Dozen Best Restaurants For Uncommon Meats
A restaurateur who is no longer in the business once told me that there wasn’t much to making a menu. “All you have to work with is regular beef, pork, veal, lamb, chicken, duck, shellfish and fish,” he said. “Nobody wants anything else!”
Restaurateurs who have made names for themselves among avid diners have shown this not to be true, by adding to their menus species of protein not included on the list above. And by using offbeat cuts of familiar animals.
That said, the first guy I mentioned is closer to correct. Our restaurants really don’t have very many dishes centered on tripe, frog, goat, tongue, venison, or cheeks. And you will look in vain for kidneys, squab, brains, or even oxtails.
On the third hand (give me a hand here, would you?), we have seen rabbit, sweetbreads, hanger steak, pork belly, beef tendon (in the Vietnamese places, mostly) and a few other meats become commonplace. They were unheard of in New Orleans restaurants thirty years ago. Now a dozen-best list could be compiled about any of them. Beyond that, a lot of restaurants have begun using variety meats as specials. So there’s hope for the future.
Here is a list of the dozen restaurants that have distinguished themselves by exploring the world of meats beyond the basics.
1. La Boca. Warehouse District: 857 Fulton. 504-525-8205. Chef Adolfo Garcia shows up twice on this list, starting with his Argentine-style steakhouse in the Warehouse District. They you find not only the standard cuts, but many unusual ones: hanger, flatiron, skirt, flank, and chuck filet steaks, among others. And here is an interesting approch to veal sweetbreads: La Boca grills them.
2. La Provence. Lacombe: 25020 US 190. 985-626-7662. La Provence raises its own Mangalitsa pigs in back of the restaurant. Mangalitsas are the current darlings of chefs in the burgeoning world of pig cookery. Chef Erik Loos makes much of them here (three ways on one plate in the hoto above!), and also sends some off to his associated John Besh restaurants (notably August and Luke).
3. Lilette. Uptown: 3637 Magazine. 504-895-1636. Pork cheeks have become more widely available around town, but braised veal cheeks remain elusive. Here they are, as tender as any meat you’ve ever eaten, and twice as flavorful. Also here: boudin noir, the French blood sausage.
4. Clancy’s. Uptown: 6100 Annunciation. 504-895-1111. Clancy’s is famous among lovers of veal liver for its version of that, made with very young, tender veal liver cooked until a line of pink is at the center of each slice. Also here are excellent sweetbreads, served as an appetizer (the best place for it) from a wide repertoire of recipes.
5. Patois. Uptown: 6078 Laurel. 504-895-9441. I suspect that one of the explanations for Patois’s popularity has been the boldness of its menu. It’s full of French-scented, old-style dishes, many of which use meats of unusual provenance. Sweetbreads are a logical item to be here, but we also get gnocchi with guanciale (cured hog’s jowls), roasted pheasant, and the occasional venison.
6. Domenica. CBD: 123 Baronne (Roosevelt Hotel). 504-648-6020. Capretto is what the Italians call baby goat–a light-colored meat they very much enjoy eating, particularly in the northern provinces. Domenica roasts it in a wood-burning oven, and it’s wonderful regardless of the sauce (currently tomato).
7. Le Meritage. French Quarter: 1001 Toulouse. 504-522-8800. Venison slips off menus in the warm months, but Le Meritage’s often-changing menu has featured it on most of my visits there. Once they did it with a savory chocolate sauce I thought was brilliant.
8. A Mano. Warehouse District: 870 Tchoupitoulas. 504-208-9280. Adolfo Garcia’s Sicilian restaurant in the Warehouse District goes farther afield of the local norms than any other Italian eatery. The bucatini pasta all’ amatriciana is made in the classic style with guanciale–smoked, cured hog jowls. Also here is trippa alla Romana: beef tripe with tomato sauce, previously available only occasionally at Impastato’s (photo above) and Tony Angello’s.
9. Delmonico. Lee Circle Area: 1300 St Charles Ave. 504-525-4937. When Delmonico added a large small-plates component to its menu, two items stood out: the house-made charcuterie, and the crisp pork cheeks. The latter are a must-try dish at Emeril’s grand restaurant on St. Charles Avenue.
10. Irish House. Lee Circle Area: 1432 St Charles Ave. 504-595-6755. The Irish love variety meats, and Chef Matt Murphy has been giving us many of them. Here are cider-braised pork cheeks. And beer-battered venison sausage. There’s more where that came from.
11. Sylvain. French Quarter: 625 Chartres St. 504-265-8123. The most interesting and least-expected dish at Sylvain–a restaurant with a serious menu that still comes across as more of a bar–is braised beef cheeks in a natural jus. All I could think about when I ate this was how great a poor boy could be made of it, but it stands on its own just fine.
12. Taqueria Corona. Uptown: 5932 Magazine St. 504-897-3974. When Taqueria Corona opened the first restaurant of its kind in these parts, back in the 1980s, it caught a lot of attention from adventuresome eaters for featuring beef tongue as a taco possibility. That meat had gone completely out of vogue in the 1960s, but it’s back, thanks to this place.