually put together a meal that’s worth your money. The selection wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for a restaurant of this tier in the French Quarter: redfish, shrimp with popcorn rice, quail. Really nice stuff, and with decent prices: some entrees go lower than $15. And way nicer food than you’d get at the Mission restaurant at a greater cost. I mean fuck me, do you want quail with cornbread stuffing, creamed mustard greens and warm tasso vinaigrette for $25 or fucking fried chicken? Fried chicken is delicious but it isn’t $25 bucks. Honestly, the only downside to Sylvain was that I couldn’t stop thinking about the bank robbers in SF while I was enjoying a much better meal with the same ambiance and lower price.

Anyway, sorry, I digress. I don’t want to takeaway from Sylvain here. If you are in New Orleans looking for a nice, candle-lit meal with your lady or guy and you don’t have a ton of money to blow, go here. Like I said, you can get an entree for under $15, that’s a killer deal for a nice place like this in the Quarter. Sure, that will only leave you with a choice between their three sandwiches, but throw another dollar on the table and you get pappardelle bolognese. BOOM. Guess what $16 gets you at Maverick? The ol stink eye.

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