Friday, May 24, 2013

Best Vacation Bites - Eating Good in New Orleans

This wasn't my first trip to the great city of New Orleans. Since my bestie moved there for law school back in '07 I have visited for Spring Break and Mardi Gras. In January of this year I served as a chaperone on a school trip where we rehabbed storm-damaged houses. Over the course of those three trips I did some seriously "New Orleans" things. I ate beignets at Cafe du Monde, watched street performers in Jackson Square, got gussied up with my girls for the Zulu Ball, I even caught beads from floats and second lined with the best of them at Mardi Gras parades. How could this, my fourth trip get any better than that?

The answer can best be described in some of our Twitter/Instagram hashtags from the trip:

  • #turndownforwhat
  • #mystikal
  • #baddecisions (forget you saw that one)

From the moment we got through security and headed straight to the Silver Diner for mimosas, I knew I was in for quite a weekend. I won't reveal the details because what happens in NOLA stays there, but I will say I'm glad I got to do NOLA the Bourbon Street way before I was old enough for it to be embarrassing. Among the Abitas, Hurricanes, Daiquiris and Hand Grendades, I did some mighty fine eating. My travelling crew (love you all!) were great sports, passing around my iPhone camera so we could get pics of everyone's decadent choices - and they were decadent. Something about NOLA makes you throw your diet and common sense out the window and eat whatever you want with no inhibitions. I ordered more than one item on numerous occasions and felt zero guilt.

So here are my best vacation bites for my four days in NOLA 2013:

Day 1: Domenica Restaurant - This posh Italian restaurant, from New Orleans celebrity chef and food God, John Besh, is located in the Roosevelt Hotel on Baronne Street, right outside the Quarter. As you all know from my last post, I had zero intention of enjoying this level of cuisine - I wanted deep fried seafoood with a side of carbs - but I am so glad I was forced to change my mind.

Domenica is a dark, sexy restaurant with a deep menu of refined pizzas, pastas, and paninis. It may technically be a "hotel restaurant" but it is worthy of its own trip. At our table of 11 I got to see and taste many of the pizzas. My faves - the simple and bold Proscuitto pizza, accented with pepper arugula and fresh mozzerella and surprisingly, the potato salad that was served with the paninis. I ordered the hefty Bolzano (my order), topped with roasted pork shoulder, crispy bacon and sweet fennel and onions. The food was satisfying, the service was solid, and the 1/2 price happy hour meant we were there for a very very long time.
My favorite - the prosciutto pizza
Duck pizza with sweet potato, mascarpone, and porchini mushrooms

Chicken panini with a super complex and crunch potato salad

Appetizers - crab, oysters, alligator - oh my!
Day 2: Royal House Oyster Bar - For some much needed fuel early Saturday afternoon, a friend who lives in the Quarter took us all to Royal House. It had everything we could want: Interesting (and strong) cocktails, a menu chocked full of traditional New Orleans fare like po'boys, gumbo and jambalaya, a friendly and accommodating waitstaff (our party grew and grew), and a beautiful, airy upper floor that made it feel like we were eating outside.

If Royal House was in DC, I'd be a regular. The menu has everything you could want, including super fresh seafood and interesting light options (not that I tried any of those). The sauces I tasted - on the crab claws and crawfish ravioli - were well seasoned with a kick that wasn't overwhelming. I ordered skewered oyster beignets, a cup of gumbo and the shrimp po'boy. I could have done without the stale bread and boring mayo on the po'boy, but the gumbo was spicy and flavorful, if a bit watery for my taste.
The only thing I ever wanted...

Day 3: The Ruby Slipper - Sunday's brunch was a family affair, with my bestie's husband and perfect son joining us, so the semi-private room at the Ruby Slipper was the perfect choice. Like so many New Orleans establishments, the Ruby Slipper has a Katrina history and comeback tale, inspiring its "no place like home" name and "purposefully re-purposed" look, as our dining space was unquestionably a former bank vault. It's location on Burgundy Street (that's bur-GUN-dy) in the Marigny was a welcome chance to escape the Quarter and see this colorful, hipster-boho hood.

The menu options had us all salivating over our double mimosas (yay!) so there was no surprise when we ended up with some really stellar picks on our table.  The shrimp and grits (which I somehow didn't order) was one of the best things I've ever tasted. They had a hint of sweetness and acidity that perfectly complimented the super creamy grits and the burst of flavor that came from biting into the shrimp. I also tasted the Croque Madame, which was as delicious as expected - decadent with just a bit of crunch on the corners. I ordered the fried green tomatoes for appetizer and then went with the Costa Rican breakfast, because sometimes this African girl just needs some fried plantains. The dish was yummy but light and gone in about 2 minutes flat. Luckily I also had an order of French toast to fill in the gaps. I'm not a huge sweet breakfast fan, but these were respectable - made with large slices of baguette and  lots of cinnamon.

Shrimp & Grits - da bomb!

Croque Madame

Fried Green Tomatoes

Costa Rican Breakfast - gone in 60 seconds!

French Toast

Day 4:Our last day sucked as we were all exhausted and heading back to reality. In a fit of confusion we chose the Gordon Beirsch next to our hotel for a quick meal before we headed to the airport. A fateful mistake. We spent two hours at the restaurant, during which we were made to feel like our presence was an irritation and that the pace and quality of service was totally normal. Uh, not!

So in lieu of sharing the deets of that painful meal, let's go back to day 3 (aka the day that never ended): Around 5pm we made our way to Lucy's Retired Surfer Bar & Restaurant down on Tchoupitoulas for their weekly "Sunday Funday" and crawfish boil. This place was absolutely perfect. Our party never quite had a table that was big enough so we all just stood around, sometimes in the street. At one point, a copped pulled up out front, but it was our friend who was there to see us not scold us. Mimosas were only $3. And to top it all off, this place had the biggest, meatiest, best seasoned crawfish I've ever tasted. I don't know if that's just par-for-the-course in the Gulf States, but I was shocked by the baby lobsters I was served - and for the price of a burger in DC. Yeah - it was amazing.

Thanks for reading about my gluttony in New Orleans! Please leave a comment and tell me what you love to eat in NOLA!

I'll leave you with a few of my other favorite moments from the weekend...

Beer, lights, music.
DOUBLE mimosas!

Cafe du Monde beignets... I couldn't resist.. 

The mermaid likes mimosas too!

What can beat a late night street hot dog?!!


  1. The perfect reading before going out for diner. Now I am sooooooo hungry!!!!

  2. Such a great article! I miss you ladies!! Sunday was truly the day that never ended! #nolalove


Get GBH sent to your Email!