WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
All you really need to know about Cafe Hope is that the food is astonishingly excellent, served at prices that seem laughably low. It’s right up to the times in style, using interesting recipes and fresh local foodstuffs. What you might want to know is that all of this is cooked by people whose lives recently passed through a tight spot, and who are working to get into the mainstream. The latter perspective is the main purpose of Cafe Hope. But the food stands on its own. It’s one of the best lunch places on the West Bank.
The menu is constantly in flux, and employs first-class, fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. The crabmeat comes from the same fisherman who supplies the five-star places. Vegetables come from nearby farms. What comes to the table is as striking in appearance and flavor as what you’d get in a gourmet bistro. Except that the highest entree is $13, with come under $10.
The expansive campus and striking Spanish Colonial buildings of Hope Haven has long been a Catholic outreach a wide range of needy people. Cafe Hope is a recent addition to that effort. At-risk young adults learn the skills of the restaurant and hospitality business by operating a serious, open-to-the-public restaurant. Administered by a team of culinary professionals, the students perform all the jobs in the restaurant. Not only are they paid for this, but after they graduate eighty percent of them wind up with long-term careers in local restaurants.
The main dining room is in one of the historic Hope Haven buildings, and like everything else there has the feeling of a retreat house: old, and a little dark. This is brightened by the feelings emanating from the customers, who are delighted to know about this semi-secret place.
Fried pickles, ranch dressing
Deviled eggs, Lafitte lump crabmeat
Gulf shrimp boulettes, tomato remoulade sauce
Duck gumbo, Cajun rice
Poached Gulf shrimp salad with mirlitons, purple cabbage, carrots, mixed greens, chili-lime vinaigrette, peanuts
Mixed greens, goat cheese, and candied pecan salad, applewood-smoked bacon, apple cider vinaigrette
Slow-cooked pork, stone-ground cheese grits, collard greens
Braised duck legs, dirty rice, yams from opelousas
Herbed half chicken, pan-roasted root vegetables
Pan sauteed black drum, satsuma glaze, collard greens, yams
Lump crab cake, crabmeat from Higgins Seafood of Lafitte, citrus salad, candied pecans, Steen’s vinaigrette
Grilled hanger steak, fresh cut sweet potato fries
Kleinpeter’s vanilla bean or cafe au lait ice cream
Steen’s molasses pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream
Fried Creole calas (rice cakes) with powdered sugar
FOR BEST RESULTS
Don’t come here for a quick lunch. The food deserves more of your attention, and the feeling is leisurely. Cafe Hope also caters on the premises, and sometimes closes down to serve large meetings.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
One wishes that it were open for dinner a few nights a week!
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 +2
- Value +3
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +3
- Good view
- Good for business meetings
- Open Monday lunch
- Easy, nearby parking