New Orleans Dining: Commander’s Palace

October 21, 2007

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Commander’s Palace
1403 Washington Ave, New Orleans, LA
(504) 899-8221

Web Site: http://www.commanderspalace.com

New Orleans is a restaurant and tourism city that is by all accounts undergoing a slow and painful recovery since the tragic events of August and September 2005. Still, there have been some amazing examples of businesses on the rebound, culturally significant restaurants such as Willie Mae’s, Dooky Chase, Mandina’s, Angelo Brocato’s and Camelia Grill, that were damaged so severely from the levee flooding that many thought they would never return, but eventually did.

But perhaps the most significant of all has been the return of Commander’s Palace, the legendary flagship restaurant of the Brennan family, the most prominent restaurant family in the entire city. Commander’s is an extremely important institution in the restaurant culture of New Orleans, and has launched the careers of both Paul Prudhomme and Emeril Lagasse, the two most visible practitioners of Cajun and Creole cuisine in the United States.

When Katrina hit, Commander’s was severely damaged by hurricane winds and flooding. After renovations taking over a year, the restaurant re-opened on October 1st, 2006.

Highlights from Commander’s Palace, as it appeared in our previous visit in November of 2003. It was and shall remain one of the most enjoyable dining experiences we have ever had in New Orleans.

Commander’s Palace as it appears today, post-renovation. The outside appears just as it was prior to Katrina, but the inside has undergone an incredible transformation.

Commander’s is still a favorite among the city’s elite and high society. This is a classic late 1970’s Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow sedan belonging to a well-known Jazz trumpet player.

This rule is actually very strictly enforced. I had the misfortune of being dressed in long shorts when I walked in for our dinner reservation. I was told very nicely to go back to my hotel and put some pants on, which I did graciously.

The historical plaque next to the front door.

Commander’s Palace rises from the flood waters, and is even more grand and over-the-top than ever before. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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New Orleans Dining: Angelo Brocato

October 10, 2007

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Angelo Brocato Ice Cream
214 N. Carrolton Ave.
New Orleans, LA
504-486-0078

Web Site: http://www.angelobrocatoicecream.com

Angelo Brocato looks like it would be completely at home in Boston’s North End, Manhattan’s Little Italy or on Arthur Avenue in the Belmont section of the Bronx. But it’s not — it’s on one of the busiest streets in New Orleans’ Mid-city district. The famous ice cream parlor opened in 1905 in The French Quarter, where Croissant D’Or Patisserie resides now. It moved to its current location in the 1970’s.

Shortly after the shop celebrated its 100th birthday, fate intervened. On August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the city and the rest, of course, is history. Sadly, Angelo Brocato was one of the worst hit businesses when the levees broke — over four feet of water poured into the shop and destroyed absolutely everything. Many thought that the place would never be rebuilt, but optimism was high in the Brocato family and announcements were made that the legendary gelato/pastry store and cafe would again re-open.

The trademark neon sign on North Carrolton Avenue.

The Angelo Brocato store, as it was, in June of 2005, just two months prior to its destruction. During that particular visit we went to Brocato’s two times. During the evenings the store was packed, even late at night, and it’s not unusual to have to wait on line even past 10PM.

A selection of gelato treats from the pre-Katrina store.

Did New Orleans get its Gelato back? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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Inside The Upperline

October 6, 2007

Upperline Restaurant
1413 Upperline St, New Orleans, LA
(504) 891-9822

Web Site: http://www.upperline.com/

Related Podcast: The Upperline

Related Post: The Very Fine Upperline

Related Video: Kenneth Smith and Jason Perlow make Gumbo

Every time Rachel and I return to New Orleans, its obligatory to visit The Upperline, which is our favorite restaurant in the entire city. It’s hard to say if its the hospitality of its staff, the incredible food prepared by Chef Kenneth Smith, or the diverse collection of native New Orleans artwork collected by the restaurant’s generous owner, Jo-Ann Clevenger, that makes it one of the best dining experiences in the Crescent City.

We’ve covered The Upperline a great deal in the past, including a podcast with Chef Ken and Jo-Ann. This time, I wanted to show all of you how a real New Orleans kitchen runs, and I couldn’t think of a better one to show you than The Upperline’s. Upperline is not a “showcase” kitchen like some of the other notable restaurants, such as Commander’s Palace (which you will see shortly). It’s got a beat-up Garland stove and it looks like its been through the wars, and is a very tight and awkward space to be in especially if you are big guy like Ken Smith or myself. But the quality of food that is produced out of it easily matches the big and recognized names in New Orleans.

The Upperline Restaurant, on the corner of Upperline and Prytania Street.

Want to see how a real New Orleans restaurant kitchen is run? Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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New Orleans Dining: Domilise’s

September 29, 2007

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DOMILISE’S PO-BOYS
5240 Annunciation St.
New Orleans, LA
(504) 899-9126

I think if you want to see the real New Orleans, you have to go and eat the the blue collar type places. And there’s nothing more New Orleans and blue collar than a Po’Boy shop.

Food writer Sara Roahen in her upcoming February 2008 book Gumbo Tales talks about a specific Po’Boy that has gone extinct, the Pepper Weiner at Domilise’s. Apparently it was some type of special sausage or hot dog that was dressed in a special way, and it was beloved by many. In any case, the Schott’s Meat company in New Orleans that manufactured the Pepper Weiner has since gone out of business, and thus it now Rests in Peace.

Domilise’s, located in the Uptown section of the city near the Prytania/Upperline area off of Tchoupitoulas street, however, is still going strong, and it has been for many decades. Regarded as one of the best sandwich shops in the city, It is a true Po’Boy shop in every respect, and makes them in a very traditional fashion, using real New Orleans French bread.

Domilise’s as you can see is very much a locals hangout.

The Carte de Po’Boys.

There’s nothing more honest and satisfying than a New Orleans Po Boy. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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New Orleans Dining: Willie Mae’s Scotch House

September 25, 2007

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Willie Mae’s Scotch House
2401 Saint Ann St, New Orleans, LA

(504) 822-9503

Many restaurants in New Orleans can legitimately call themselves cultural landmarks. And yet, when Hurricane Katrina came, the levees broke and the city flooded, there was a very short list of foodie destinations in the affected areas where I thought it would be a monumental tragedy if they never returned to business again. Magnificent restaurants like Commander’s Palace. Neighborhood hangouts like Angelo Brocato’s. And little holes in the wall like Willie Mae’s Scotch House, which is arguably the fried chicken Mecca of the United States and has huge historical value to the civil rights movement, much like the original Paschal’s in Atlanta.

It was a huge, Herculean task to bring Willie Mae’s Scotch House back from the dead. The water line from the flooding was several feet high, and the entire restaurant had to be gutted to the studs. A huge volunteer reconstruction project started in January of 2006 funded by over $200,000 in donations solicited by the Southern Foodways Alliance eventually resulted in the re-opening of the restaurant in May of 2007 (A short SFA film directed by filmmaker Joe York, “Saving Willie Mae’s Scotch House” chronicled the project.)

Upon re-opening of the restaurant, Ms Seaton, age 90, relinquished her place as head cook to her great granddaughter, Kerry Blackmon. However, despite organizational changes, the Fried Chicken is as great as ever.

Willie Mae’s Scotch House on Saint Ann Street in New Orleans, August 29 2007, two years to the day that Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city.

It was fitting that we got to eat at Willie Mae’s on August 29. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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A Few Random Images

September 24, 2007

Seen in Metairie, Louisiana.

Accept no substitutes with your ‘Po Boys.

The Nectar Soda. A New Orleans original.

Rollin’ on the river.

Creole Tomatoes. These give Jerseys a serious run for their money.

Camelia Beans — what you make your Red Beans and Rice with.


New Orleans Dining: Cochon

September 23, 2007

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Cochon
930 Tchoupitoulas St, New Orleans, LA
(504) 588-2123

Web Site: http://www.cochonrestaurant.com/

One of the restaurants in New Orleans I most wanted to dine at was COCHON, a new, Post-Katrina casual fine dining restaurant that was opened by Donald Link, of Herbsaint fame and 2007 James Beard Award Winner for Best Chef, South (click for previous OTB podcast) who I interviewed during my previous New Orleans trip back in April of 2006. At the time, the finishing touches of COCHON had just been done, and the restaurant was preparing to open only days after I returned home. Now, over a year later, COCHON has become one of New Orleans’ top restaurants, and was nominated as “Best New Restaurant” in the 2007 James Beard Awards.

Best described as “Modern Cajun” COCHON incorporates many elements of traditional Cajun cuisine combined with twists from Europe and Asia. Although the food and the restaurant would easily find itself in New York’s hip SoHo and Greenwich Village or among the top fine dining establishments in Midtown Manhattan, it is most definitely a New Orleans restaurant and one of the city’s finest examples at that.

Exterior, Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans

Entrance View

Dining Room

Table Closeup

Is COCHON Hillbilly or Haute? I think it’s a bit of both. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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New Orleans Dining: Drago’s (Hilton)

September 16, 2007

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Drago’s at Hilton New Orleans Riverside
2 Poydras Street, New Orleans LA

Every time I visit New Orleans, Drago’s restaurant in nearby Metairie is always on the top of my to-go list. Their charbroiled oysters are my absolute favorite and you can make a meal of them just by themselves. We had tried to eat there on our first night back, but had discovered the restaurant was closed on Sunday.

Later on in the week we discovered that Drago’s owner Tommy Cvitanovich had opened a brand new location in the downtown Hilton hotel, near the Riverwalk shopping center. As we were across the street at Grand Isle checking out their happy hour, I absolutely had to try the new place and see if it lived up to the original.

The new Drago’s location at the downtown Hilton Riverside.

If it looks like Drago’s, if it smells like Drago’s, It is Drago’s. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.

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New Orleans Dining: Grand Isle

September 14, 2007

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Grand Isle
575 Convention Center Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 520-8530

Web Site: http://www.grandislerestaurant.com

Despite the huge amount of destruction and displacement caused by Hurricane Katrina, restaurant life is still quite alive in New Orleans. In addition to a number of notable re-openings and renovations of popular and long standing restaurants, there have been a number of notable new restaurant openings as well. One of those is Grand Isle, in the Central Business District located right across from the Riverwalk shopping center and the Hilton hotel, and situated close to the Morial Convention Center.

We had been told about Grand Isle by local food writer Todd Price, who is always looking for good deals when eating out. During the hours between 4PM and 7PM, Grand Isle does a happy hour where you can get a big ‘ol plate of boiled seafood for $3.99. As it was shrimp season, they were offering 1lb plates of boiled Gulf Shrimp with corn and potatoes. That’s all it took to get us in the door.

Grand Isle restaurant on Convention Center Boulevard.

Main Dining Room

Dining Room View

Bar Dining Area

Oyster Bar

Rachel was still a bit under the weather and was in a soupy mood. We got some of their Turtle Soup, which is similar to a Gumbo but has turtle meat in it. It was turtlelicious.

Big ‘ol 1lb plate of Louisiana gulf shrimp, heads on, boiled in Zatarains, with corn on the cob and new potatoes. You can’t beat this deal for $3.99. At these prices, I was inclined to order a few more plates, but I wanted to check out the new Drago’s across the street and we had another dinner appointment that evening.

Shrimp closeup.


New Orleans Dining: Morning Call

September 10, 2007

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Morning Call Coffee Stand
3325 Severn Ave, Metairie, LA
(504) 885-4068

Web Site: http://www.morningcallcoffeestand.com/

In New Orleans, coffee is not just something people drink to get them through the morning hours — it’s a an important tradition, a social networking mechanism, and deeply entrenched in the city’s culture. Many people know of Cafe Du Monde (click for related OTB post) the famous French Quarter outdoor Cafe Au Lait and Beignets tent heavily frequented by tourists, but less is known of Morning Call, which serves the same fare but is more of a locals scene. Originally, Morning Call was located in the French Market in New Orleans, where it stood for over 100 years until 1974 when it moved to the “Fat City” section of nearby Metairie.

Morning Call, on Severn Avenue in Metairie, Louisiana.

Morning Call is old-fashioned, but don’t worry, they have Wi-Fi if you really need it.

Beignets ready for dusting.

Our Beignets and Cafe Au Lait is served.

At Morning Call, your Beignets are served to you plain so you can dust them with as little or as much powdered sugar as you like. This doesn’t prevent you from getting any less messy, but it does give you a little more control over the situation.

A Frozen Cafe Au Lait, which kept me going during the hour or so ride out to LaPlace.