My main goal on a recent trip to New Orleans was to eat at as many different restaurants as possible.
I tagged along with my husband, who was presenting two papers at a communication conference. Neither of us had ever been to Louisiana, much less the Big Easy.
We got lots of suggestions from people about where to eat, and I checked out the restaurants on websites like Urbanspoon. That’s not foolproof because one person can say it was the worst experience of his life and the food was awful, and the next commenter will say it was next to heaven.
A lot of it depends on what you order, your expectations and your attitude, as well as your ability to bond with your waiter or waitress. We got to know Eddy, Josh, Joe, Nick and Kawanee.
There was one little glitch — I really don’t like Cajun food. I like shrimp and crab cakes, and I was raised on grits, but gumbo scares me. I’ve never eaten an oyster in my life. Crawfish, aka mudbugs? Ugh.
My husband, on the other hand, loves all that food. There really isn’t much he won’t eat. So, we tried to compromise on a menu that offered something for both of us.
Our first experience was a place I found and our bellboy suggested, too. It was near our hotel and sounded great.
It was pretty fancy and the most expensive place we ate. I had steak; my husband had grilled fish.
My steak was perfect, but the side items weren’t as good as one of my favorite restaurants in Conway, I remarked. The chocolate-cupcake-type dessert with ice cream and raspberries was pretty wonderful.
The tab was approximately the same as our last electric bill.
My online searching led me to a cafe at Lafayette Square, a restaurant with views of the park. The cafe had amazing artwork on the walls that our waitress said was by a New Orleans firefighter. It turned out to be one of the best meals I had — one of those you keep thinking about.
First, I had yogurt and fresh fruit, followed by one of the best ham sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. It was piled high with shaved, grilled ham, some sauteed onions and slices of apple. I ate half and took half with me.
Our waitress was laid-back and nice, and she went to ask another employee, a woman who she said ate out a lot, for more suggestions of restaurants.
One of Emeril Lagasse’s was suggested, which I’d already considered. My parents went to New Orleans before Katrina, and my dad is a faithful Emeril fan, so they had eaten at one of the famous chef’s restaurants and gave the food four thumbs up.
We decided to go at lunch at one of Emeril’s restaurants, so we made a reservation. I found that it’s best to either make a reservation or go at an off time to these popular restaurants. We got to ride the glass elevator to the second floor and were seated near a window looking across at one of the city’s time-worn buildings.
I finally got my shrimp and grits. My husband had the salmon. But the highlight was the banana pudding cake that my husband ordered. I let Joe, the waiter, persuade me to get the gooey chocolate dessert with coffee ice cream. It was delicious, but I coveted the cake and ate half of it.
Other food highlights of the trip were the dessert at a restaurant in the French Quarter, where my husband finally got to slurp down some oysters (I just. Don’t. Get it.), and I had shrimp creole, which was good, but not as good as my husband makes. The chocolate dessert didn’t disappoint, though.
From there, we had meals that included crab cheesecake, which was a lot better than it sounds, and ended our stay with beignets, which are pretty
much required if you go to New Orleans. You can’t go wrong with fried dough and powdered sugar, in my book.
I came back to Arkansas with a craving for a hamburger; but I did bring home a box of beignet mix, some alligator Slim Jims to slip into somebody’s Easter basket and a list of restaurants to try next time.
Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.