WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
For people who like Spanish food–not just tapas and paella, but the whole wide range of the cuisine–Cafe Granada is already on the A list. Eating there begins with a highly appetizing tapas list, ranging from the familiar empanadas, croquettes, and seafood morsels to interesting exercises with meats, birds, and many vegetarian tapas. Then it moves on to a rustic, chunky paella and a lot of hearty grilled and braised meats. This is a great place for lamb lovers.
You can eat two different, equally rewarding ways. An all-tapas meal is tremendous fun and brings an astonishing variety of ingredients and flavors to the table. Although the portions are small, the tapas can usually be shared, adding even more contrast to the dinner. The other strategy is to get a soup or a salad, and dive right into the paella, lamb, duck, or steak. This is also good for sharing.
This place opened after the hurricane as Fiesta Bistro, serving many Spanish dishes but insuring its business with more familiar Mexican dishes. After about a year, the owners were convinced they could make it on the Spanish food alone. They changed the name and the menu, added live guitar music most nights, and found an appreciative clientele.
Cafe Granada is not much to look at inside or out. Many previous restaurants and stores wore the old building hard. Yet there’s something that seems right–and even charming–about it. Sometimes they have live music. It’s inevitable that at least a couple of the larger tables will be full with Spaniards–a good sign.
Manchego cheese, roasted peppers empanada
»Beef and roasted salsa empanada
Shrimp and crabmeat croquettes, romesco sauce
»Steamed mussels, spicy tomato sauce
Gulf shrimp sauteed in garlic olive oil
»Baby calamari, garlic, parsley, lemon juice
Zucchini pockets, Brie cheese, smoked salmon
Cherrystone clams, sun-dried tomatoes, almonds, spinach
»Sea scallops, cherry tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, rosemary
Chicken, garlic sauce, sherry vinegar
Grilled salmon, spinach, pine nuts, dill aioli
Grilled marinated shrimp, creamy manchego polenta
»Grilled whole fresh sardines, garlic, olive oil, lemon
»Grilled homemade chorizo, fries
»Duck confit, goat cheese, fig salad, truffled honey vinaigrette
Black Angus ribeye, fries, garlic aioli
»Grilled lamb chops, fries, mint aioli
Albondigas (meatballs), garlic, garbanzos, tomato sauce
»Serrano board (ham, salami, manchego cheese, olives, wild capers)
»Smoked salmon, grilled asparagus
Carpaccio of filet mignon, olive oil, caperberries, manchego
Ceviche of the day
Cheese and fruit board
Marinated olives, artichokes and wild capers
Fried goat cheese, mango ginger sauce
»Fabada (baby lima beans, artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, vegetable broth, sherry vinegar)
»Manchego cheese flambé with tequila
Grilled eggplant, mushroom duxelles, romesco sauce
Mini pizza, chorizo, wild mushrooms, manchego
Baked brie, fig marmalade
»Stuffed artichoke hearts, Cabrales cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, romesco
Sopa del dia
Pastry crusted bisque
Sopa d’amaresco (seafood, saffron broth)
Spring mix, palm hearts, grapefruit, almonds, avocado
Ensalada de salmon
»Ensalada con frutas secas
Sesame seed crusted shrimp salad
»Marinated wild mushroom salad
»Pollo tagine (braised chicken breast, green olives, potatoes, preserved lemon, saffron broth)
Fish of the day
»Lamb chops, roasted artichokes, potatoes, cherry tomatoes
»Moroccan lamb tagine (braised, plums, apricots, Moroccan spices, roasted almonds)
»Pan seared diver scallops, fettuccine, wild mushrooms, shrimp butter
FOR BEST RESULTS
If you order entrees, include one of the Moroccan-flavored dishes in the mix. The owners have roots in that country, and the Spanish-Moroccan connection is centuries old. As in Spain, this restaurant is busier and better later in the evening than earlier. Start with sangria and spend a lot of time reading the menu and asking questions.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The premises have been in need of major renovation since about five restaurants ago.
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 +1
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +1
- Live music some nights
- Sidewalk tables
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Our taste for Spanish cooking has sharpened in recent years, mostly thanks to the growing popularity of tapas. That’s true even though a lot of restaurants that adopt the all-appetizer menu concept don’t always embrace the Spanish origins of the idea. Nevertheless, the number of unambiguously Spanish restaurants is growing, one by one.
Why Spanish food still remains outside the New Orleans mainstream is puzzling, though. Creole cuisine is thoroughly streaked with Spanish flavors and techniques, left over from the long Spanish rule over New Orleans. The best Spanish places–and this is one of them–buy first-class ingredients. It could be that the confusion with Mexican food–with which Spanish cooking has little in common–may be the problem.