It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…bloo bloo bloo bloo bloo bloo bloo. Remembering anything after the first line of A Tale of Two Cities, the famous Dickens novel, reminds me of Dr. Evil trying to remember the lyrics to Joan Osborne’s “One of Us”.
My last few days in New Orleans still involved a few mandatory pit stops. From a celebrity chef perspective, I still hadn’t travelled down the road to Emeril’s and I still had a few DDD to conquer to meet my predefined quota of 6 for the trip. I also wanted to swing by the Sazarac bar in the Famous Roosevelt hotel for the namesake cocktail.
Honestly, I didn’t have Emeril’s on my mandatory list but I certainly didn’t turn down the chance when I got invited to lunch. I figured it would be best to sample a bit of classic Cajun cuisine with a bit of fancy in the form of soup and salad (more specifically gumbo and lobster salad). The dishes couldn’t have been different. The gumbo was rich and thick and full of regional flavours and flare. The salad was crisp and refreshing. I was pleasantly surprised by both and quickly forgot the annoying Bams! that made me angry for years before. I did, however, read that the Bams! were a way to keep his staff awake. While filming his show, we would do at least half a dozen back to back in only a few hours and needed to scare his staff into staying attentive. The service was above average..for New Orleans anyway.
After the conference sessions of the day were over, I became an aristocrat for 45 minutes and sipped a sazarac in the bar at the historic Roosevelt hotel. Once a cognac based drink (in fact it still can be), since the 1870’s it has been more commonly served with rye whisky due to the fact the phylloxera epidemic in Europe devastated the vineyards of France and made cognac an endangered species. Foodies probably also appreciate the fact that the sazarac starts with a herbsaint rinse. Herbsaint is a locally produced anise-flavoured liquor which replaced absinthe when it was banned in the early 19th century due to its potential hallucinogenic properties. The substitution may also be one of the first documented examples of locavorism. God bless America.
For dinner I hit the French quarter to try the old coffeepot restaurant which could be the oldest restaurants on the illustrious and lengthy diner drive-in and dive list. Established in the 1894, it didn’t take me long to realize that it likely still served some of the original patrons in 2016. The decor was a cross between a museum and nursing home cafeteria. Keeping in mind it was a Monday night, I didn’t think it would be packed but the huge space had only two occupied tables which soon became one when the one couple got tired of waiting for the rather apathetic waiter to make his rounds. One thing I did appreciate was the Triple D combo, which allowed me to sample everything Guy had on the show in one dish. Although I knew this was going to be my order, I asked the waiter what he recommended and he nonchalantly told me he hasn’t tried anything on the menu. The danger with a preset Triple D menu that it usually allows the restaurant to inflate the price for the convenience and this was no exception. Twenty-five bucks got me jambalaya, green bean casserole, and fleur de lis chicken (with crab meat stuffing and topped with gulf shrimp) slopped onto a plate and garnished with a bit of parsley and paprika. It wasn’t the worse thing I have ever eaten but it seemed to be reheated as opposed to made to order.
As far as Triple Ds go, this one is among my least favorites. I guess the Old Coffee pot restaurant is a bit synonymous with a good part of the French Quarter; tired and touristy. The decor is desperate to reminisce on the glory days of the big easy and the laissez-faire attitude of the staff tainted the experience further. Finish it off with average food and I’m afraid the pot’s coffee left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Food- 2.5/5 Guyz
Decor- 3/5 Guyz
Total: 7.5/15 Guyz
I could have called it a night at this point but I had an ashtray I had to get rid of. I’m a sucker for a good gimmick and the Rivershack Tavern in Jefferson was right up my alley. It’s tag line is “Home of the Tacky Ashtray”. Essentially, if you bring in an ugly ashtray you get a free drink. In the past, I figure I’ve had to work a lot harder for a complementary beverage so I dropped by my local Value Village on my way to Detroit to find the perfect mantelpiece for a bar 1645 km away. After perusing through the shelves of donated knick-knacks, I laid my eyes on the prize…a rather ugly homemade chunk of ceramic which faintly resembled an ashtray.
A colleague and myself grabbed an uber and took the rather long drive out of New Orleans to the suburb of Jefferson. We were quite entertained by the driver who told us story after story about her trails and tribulations about being a female driver in New Orleans while complaining about the slew of WWE fans who poured into the streets outside the Superdome after the end of Monday Night Raw.
It was quite late when we arrived so it was far from busy but we were greeted by a friendly bartender. We pulled up to the bar and sat on another of the bar’s gimmicks; the Bar Legs stools. These homemade works of art have been part of the Rivershack’s decor since 1992.
Luckily, the kitchen was still open and offered bar food and burgers. We ordered mushrooms and onion rings ($6.75 each) and a burger with jack cheese for $9.75 which were the perfect accompaniments to my free pint. The food was far from gourmet (I did find it odd that the cheese on the burger wasn’t melted) but the batter on the snacks was seasoned nicely and the price was right for what you got. While sitting on somebody else’s legs, I imagined if I lived in the area I would use my own legs to stroll down the road and catch a band at this rural eatery on a regular basis.
Although my visit was a little artificial given it was late on a Monday night, I did like the waiter and the gimmicks at the Rivershack. The food was decent as well. Plus, I can’t help feeling oddly proud about the fact that a little ceramic ashtray which was destined to collect dust on a Value Village knick-knack shelf in London is now permanently enshrined in the “Home of the Tacky Ashtray”. It almost brings a tear to my eye.
Total- 11.5/15 Guyz
My last day in New Orleans was a food network extravaganza highlighted by lunch at one of the pioneers of celebrity chefdom’s establishments and visits to two very polar Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It did remind me a bit of a Tale of Two Cities but instead of peasantry vs aristocracy ( I feel I experienced both in 12 hours), my tale is one which parallels the tired tourism of New Orleans with a shack on a rural road where one can come and hang with the locals, ashtray in hand, and get a free beer without having to expose his man boobs as a consequence.