WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Courtyards for dining are not nearly as common in the French Quarter as most people believe. Café Amelie’s large, well-planted space is not only among the most attractive, but casual and affordable enough that it gets a lot of walk-in business from strollers on Royal Street. During spring and fall it is especially busy, and builds long waiting lists during the festival season in April and May.
The kitchen’s style is traditional Creole, but much of its food comes from local farmers’ markets. That lends a freshness and variety, to the point of revising the menu wholesale every day. This effect shows up particularly in the seafood dishes and in the unusually broad inventory of vegetables. This reliance on the market makes for broad swings in goodness from day to day, but it’s hard to get upset about that. This is a much better restaurant now than it was in its first few years.
Cafe Amelie had the mixed luck to open in 2005. The months before Katrina were successful enough for the restaurant to reopen not long after the storm and to receive a great welcome from locals. It occupies what is known to architecture buffs as the Princess of Monaco Courtyard–named for a New Orleans girl who grew up here, moved to Europe, and found her actual price in the 1800s. The carriage house portion of the restaurant dates to the prosperous 1830s. Chef Jerry Mixon–who worked with Paul Prudhomme and Kevin Vizard, among other chefs–has run the restaurant with manager Danny Akers since the beginning.
The courtyard is the focus, shady and breezy, with lush plantings all about. Broad umbrellas defeat falling leaves and even light drizzle. Summer days find the courtyard still full, with customers dressed very lightly. Heaters during the winter keep the space usable until it gets really cold. The carriagehouse dining rooms are decorated in an antique style that seems more Southern than Creole, but that works. The rooms are small, with low ceilings, which may strike some as claustrophobic, bit windows onto the courtyard help.
»Chicken and andouille gumbo
»Curried pumpkin soup
Amelie salad (greens, apples, grapes, pecans, danish blue cheese, lemon tarragon dressing)
»Roasted fresh beet salad, goat cheese, toasted walnuts, balsamic glaze
Heirloom tomato, burrata, arugula, basil, olive oil and balsamic salad
Marinated country olives
Shrimp & grits, corn and andouille macque choux
»Mozzarella fireballs, baby tomatoes, spiced oil
»Satsuma pepper glazed shrimp
Jumbo lump crab cake, baby greens and citrus drizzle
Fig jam, nut bread, local goat cheese
Brussels sprouts a la plancha, dates and bacon
Lamb t-bones, toasted couscous, green beans
Hollygrove Farm vegetables, baby spinach, cherry tomato, old mill grits
»Roast half organic chicken, citrus drizzle, butternut squash risotto, asparagus
»Slow cooked lamb shank, lamb jus, pappardelle
Wild-caught Atlantic salmon, asparagus, fingerling potatoes, horseradish cream
»Niman Ranch pork chop, black eyed pea cassoulet, wilted greens
Shrimp, corn & andouille macque choux, penne pasta
»Crispy skin duck breast, kumquat glaze, roasted sweet potato
Some Lunch-Brunch Entrees
»Cochon de lait sandwich on ciabatta
Fried catfish sandwich, baby greens, tomato, on ciabatta
Lamb shank, lamb jus, pappardelle pasta
Roast turkey breast, organic greens, cranberry mayonnaise
»Chocolate melting cake, vanilla ice cream
Mixed berry crumble, chicory ice cream
»Lemon meringue tart, whipped cream
Lemon blueberry doberge cake
Nine-layer cake, dessert pudding
»Key lime pie, fresh whipped cream
FOR BEST RESULTS
Reservations are a must to avoid waiting, but during the springtime festivals they go to more or less a first-com-first-served system.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The menu seems strangely light on seafood. I’m willing to believe that the catch just wasn’t great the days I’ve been there, but I’ve never found oysters here for some reason.
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 +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar +1
- Local Color +3
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good view
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open most of the afternoon, with a short break between three or four and dinner.
- Good for children
- Reservations recommended