ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
A long-running controversy has long attended Audubon Park. I first heard of it when Audubon Zoo was being rebuilt in the early 1970s. At issue: how much of the park should be open grass fields dotted with big old live oak trees, and how much should be used for buildings, exhibits, rides, restaurants, music venues, and the like?
The question came up again when the park received another major renovation in 2001. Some people liked the new catering facilities for weddings and such. Others felt that too much of the park was being sacrificed for such services, and wanted to take long strolls through the park without being asked to get off the greens by duffers.
The 2001 Audubon Clubhouse was at first a place for breakfast, light lunches, weekend brunches, and private parties Saturday evening. I went to two of the latter and was surprised by the excellence of the food and service. I didn’t make much of it at the time, because the Clubhouse wasn’t serving a la carte dinner.
But a few months ago that changed. The Clubhouse management beefed up its lunch menu, and installed a full-bore bistro-style menu for dinner during the week. It wasn’t long before I began hearing good reports from radio listeners and readers about the Clubhouse, adding to the two good suppers I had there with friends.
The Clubhouse is the uptown-most restaurant of the 87 eateries on Magazine Street. The cooking is in a contemporary Creole vein, one reminiscent of the likes of Clancy’s, Patois and Bistro Daisy. I get a trendiness from some of the offerings (will we ever again become familiar with all the ingredients mentioned on bistro menus)? On the other hand, it takes some work to scare up royal red shrimp (an unusual species from deep Florida waters). The cold-smoked fried oysters are an original hit. One can’t fault the variety of the cooking, at a time when menus shrink in lockstep with prices.
This is a comfortable restaurant with a unique layout. Patios and porches surround most of the Clubhouse. In cooler months, these have outdoor heaters and an indoor fireplace that keep the temperature tolerable down to about 65 degrees. The vista that fills the windows shows the extraordinary beauty of the park itself and its many hundred-year-old trees. The service staff is sophisticated, and has much to talk about. Good wine list.
And, in case you’re wondering, the whole place is open to the public.
FULL ONLINE MENU
»Butter-poached royal red shrimp
Butternut squash & goat cheese ravioli, pine nuts, sage brown butter
»Fried cold-smoked oysters, shiitake mushrooms, pine nuts, fried sage, truffle oil
Gumbo du jour
Roasted fall squash salad, greens, cranberries, toasted pecans, with a sugarcane vinaigrette
»Duck confit & heirloom beans
Grilled yellowfin tuna, quinoa tabbouleh salad, marinated cucumbers
»Pan roasted chicken, sautéed beech mushrooms, mustard cream pan sauce
Braised rabbit cavatelli, bacon, lima beans, leeks, roasted piquillo peppers, white wine cream, romano cheese
»Seared duck breast, sauce a l’orange
Wild mushroom risotto
Boudin stuffed pork loin
»Pan roasted gulf fish, broccolini, saffron beurre blanc
»Organic Wagyu filet mignon, scallop potatoes, sauteed beech mushrooms, chive baton salad, sauce bordelaise
Peanut butter torte, bittersweet chocolate ganache
»Cast iron bread pudding, pecan crumble, honey-bourbon ice cream
Kahlua, Herradura tequila, whipped cream
FOR BEST RESULTS
Get a weather report before you go and, when you reserve a table, ask to be seated in a nice zone.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The dining room is not what can be called fancy, but if you came in right after playing eighteen holes under par, I guess it might be right.
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 +2
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good view
- Good for business meetings
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations accepted