Porter & Luke’s
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
If you heard the buzz emanating from early customers of Porter & Luke, you may have taken the impression that it’s a more complex restaurant than it is. Which is a classic New Orleans neighborhood cafe, the kind with everything on the menu. Poor boys, red beans, seafood platters, grilled fish, boiled crawfish, fried chicken, grilled oysters, and a lot of Italian dishes–it’s all here, in big portions at low prices. Think Mandina’s.
The key to P&L is its chef, Vincent Manguno. He has already made a big splash with his fried chicken, a strong contender for best in town. But his good work extends through almost all of the menu, particularly seafood, appetizers, and pasta dishes. The ingredients are fine and the recipes a thrill for those who love neighborhood New Orleans cafe cooking.
After over a decade spent cooking with the legendary chef Goffredo Fraccaro at the extinct La Riviera, Vincent Manguno was the explanation for the goodness of several other Jefferson Parish restaurants where he worked–notably the Creole Grille and Nuccio’s. Porter & Luke’s used to be Zeke’s, a seafood place that was great until Zeke Unangst passed away, then dwindled and closed in 2012. Porter and Luke are the names of one of the two owners’ young sons. The operating partner is Ricky Christina, who comes from the bar business.
The restaurant is in the center of an old, stark strip mall that happens to be surrounded by one of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods. The three long rooms are, from right to left: the always-busy bar, the larger of the two dining rooms, and the smaller one. The tables are covered with tablecloths with white paper on top. The service has been good here since the beginning; there’s nothing they won’t get for you.
»Hot blue-crab dip, parmesan cream
Duck & wild mushroom quesadillas
»Tuna stack (fresh raw tuna, avocados, cucumber, wasabi vinaigrette
»»Parmesan crusted fried eggplant
Fried green tomatoes, jumbo shrimp, ravigote sauce
Fried catfish strips
»Gumbo du jour
Soup du jour
»Boiled seafood in season: crawfish, crabs, shrimp
Creola salad (greens, crabmeat, shrimp, andouille, red onions, chopped egg, tomato
»Shrimp & avocado salad
»Wedge of lettuce, bacon, tomato, blue cheese
House salad (greens, bacon, carrots, chopped egg, tomatoes)
»»Fried chicken (half)
»Grilled Gulf fish of the day
»Pecan crusted catfish
»Fried catfish, shrimp, or oyster platter, fries
»Eggplant Vincent (panneed eggplant boat, shrimp & crawfish, butter cream sauce, angel hair pasta)
»Bourbon glazed pork chop
»Panneed veal cutlet, pasta
Grilled chicken breast
»Chicken, veal or eggplant parmesan, pasta
Chicken parmesan with pasta
Roast beef poor boy, horseradish mayo
Ferdi (Chisesi ham, roast beef, Swiss, Creole mayo
Root beer-glazed ham shank, ciabatta bread, Creole mayo
Chicken pesto panini, mixed greens, tomatoes, pesto aioli
Barbecue shrimp poor boy
Corned beef, Creole mustard, ciabatta
Grilled portobello panini, caramelized red onions, pesto aioli
»Fried catfish, shrimp, or oyster poor boy
Chicken, veal, or eggplant parmesan poor boy
»Walnut raisin bread pudding
Abita root-beer float
FOR BEST RESULTS
The initial flush of business has toned down a bit, but it’s still a good idea to get a reservation on weekends. Order light: they really food you here.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Beverages are served in plastic cups that they really ought to swap out for glassware. Ditto for the cheap silverware and paper napkins. This food deserves better.
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
- Consistency +2
- Value +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness -1
- Local Color
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Operating a restaurant along Metairie Road is a challenge. Dozens have opened over the decades. Only five of the twenty-six currently open have been there over ten years–and that’s an all-time high. Nearly every style has been tried, from gourmet bistros to seafood to French to Indian.
This is well enough known to potential operators that new restaurant openings are rare along the ancient highway (it is literally that; Metairie Road follows an above-sea-level bayou ridge). This year’s entry is trying something old, but new.