Never Better Than Now
Dozen Best Pork Chops
As late as the 1980s, pork chops were considered unworthy to be served in white-tablecloth restaurants. They weren’t found even in many top-end steakhouses. But that changed by 1990, when the cutting-edge chefs adopted the meat with enthusiasm and established a new standard. Instead of the thin, dry, cooked-to-death chops of old, they treated us to double-thick chops, crusty at the edges, with a pink blush in the center to indicate juiciness. And they napped them with sauces as interesting as the ones accorded lamb and beef.
Now pork chops are a staple on most menus, using the produce of farms with much higher standards. A few have even gone over to heirloom strains of pork, with more fat and more assertive flavor born of more interesting pig food (acorns, among other things).
I love a good pork chop. Here are the twelve places where I’ve found the best of them lately. Barely missing the cut was Galatoire’s, but its photo (above) perhaps qualifies it for best-looking pork chop in town.
1. Emeril’s. Warehouse District: 800 Tchoupitoulas. 504-528-9393. The grilled double-cut pork chop here is one of the few dishes that have been on the menu since the beginning, when it set a new standard. Two sauces–a tamarind glaze and a green chili pole–criss-cross one another. Fabulous.
2. Patois. Uptown: 6078 Laurel. 504-895-9441. In the most unusual recipe on this list, we find the chop coated with ground-up dried porcini mushrooms, grilled, and napped with an Italian-style sage butter. The finishing touch is also Italian: “farroto”–risotto made not with rice but with the ancient barley-like wheat called farro. Great dish.
3. K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. French Quarter: 416 Chartres. 504-524-7394. It sounds Cajun, but the heritage of this dish is just as convincingly Italian. The stuffing is a mix of cheeses and fresh basil–a creamy contrast to the crusty exterior. The sauce is a classic marchand de vin with ham, red wine and mushrooms.
4. Broussard’s. French Quarter: 819 Conti. 504-581-3866. They’ve long made a great pork chop here, and lately the preparations are getting adventuresome. The current edition is coated with a dry rub of caraway and ancho peppers, flamed on the grill with calvados, then sent out with apples, smoked red pepper, molasses, and horseradish-mustard sauce.
5. Mr. B’s Bistro. French Quarter: 201 Royal. 504-523-2078. Mr. B’s boasts one of the few wood-burning grills in town, and uses it to give this nice white chop a tinge of smokiness. The ginger is not obvious, but the flavor of the chop has a certain something.
6. Rue 127. Mid-City: 127 N Carrollton Ave. 504-483-1571. The best dish in this delightful new bistro is a thickly but closely cut double cut pork chop, coated with a whiskey glaze and partnered with a red pepper pan sauce and some fried shallots. Simple and terrific.
7. Gallagher’s Grill. Covington: 509 S Tyler. 985-892-9992. I don’t remember who first had the idea to glaze a pork chop with Steen’s cane syrup, but Pat Gallagher has been doing it a long time, to fine result.
8. El Gato Negro. French Quarter: 81 French Market Place. 504-525-9752. The best dish in this fine Mexican restaurant is chuletas (pork chops) al cazador (garlic, mushroom and chorizo sauce). Appetizing to look at, exotically delicious. The marinade is the magic.
9. Muriel’s. French Quarter: 801 Chartres. 504-568-1885. A textbook Louisiana pork chop, the sauce made with apples and cane sugar, with pecan sweet potatoes.
10. Meauxbar. French Quarter: 942 N Rampart. 504-569-9979. Pork chops and black pepper are a natural combination, and here that is, French style, the double chop set on a sauce au poivre, with cracked peppercorns pressed into the meat.
11. Cafe Minh. Mid-City: 4139 Canal. 504-482-6266. It’s a Vietnamese restaurant with an edge. So here we get the classic Vietnamese grilled chop on top of rice, but the chop is thick and juicy, there’s a mix of cabbages underneath, and the rice is pristine jasmine rice. This smells fantastic.
12. Louisiana Bistro. French Quarter: 337 Dauphine. 504-525-3335. Grilled thick chop on a hash of bacon and red potatoes. The more of this list I write, the more vivid the memories, and the more natural the dishes.