Friday, November 10, 2017. La Crepe Nanou. I just made a note to myself suggests that I write a piece for this department. It would be a roll call of restaurants which, although they are widely agreed to be unique and enjoyable, don’t get talked about very much. You can say about all of them, “I don’t know why we don’t eat there more often than we do,” I hear people say. There must be a reason for this, but I’ll save that for later, after we savor the deliciousness of La Crepe Nanou.
La Crepe opened in the early 1980s. In both time and place, the restaurant was nicely meshed. The Baby Boom Orleanians were taking over the restaurant scene, changing the food into kind that the Boomers became accustomed to, but served in a more casual way.
A center of these developments was Uptown New Orleans. Despite the affluence of the people who lived around there, Uptown didn’t have many serious restaurants. The Boomers changed that. Areas that attracted a particularly large number of young diners were the vicinities of Prytania and Magazine Streets near Upperline. That’s where La Crepe Nanou set up shop. Good place for lunchers and very casual dinner patrons. At first, most of the business was in the namesake crepes–both the kinds you had with ham and cheese and the like and the dessert crepes.
The French touch in the menu caused something unexpected to occur. After a few years, La Crepe evolved into a full-service French bistro, with a large percentage of dishes that had no crepes at all. In place of that, we saw roasted chickens, steak with frites, mussels, whole fish, charcuterie plates, and more.
That is what La Crepe Nanou became, and still is today. It’s the most French of the city’s bistros, down to the loose service that real French cafes espouse.
I wound up at Nanou this evening, after not finding easy access to other dinner locales. The Upperline neighborhood has much easier parking than, say, Magazine Street.
My supper began in the classic Crepe Nanou style. The maitre d’ said he had no tables to offer me, but added that if I waited at the bar he’d find something for me. (I don’t think he knew my secret identity.)I stood with a glass of Rhone rose for about forty minutes. If the weather hadn’t been a little wet and cold, the people on the waiting list would have spilled out onto the sidewalk, where they would almost always run into someone they knew. It made the wait not just tolerable but enjoyable–something to look foward to as part of the dinner.
When I finally sat down in the unique middle dining room with its glowing, colorful walls and ceilings, I got to work on the first of three courses of appetizers. The first was a crock of onion soup. Perfect on this chilly night. Then came veal sweetbreads with the classic lemon and caper butter. I finished up with a big order of mussels. They are a candidate for best mussels in the town. Beyond that, mussels are entering the best season of the year. Dee-lish.
Dessert came enclosed in a crepe. I recalled a lineup of girl friends who, one at a time but on a number of occasions in the mid-1980s (how anyone can have two romances going on at the same time is a mystery to me), shared various sweet, flaming crepes. Tonight’s involved chocolates and hazelnuts. (But no girlfriend.)
Lovely evening, though, and everything I want La Crepe Nanou to be.
La Crepe Nanou. Uptown: 1410 Robert. 504-899-2670.