WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The very best of the Creole bistros, Brigtsen’s gets that way by putting all its efforts into cooking delicious food. No menu posturing; no quirky ingredients or oddball cooking techniques; no heavy emphasis on decor, ceremony, or wine. It’s all about cooking up the best local flavors possible, a project at which Frank Brigtsen and his tight little kitchen consistently succeed.
Every ingredient is fresh, local, and the best available, with heavy use of organic foods from small local farmers. Frank Brigtsen is an avid fisherman, and buys and cooks fish with great skill. The food comes hot out of the kitchen as soon as it’s cooked. (This sometimes creates slight non-synchronous arrival of food at the table, but everybody expects this). The menu changes every day, keeping the wide repertoire interesting without forcing the restaurant to cook an unmanageable menu. This is the best place in town to eat rabbit.
Chef-owner Frank Brigtsen was hired into the kitchen at Commander’s Palace by Chef Paul Prudhomme, who made him a willing protege. Frank moved to K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen shortly after Chef Paul opened it in 1979, and stayed there for six years. There he met his wife Marna, with whom he shares the exact birthdate. They opened Brigtsen’s in 1986, taking over the former Dante By The River restaurant. In 2012, Frank and Marna opened Charlie’s Seafood in Harahan. A difference with the landlord brought Charlie’s to an end spring 2013, to the great chagrin of its customers..
It’s a century-old cottage, lightly remodeled to provide three small dining rooms. The conviviality among customers keeps the walls from closing in. The most desirable tables (and the hardest to get) are the two in the front windows. Unless you have a problem with small dining rooms, you’ll find Brigtsen’s hospitable and easy to love. Marna Brigtsen and her dining room staff treat customers like guests in their home, with a casual friendliness and good-humored joshing.
The menu changes every day, but certain items recur often. Here are some of those. The entire menu is about twice as long as this:
»»Shrimp remoulade with guacamole.
»Grilled rabbit tenderloin with grits.
Gratin of oysters and artichokes.
Mustard and cornmeal-crusted fried catfish.
Pan-roasted quail with apple cider pan gravy.
»»Any oyster soup.
»Butternut squash and shrimp bisque.
Broiled Gulf fish with crabmeat parmesan crust.
»»Sesame-crusted panneed rabbit.
Tournedos of beef with tasso marchand de vin sauce.
»»”Unfried Seafood platter” (an assortment of five or six small seafood dishes).
»Banana bread pudding.
Ice creams and sorbets.
Double chocolate cake.
Strawberries with tres leches cake.
FOR BEST RESULTS
A reservation is absolutely essential. Allow the casual-service mindset here to infect your own. Accept the advice of the servers, even if it concerns a dish you’ve never enjoyed elsewhere. Summer is the best time to come here, because Frank usually dreams up a summer special menu, and reservations are easier to come by.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
I find the small dining rooms a little claustrophobic, but that’s just me. It would be a mistake to drastically reconfigure the place.
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 +3
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +3
- Good view
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations recommended