Dozen Best Restaurants Open On Mardi Gras.
The worst day of the year to dine out in New Orleans, Mardi Gras presents many challenges to the would-be diner. In a league with Christmas and Thanksgiving in the universality of its celebration in southern Louisiana, Mardi Gras is a day for overindulging. It’s also a day when most people whip up their own food or eat street food. The fine points of the local cuisine are not much in evidence on Fat Tuesday.
Historically, not many restaurants open on Mardi Gras. That has been changing in recent years, particularly in the evening. With the demise of the Comus parade, once the last truck float following Rex has passed, the crowds become diluted everywhere except on Bourbon Street (which is shoulder-to-shoulder all day and into the night). People started looking for restaurants. And some restaurants were happy to serve.
That did not, however, change the attitude of the chefs and waiters. Nobody celebrates more heartily than restaurant workers, who are generally on low power by the time the parades have ended. So, even if you find a restaurant that seems to be ready to roll, it is unlikely to provide a peak dining experience.
A few generalities: The most likely place to look for an open restaurant is in the major hotels. They have to be open all the time. Chef John Besh, who is involved in quite a few hotel restaurants, will have almost all of his places working all day. On the other hand, any restaurant that has become a fast-food window is to be avoided.
1. Tujague’s. French Quarter: 823 Decatur. 504-525-8676. Tujague’s ancient dining rooms has always been open on Mardi Gras, and even with its new menu it is back again. It’s a full house most of the day. Make a reservation.
2. Lüke. CBD: 333 St Charles Ave. 504-378-2840. John Besh’s best casual restaurant is directly on the main parade route, and has a near-perfect menu for casual dining. Reserve.
3. Criollo. French Quarter: 214 Royal. 504-523-3341. The restaurant of the Monteleone Hotel is relatively calm all day, and close to all the action. It’s good largely because nobody thinks about going there.
4`. Borgne. CBD: 601 Loyola Ave (Hyatt Regency Hotel). 504-613-3860. Chef John Besh’s great seafood house is in the Hyatt House hotel, near the Superdome. It will not be thought about by many people, and will be delicious.
5. Trenasse. CBD: 444 St Charles Ave. 504-680-7000. The new seafood house in the Hotel Inter-Continental is right on the St. Charles Avenue parade route. It’s hidden on the first floor and comfortable.
6. Crescent City Steak House. Mid-City: 1001 N Broad. 504-821-3271. The old Broad Street sizzling-steak specialist is the home of the Eat Club’s annual farewell to beef dinner, an idea that attracts the biggest crowds in the since-1934 history of the place. I’ll be there, as I have been for some 30 years.
7. Compere Lapin. CBD: 535 Tchoupitoulas. 504-599-2119. It’s the first Carnival for this new, well-hidden bistro in the Old 77 Hotel. The food is southern, Creole, Cajun, and Caribbean, and surprisingly unpredictable.
8. Domenica. CBD: 123 Baronne (Roosevelt Hotel). 504-648-6020. Chef John Besh again, with his Italian menu and wood-fired, stone-oven pizzas. Just off Canal Street, a few feet from the place where Rex toasts his Queen.
9. Kingfish. French Quarter: 337 Chartres St. 504-598-5005. This Cajun hangout spills out onto the corner of Chartres and Conti, with a big, casual menu all day long. I can’t imagine there will be a second when it won’t be full.
10. Flaming Torch. Uptown 3: Napoleon To Audubon: 737 Octavia. 504-895-0900. Far off the parade routes, the Flaming Torch will be a calm, quiet place to escape the raucousness of the parades in the evening. French bistro cookery.
11. Cafe Adelaide. CBD: 300 Poydras St. 504-595-3305. The casual bistro from the people who own Commander’s Palace is in the Loew’s Hotel, and is so committed to breakfast (excellent) lunch, and dinner.
12. Chophouse. CBD: 322 Magazine St. 504-522-7902. A few blocks away from the main parading action, this is an alternative to the local steakhouses for having your final slab o’ beef before Lent begins the day after Mardi Gras. USDA Prime all the way, seared black-and blue unless you request otherwise. Live music. Opens mid-afternoon and good through the evening.
February 9, 2016
Days Until. . .
It’s Mardi Gras, a day with several eating traditions. The first is saying good-bye to meat and alcohol for the Lenten season that begins tomorrow. You do this by generally overindulging today.
The word “carnival” means “farewell to meat.” My personal observance of this tradition involves eating a steak. And not just any steak, but a seriously large one of fine quality. I get it, in the company of anyone who cares to join me, at the Crescent City Steak House. I’ll get there around two-thirty to begin the indulgence.
The strangest aspect of Mardi Gras is that, despite this emphasis on indulgence of the senses, it’s the worst day of the year to eat a gourmet repast. If you can avoid going to a restaurant, it’s a very good idea to do so.
Many other parts of the world have eating traditions on this day. The entire French-speaking world does, of course–that’s how it got to New Orleans. This is the day for pancakes in places that refer to this day as Shrove Tuesday–notably Liberal, Kansas.
In Hawaii, the Portuguese presence in its past left behind a tradition of making malasada, a kind of doughnut. The Amish people in Pennsylvania Dutch country make fastnacht, a potato cake served with dark syrup today. In Iceland, they call this Sprengidagur, which translates as “Bursting Day.” They they celebrate by eating peas and salted, cured meats.
Deft Dining Rule #158: If you can’t let yourself have a Lucky Dog on Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras, you have no soul. If you let yourself eat a Lucky Dog any other time, you have no brain.
Annals Of Chocolate
Today in 1894 the Hershey Chocolate Company was founded. Milton Hershey, who had been in the candy business for some time, started the company after a few less successful ventures. Chocolate makers in Europe are puzzled by the American taste for Hershey’s chocolate, which they find has a slight tang from sour milk. But we certainly love it. The history of Hershey (and his fierce competitor Forrest Mars) is the subject of the excellent book Emperors of Chocolate, by Joel Glenn Brenner.
Today is National Lox and Bagel Day, says the web rumor. The combination of silky smoked salmon with cream cheese on a well-made bagel is easy to get hooked on. It’s a filling repast. I can no longer eat even a whole bagel for breakfast and then have lunch–let alone one with salmon and cream cheese. But that doesn’t make it less of a pleasure.
“Lox” comes from the old German word for salmon. Similar words are found in all other Northern European languages. Strictly speaking, lox is not smoked but cured salmon. That’s certainly true of “belly lox.” However, that has given way in delis to Nova lox, for Nova Scotia, which once dominated the smoked salmon supply in Northeast America. Nova lox usually is less salty than belly lox, from being cured a shorter time in a milder brine solution.
shu-mai, [shoo-my], Chinese, n.–A bite-size dumpling made by wrapping a thin skin of pasta dough around a stuffing of pork with mushrooms, and perhaps other finely chopped ingredients. Shu-mai are sometimes stuffed with shrimp. They’re steamed and served hot as an appetizer. The two most common dipping sauces are a combination of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. But yellow mustard–not the hot Chinese kind, but more like the mustard you’d put on a hot dog–is also commonly served. In America shu-mai is more often found in Japanese restaurants than Chinese, but it definitely comes from China. The name means “cooked for sale.” So, it’s street food.
Cabbage Creek is in the northern part of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The peninsula looks like a mitten, and Cabbage Creek is about where the fingernail of the index finger would be. It’s about twenty miles as the crow flies from Lake Huron. The creek flows from wooded, 900-foot hills into a marshy area adjoining Hubbard Lake. All of this terrain was shaped by glaciers tens of thousands of years ago. Although this is mostly wilderness, you’re only five miles from the nearest restaurant: Olivia’s Bearclaw Grille, in Barton City.
Deft Dining Rule #691:
Hot lox–as in cut up and cooked into scrambled eggs, or with pasta–sounds better than it actually is. Heating salty foods makes them seem even saltier, and perhaps unpleasantly so.
Food In The Movies
It’s the birthday of Brazilian movie musical star Carmen Miranda, who is almost always depicted as wearing a hat made of bananas, mangoes, and other fresh tropical fruit. She was a hat designer before she became a star, and she made hats–always tall and showy–out of non-food items, too.
The Old Kitchen Sage Sez:
If you wear clothing decorated with food designs, you will never splash sauce on it. (You may, however, stain it with wine or coffee (unless the article has a wine or coffee design). This does not apply to aprons, unfortunately. [I think the Old Kitchen Sage may still be hung over from the parades over the weekend.–Tom.]
Feminism In The Dining Room
Today in 1987, the Exchange Luncheon Club–the eatery for traders at the New York Stock Exchange–added a ladies’ rest room to its facilities. The funny thing is that the NYSE began allowing women on the floor about twenty years earlier. In the interim, it’s was sort of like it was in the old days at Galatoire’s: the women had to climb a flight of stairs if they went to the loo. Lately, there’s more in common between male and female than ever, as everyone is screaming.
Chronicles Of Food Safety
The first fire extinguisher was patented today in 1863. Called the fire grenade, and it was very simple: you threw a bottle made of very thin glass and filled with salt water, into the fire, and out it went. You hoped. It made kitchens safer for frying soufflee potatoes. When’s the last time you checked the fire extinguisher in your kitchen? At the risk of sounding like the Reader’s Digest, you ought to check it once a month.
Dean Rusk, Secretary of State in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, was born today in 1909. (A rusk is that hard, dry piece of bread you find under eggs Benedict, among other places). . . Former Congressman Gary Franks was born today in 1953. . . Actor Joe Pesci was born today in 1943. (“Pesci” means “fish” in Italian.) . . . Chicago journalist, playwright, and humorist George Ade was born today in 1866.
Words To Eat By
“Protect your bagels, put lox on them.”–Sign at a bagel shop in New Haven, CT.
“A bagel creation that would have my parents turning over in their graves is the oat-bran bagel with blueberries and strawberries. It’s a bagel nightmare, an ill-conceived bagel form if there ever was one.”–Ed Levine, New York food writer and bagel commentator.
Words To Drink By
“When I drink, I think; and when I think, I drink.”–François Rabelais, French Renaissance writer and philosopher.
The Forgotten Man In The New Vegan Consciousness.
Click here for the cartoon.