Dozen Best Rib-Sticking Dishes
After a spell of Indian summer down here, we’re looking for many nights of much colder weather. This is the time of year when the sting of forty-degree temperatures is welcome, because it’s necessary for the holidays. And because the chefs have shifted their menus over to hearty dishes. (Which, paradoxically, tend not to be good for your heart. But that’s not our beat.)
Here are some dishes from New Orleans restaurants that you’ll find comforting and substantial on a cold winter’s night. A lot of this effect is illusory, but that doesn’t make it less pleasant. Also hard to figure is why chicken–which we think of as light fare–is at the center of some of the most innard-warming fare you can think of. (So is duck, but I left that off because it has a list of its own elsewhere on this site.)
1. Chateau Du Lac. Old Metairie: 2037 Metairie Rd. 504-831-3773. Chef Jacques Seleun hails from the northernmost part of France, right on the ocean, and I’ll bet it get plenty cold there. His Chateau Du Lac has several dishes that admirably meet the specs we’re looking for in this inquest. The two best are the braised lamb shank (same idea is osso buco, but made with lamb), and the beef Bourguignonne (the beef stew of France, made with red wine and a more intensely beefy sauce).
2. Maximo’s Italian Grill. French Quarter: 1117 Decatur. 504-586-8883. Osso buco is about as hearty a plate as can be imagined. Here’s a huge cross-cut leg bone, surrounded by meat that cooks for a long time and throws off a lot of gelatin and flavor. The sauce is picked up not only with the savory vegetables that come alongside, but also by the neighboring ball of pasta. Maximo’s does a great one.
3. Mandina’s. Mid-City: 3800 Canal. 504-482-9179. ||Mandeville: 4240 La 22. 985-674-9883. Beef stew, like everything else at Mandina’s, is served in titanic quantity. It’s very simple: chunks of beef with peas, carrots, and potatoes in a long-cooked brown gravy served over rice. “Rice?” say the Yankees. “That’s two starches! You can’t o that!” Oh, yes, we can, and we do. It’s the Tuesday special all day long.
4. Flaming Torch. Uptown: 737 Octavia. 504-895-0900. For some reason, a lot of this French bistro’s menu seems to lend itself to cooler weather. Maybe it’s the fireplace that does it. I’m thinking here first of the French onion soup in the crock with the cheese baked over the top. But even more of coq au vin, cooked down in red wine with pork belly and root vegetables. It’s better here than any other place I’ve found it.
5. Korea House. Metairie: 3547 18th. 504-888-0654. Seafood soup here has a name (jam bong), but don’t worry about it. Just say you want the big bowl of the soup with the seafood, and you’ll get a very large bowl indeed filled with shrimp, various fish, squid, and vegetables with an emphasis on green and crisp. This comes out somewhat spicy, and you can make it more so. I only think about this when it’s cold.
6. Bon Ton Cafe. CBD: 401 Magazine. 504-524-3386. Boiled beef brisket with vegetables has been the special on Tuesdays at the Bon-Ton Café for years. Since not many restaurants offer brisket and vegetables anymore (it was once among the commonest of lunch specials), it’s a pleasant find. Luckily, it’s a version that equals the best ever, served in a bowl filed with the broth it was cooked in, along with potatoes, carrots and a whole small onion. Falling-apart tender.
7. K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen. French Quarter: 416 Chartres. 504-524-7394. Shepherd’s pie is one of the most heartwarming of dishes. We make it at home a lot, which is a good thing, because almost no restaurant serves it. The great one that used to be at the Palace Cafe has left us. Vincent’s used to make it for lunch often, but not very now. That leaves the very spicy, enormous, mushroom-gravy-topped block of the stuff at K-Paul’s. It’s been on the menu there since the place opened, but like everything else there’s its sporadic. The opening of lunch upstairs increased the frequency.
8. Galatoire’s. French Quarter: 209 Bourbon. 504-525-2021. Most chicken dishes are light, or perceived that way. But if you get a half-chicken with a good sauce, you have comfort food. Chicken Clemenceau is a half-bird, with lots of garlic and mushrooms and potatoes and butter. No need for dinner after a lunch of this.
9. Katie’s. Mid-City: 3701 Iberville. 504-488-6582. Lasagna is such a rib-sticking dish, and so good, that it has its own list elsewhere on NOMenu.com. However, I had to mention one of them: the baked-to-order version at Katie’s. It comes out in a soufflee dish, still bubbling with the sauce and cheese. Too big to finish, but I always do anyway.
10. Joey K’s. Uptown: 3001 Magazine. 504-891-0997. To look over Joey K’s lunch and dinner specials, you’d think you were in Minneapolis were it not for the poor boys and the seafood platters. During the week you find braised lamb shanks, hamburger steaks with grilled onions and gravy, stewed chicken with gravy and rice, beef stew, a ham hock with lima beans, and stuff like that. All good.
11. Mr. Gyros. Metairie: 3363 Severn Ave. 504-833-9228. Moussaka is layered ground beef and lamb, vegetables, and bechamel sauce. The latter looks so much like mashed potatoes that a lot of people think that’s what it is there under the cheese. Nobody makes better moussaka than Mr. Gyros, recently moved a few blocks from it’s old location to just off Severn.
12. Jamila’s. Uptown: 7806 Maple. 504-866-4366. Jamila and Moncef Sbaa are natives of Tunisia, which is the part of the world where the little beebees of pasta called couscous is widely eaten. It’s not cold there, but couscous does have that comfortable quality, especially when made with lamb. Jamila’s makes couscous in a more true-to-ethnic way than I’ve seen anywhere else, using a real couscousier and mixing it with vegetables and meat. It’s deceptively light, but stays with you.