Nobody knows New Orleans restaurants like those who have lived and dined there all their life. Restaurants change and fads pass, however, the great “Nawlins” restaurants never fade away.
I decided to drive 320 miles to New Orleans for a weekend of delectable indulgences. I was craving Creole however I was looking for less fried, more healthy, less rich, more savory, less heavy more light. I wanted to avoid a night of reaching for the Tums.
First I did some restaurant research on the internet, and then I reached out to friends and family and finally asked the locals in NOLA (New Orleans Louisiana) what they prefer. Now, one must be careful how much weight you will give to a persons suggestions and recommendations. How do you really know what is a great restaurant if you never left your small town and you grew up thinking Olive Garden is real Italian food and your favorite sandwich shop is a Subway. I trusted the recommendations of the local folks who grew up cooking and dining on French Creole. My list of seven restaurants was impossible to conquer in just one weekend, so, I choose the following three establishments to indulge myself at.
First, The Court of the Two Sisters at 613 Royal Street. Like so many buildings of the French Quarter it history goes back to 1726. It boasts the largest courtyard inside the French Quarter, and it is spectacular in its beauty. I chose to dine outside in the shade by the grand fountain. Aleshia, my waitress, was polite with a big smile, knowledgeable of the details of the menu and willing to share. I started with their famous Turtle Soup au Sherry. This soup is dark, slightly sweet and salty, with a gingered broth and bits of turtle, rice and sausage followed by a slice of lemon and a squirt of Sherry. I could eat this every day. I chose Chicken Oscar as an entrée. It is prepared with a boneless chicken breast served atop mashed red potatoes and it is topped with lump crabmeat and a tasso hollandaise. The combination was spectacular to taste. My only complaint, I would have used less salt and more spice in the recipe. 4 star food with a 5 star atmosphere.
Next I chose The Kingfish restaurant in the French Quarter at 337 Charters. The locals raved about this one. With a beautiful industrial yet modern décor embellished with a Huey Long theme the interior feels and smells inviting. Chef Greg Sonnier apprenticed with K-Paul himself. I started with the Smoked Rabbit Gumbo. Another dark broth with chunks of smoked rabbit, some French Sorrel sausage, topped with dirty brown rice. The smokey flavor of the rabbit really comes through quite nice and combines in your mouth with complimenting flavors for an overall succulent bowl of goodness. For my entrée I went with the Pescado Borracho Tacos. These were served on a wooden platter with lime slices and a sour cream and jalapeño dip. These corn tortilla tacos were filled with Blackened catfish and Napa cabbage slaw. I was generous with the limes devoured these three fish tacos at a quick pace. Light not heavy, healthy, clean and fresh and thoroughly enjoyed. I followed this up with the finest Bread pudding I have ever tasted. It is listed on the menu as Caramel Apple Bread Pudding and it is to die for. 5 star food with 4 star atmosphere.
Finally, and my personal favorite, a place outside the French Quarter called Ancora at 4508 Freret Street. An Italian family runs the establishment and they have imported a two ton mosaic brick oven from Italy that they use to bake their brick oven pizzas in. The interior is modern clean and fresh with brick walls and a noticeably cool looking brick oven just off by the kitchen. I started with an appetizer of grilled zucchini in olive oil and garlic with a smooth shredded cheese on top, delicate and fresh with a tasty zing for your palette. It was a welcomed delight, simple and fresh with abundant flavors. Next I had an appetizer of cherry tomatoes sliced in olive oil with herbs with a flowered flash fried squash and cheese. This was another satisfyingly fresh and flavorful side dish that was a special of the day, not on the printed menu. And of course I finished it off with the traditional Margherita pizza pie. Brick oven made with circles of fresh mozzarella topped with fresh basil. It had a light, crisp crust flavored from the burnt oven that was perfect. Not too salty, which is typical with most pizzas, it was bursting with subtle spice and freshness that was really top notch even for this born in New York City pizza lover. 5 star Food with 4 star Atmosphere.
They only suggestions I have for tourists in New Orleans is that you pace yourself with eating, drinking and walking. You will walk miles around the French Quarter without knowing it, that is, until your legs and feet give out. What do you do? Wear your most comfortable sneakers and use graduated compression socks. They will help with cramping and tired feeling legs. You will swear by them once you try them, I do. I also use custom insoles in my shoes because I know they work wonders after a long day on my feet. Never buy over the counter insoles, buy the ones that are fabricated from impressions of each of your own feet.
By John R Allison
Manager at FootMindBody.com