WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Clancy’s is the Uptown answer to Galatoire’s, with a passionate local following and a menu of simple but very good New Orleans style cooking. Its kitchen leans largely on traditional Creole restaurant dishes of the kind that the newer, more vogue-conscious bistros hesitate to serve. The wait staff is chummy and efficient. And the wine cellar is surprisingly fine for a restaurant of this size. A table here has been a tough score, particularly since Katrina.
It’s fun to eat here. The kitchen mixes original dishes with traditional ones, and buys fine enough ingredients that even the least complicated dishes make you stop and appreciate their goodness. (Case in point: the soups of the day.) Clancy’s was the first local non-barbecue restaurant with an in-house capability for smoking food; those dishes add interest to the menu. It’s never been the best restaurant in town, not even for any single dish. But it’s reliably delicious, more so than most bistros.
Clancy’s was one of the original crop of bistros that redefined Creole cooking in the early 1980s. It opened on St. Patrick’s Day, 1983, after its owners–none of whom were restaurateurs previously–gentrified an old neighborhood bar without changing it too much. Current owner Brad Hollingsworth, who earlier in his career was a waiter at Galatoire’s and LeRuth’s, has a good sense of what local people like. And a passion for wine that fills a terrific cellar.
Clancy’s premises still has the feeling of the neighborhood cafe. There’s nothing fancy about it. The long downstairs dining room is convivial and bright, with large windows lining one wall. The bar is always packed with people waiting for tables, as well as singles dining. The little room just past the bar is a pleasant place for a dozen or so diners, if you can stand the traffic heading upstairs, where a maze of small dining rooms completes the ensemble.
The menu changes frequently, with new dishes appearing and old ones disappearing almost nightly. This selection is typical.
Fried eggplant with aioli
Marinated crab claws
»Seared sea scallops with foie gras and port reduction
»Fried oysters with Brie
»Sweetbreads chef’s way (changes daily)
»Rabbit sausage en croute
Boston salad with walnuts, hearts of palm, and blue cheese
»Smoked soft shell crab (or any other way)
Grilled fish with smoked salmon
Seared tuna au poivre
Angel hair pasta with crabmeat and grilled tomato
»Risotto with lobster and mushrooms
»Pan roasted chicken
»Veal with crabmeat and bearnaise
»Veal liver lyonnaise
»Veal chop with herb demi-glace
Grilled lamb chops
»Smoked pork loin
»Filet mignon with bearnaise or Stilton and red wine demi
»Lemon ice box pie
FOR BEST RESULTS
Reservations well in advance are essential. Going with a local regular is a good idea. The entree section always includes a pasta dish and a risotto that works well as an appetizer.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Easier parking, easier reservations, being able to push into the bar, and other matters brought on by Clancy’s popularity are the wishes of all its customers.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +3
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar +3
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +3
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Monday dinner
- Reservations recommended
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Clancy’s was one of the original contemporary Creole bistros. Twenty years later, it’s matured into an Uptown answer to Galatoire’s. Its culinary bona fides are solidly enough established that it can lean back on some old, funky, but delicious Creole dishes that most hip places are afraid to serve. Likewise, the service staff can joke around and take certain unusual informalities with the mostly-regular clientele.
This is my favorite kind of menu. While the standards are really quite traditional in style, the specials are as adventuresome as any you’ll find elsewhere. Clancy’s also has more than a few signatures. It was the first local restaurant to smoke foods in house, and that’s still a good part of the menu.
Clancy’s has a great bar. The wine list is startlingly large and interesting for such a small restaurant, and the collection of Cognacs, Armagnacs, single-malt Scotches, and small-batch Bourbons is tremendous. They can even make you a great cocktail, something that is becoming a lost art.