I have heard mixed things about New Orleans. Some have told me they love the party atmosphere while others say the city was a mess before Katrina and is even worse after. I landed with “New Orleans is Sinking” playing over and over in my head. The flight from Detroit was decent and was made more exciting by a half dozen drunkish but well-behaved guys who were on the way to a bachelor party.
My goals for the day were simple. First, I wanted to get accustomed to the weather which characterized by constant humidity, warm nights and random thunderstorms. Second, I wanted to explore the city a little and hit up a few DDDs along the way. Third, I was looking forward to ending by going to the James Beard nominated Mo-Pho for dinner.
Once I hit the hotel, I began my trek toward the lowering garden district which is characterized by small shops and some of the hottest restaurants in NOLA. Among these eateries lie 4 triple Ds. My first stop was Joey K’s, an American restaurant with a cajun/creole flare and daily specials ranging from oven roasted turkey to ham hocks with lima beans. I was surprised how busy it was given the time of day. I sat at the bar and was greeted by a friendly waitress who promptly served me a frozen goblet of Abita. Afterwards, I chatted with the waiter and, given I had just landed, decided to go authentic with the eggplant napoleon appetizer ( I was drawn to the crawfish cream sauce) and rice and beans with smoked sausage. He chuckled a bit and suggested I stick with a side of the rice and beans since the appetizer was “big”. It was a good call. The eggplant was huge and ridiculously delicious. It was served piping hot and the sauce was the star. The rice and beans were bona fide belly friendly and I was quite happy I didn’t opt for the full portion.
In the end, Joey K’s has a fun vibe, good service and great food whether you are looking for comfort food or authentic southern cooking.
Service- 4.5 Guyz
Vibe- 4 Guys
My second stop was Mahony’s Po’boy which was located just a little down the road in the Garden district. It wasn’t nearly as busy as Joey K’s but it was a bit later. Once again, I was greeted by a friendly waitress who recommended a Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager which was the perfect pairing for the heat and humidity. The Po’Boy is a New Orleans staple which legend says was named after the fact that striking workers were named poor boys and that restaurateurs Benny and Clovis (great names) Martin coined the term for that reason. The peacemaker is a particular po’boy which at one time contained shrimp and oysters but has evolved (at least in the case of Mahony’s) as a sandwich with one or the other. After a chat with the waitress, I opted for the fried oyster version. I realized I’m not really a fan. I love raw oysters and frying them is a disservice, especially when served between a toasted baguette, especially when the condiments are skimpy and the cheese isn’t melted.
Food- 3.5 Guyz
Service- 4 Guyz
Vibe- 3 Guyz
Total- 10.5 Guyz
My third stop in the Garden district was the Creole creamery,a rather unorthodox DDD in the fact that all they serve is ice cream. From reading the reviews, I was told to expect bold and unique flavours. Deep down I was hoping for something really cool like rice and beans but that said, there was still some interesting choices. Even better was the fact they offered a 4 scoop sampler for $4.50 which allowed for a little diversity. I decided on cream cheese, hibiscus cranberry, thai basil coconut and magnolia flower. When I have ice cream I hope the custard base balanced enough to give great mouth feel but not so overwhelming that it masks the unique flavour of each offering. CC passed the test. Each scoop was distinct and recognizable. The magnolia flower was the best of the bunch; it was subtle but very present. The environment was very American ice cream parlor but the service was quite laissez-fare.
Food- 4/5 Guyz
Service- 3/5 Guyz
Vibe- 3.5/5 Guyz
Total- 10.5/15 Guyz
I was hoping that a 15 km walk through the garden of eatin’ would burn some of the food I ate and get me ready for my nightcap at MoPho. Lead by James Beard and food and wine “best new chef” Michael Gulotta, MoPho is best described as Southeast Asia by way of New Orleans. I was excited to see how exactly the two would be fused.
The location is a bit of a hike out of our New Orleans core and the space itself is very stripmally. That said, the interior is a trendy interpretation of a Thai joint and they have a great and nicely cheesy patio out back which we braved along with the normal early summer humidity of Louisiana.
For the most part, the menu was straight forward Thai and Vietnamese with a little Southeast America in the form of Cedar Key clams and P and J oysters. Other hints of New Orleans included Creole cream cheese (similar to the aforementioned ice cream) roti and annatto (a condiment commonly used in Latin food sometimes in the Philippines) beignets. They also offer a nice array of local pints which strengthened the local flare just a bit.
We ordered an array of dishes including the Som Tan salad, mimita brisket, clams, paella, the pork belly bowl, wings, brussel sprouts and the lamb curry. In general, the flavours were very South Asian and one would need to use their imagination a little to fully appreciate any huge gulf coast influence. That said, the food had good, aggressive flavours and a nice amount of spice. If you are a fan of a delicate pho, “the standard” was a bit heavy compared to most I have had. The roti and the beignets were delicious. The brussel were the comfort foodie food and the wings were a decent representation of this seemingly southeast staple.
In the end, I was hoping for more of a Southeast meets Southeast experience but that said, it was still a tasty experience in Thai/Vietnamese fare. In general, Day 1 was a good day. Traditional food started the day and some Asian fusion ended it. It was clear I needed a few more days of stuffing my face before I could reach a verdict on the state of the dining scene in a city that the Tragically Hip have assured me has been sinking for almost 30 years.