ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Everything about Cowbell cries out for a battered, hand-painted wooden sign in front that says, “Last Chance For New Orleans Food!” Cross that railroad track, and you have indeed left the city, in a neighborhood that does indeed resemble the End Of The World.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Cowbell seems to be as much a work of performance art as it is a restaurant. The restaurant occupies a former Gulf Coast gas station so old that not just the service but the brand are extinct. An incomprehensible collection of signs and sculture stand here and there. The menu is eclectic, with many dishes that don’t seem to belong in a place whose main specialty is hamburgers.
Although the menu has diversified a great deal since Cowbell opened, its specialty has always been a great house-made hamburger made from the most credible ingredients. (Lots of organic and local food here.) Fresh-cut fries to match. The other food is of more interest. It is a bit of a puzzle. You can’t trust your instincts completely. Some very unlikely-sounding food winds up being the best dish in the house. But then, you’re on the border here.
On Cowbell’s website, owner- chef Brack May calls himself a philosopher, social entrepreneur, and teacher in addition to his cooking gig. That’s credible–he was the chef in charge of Cafe Liberty for a time. We first got to know him during his stint as chef of Cobalt–the hip bistro he built with Susan Spicer in the space where Luke is now. (He says that “Cowbell” isn’t a reference to “Cobalt.”) Brack opened Cowbell in 2010 in the former Station 8801, which established a legacy of hip hamburgers at this location. Brack extended that.
The westernmost restaurant in Orleans Parish, Cowbell is next to the railroad tracks at the mutual end of Oak and Eagle Streets. It blends in perfectly with the neighborhood, with its kitchen and tables still adapting to the layout of the gas station. The ones inside are more comfortable, but the battered picnic tables outside are more popular.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Soup of the day
Figgy toast (braised andouille, figs, blue cheese croutons)
Gulf shrimp quesadilla, black beans, cheddar, chayote slaw
Grilled chicken arugula salad, pecans, apples, goat cheese, sherry-maple vinaigrette
Adult-style grilled cheese, with soup or salad
Roasted brussel sprouts, marcona almonds, grapes, bacon
Grilled Gulf fish taco, flur or corn tortillas, black beans, arroz verde, cilantro-lime crema
Carne asada taco (grilled skirt steak, jalapeno salsa verde, rice, black beans)
Organic lime grilled chicken, el chingon beans, avocado salsa
Achiote-rubbed pork tacos al pastor, queso fresco, arroz verde, black beans, charred pineapple salsa
Fresh grilled fish of the day, crab-boil potatoes, roasted pecans salad, Meyer lemon butter
House-smoked pork tenderloin, herbed grits, shrimp gravy
Hamburgers (many options)
Mac & cheese (many variations, some far out)
Apple pie, creme anglaise, caramel
White chocolate mousse & fresh berry sauce
FOR BEST RESULTS
Make sure you know about the specials before thinking about your order. The chef is talented and comes up with some great new ideas.Have dessert somewhere else.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The place is such a wreck (an intentional design statement) that it places in the mind the idea that you could find a cleaner and more comfortable place to eat with food as good. This is largely an illusion, but something they should consider.
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
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +3
- Local Color +2
- Sidewalk tables
- Good view
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations