Tagged Saints

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.


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 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.


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.


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.

Red Beans and Rice

I made red beans and rice for the first time yesterday. I had planned on doing it for the past couple of days and I’m glad I did, it was just what I needed after spending most of the weekend working on a freelance project and watching the Saints get demolished by the Rams (why is it always the Rams? Is this some fucked up unbalanced karma from Hakim dropping the god damn ball?)

Anyway, the recipe I used was from Tom Fitzmorris’ website nomenu.com. Tom is the host of New Orleans’ long-running Food Show, a radio program that could only exist in a city like Nola. Its three hours of restaurant and recipe talk shoe-horned in an ESPN affiliate station. The live callers are the best part of the show. Usually I hate the call-in portion of any radio program. No one offers anything really interesting to say and often they just embarrass themselves on the air. Not with the Food Show. You get a lot of great info and its all told through thick New Orleans, Metairie or St. Bernard Parish accents that you won’t hear anywhere else in the country. Recently one caller brought up red beans and rice and after hearing their discussion I decided to take a crack at it.

Truth be told, I used to hate red beans and rice as a kid, and with good reason. It was commonly served for lunch at whatever Slidell, Louisiana school I was going to at the time and it was always god-awful. Its amazing that I like any food at all considering how often I ate public school lunches (always). I remember they were something like fifty cents, or maybe a dollar once I got into high school. At the beginning of the month you would go to a booth with a 20-spot and someone would hand you a bunch of red raffle tickets as if you were going to the world’s saddest carnival. The only ride was disappointment. The best case scenario for lunch was something that had no flavor at all, otherwise it was just nasty. Which is what public school red beans and rice were. I’m not sure of their ingredients other than kidney beans and white rice but I strongly suspect that dirt was a crucial element. It was often served with a dry, frowning piece of cornbread that was so bad it can only be described by its own flavor: public school cornbread. Not surprisingly, I hated cornbread for years. Thankfully I got over my hatred for both of these normally delicious foods. Especially cornbread. I mean, really, how do you fuck up the buttery and flakey goodness that is cornbread? Easy, you add dirty ass to it. Fuck that cornbread.

Allright, now that I’m done venting, here’s Tom’s recipe, which can be viewed in full here. I mostly stuck to it, any additions I made are in bold.

1 lb. dried red beans
1/4 lb. bacon or fatty ham
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded chopped
1 small onion, chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
12 sprigs parsley, chopped
4 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. salt
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. savory (optional)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Tabasco
1/4 cup chopped green onion tops
2 Tbs. chopped parsley
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1. Sort through the beans and pick out any bad or misshapen ones. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. When ready to cook, pour off the soaking water. You probably want to rinse them off, too.

2. In a large, heavy pot or Dutch oven, fry the bacon or ham fat till crisp. Remove the bacon or ham fat and set aside for garnish (or as a snack while you cook).

3. In the hot fat, sauté the bell pepper, onion, celery, parsley and garlic until it just begins to brown. Add the beans and three quarts of water. Bring to a light boil, then lower to a simmer. Add the salt, bay leaf, savory, black pepper, and Tabasco.

4. Simmer the beans, uncovered, for two hours, stirring two or three times per hour. Add a little water if the sauce gets too thick. Cook at a higher heat or for longer than two hours to make the soup matrix a little thicker. Tom prefers his red beans and rice more “soupy”, which is apparently more traditional. I like the new, thicker variety, which just requires you to cook off more water.

5. Mash about a half-cup of the beans (more if you like them extra creamy) and stir them in into the remainder. Add salt and more Tabasco to taste. You will need more salt, definitely. Serve the beans over rice cooked firm. Garnish with chopped green onions and parsley. I added in the bacon, crumbled up into bits.

The Ultimate: Grill some patties of Creole hot sausage and deposit it, along with as much of the fat as you can permit yourself, atop the beans. Red beans seem to have a limitless tolerance for added fat. This isn’t optional in my book. I used four small/medium sausage links cut into small disks. Don’t chop the sausage up into little bits like an idiot. They should be little hockey puck disks. I also wouldn’t get caught up in finding a sausage that says “Louisiana”, “Cajun” or “andouille”. That shit can be hard to find and sometimes unnecessarily expensive outside of Louisiana. Look for something that is smoked. Ideally you want something smoked and spicy but smoked is more important. You can always add cayenne to make the shit spicier.

Meatless Alternative: Leave the pork and ham out of the recipe completely, and begin by sautéing the vegetables other than the beans in 1/4 cup of olive oil. At the table, pour extra-virgin olive oil over the beans. This may sound and look a bit odd, but the taste is terrific and everything in the plate–beans, rice, and olive-oil–is a proven cholesterol-lowerer.

Serves six to eight.