WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
A fixture in the Warehouse District for over a century, the Ernst Cafe has people spilling out onto its sidewalks from late afternoon until very deep into the night.Almost all of them are drinking. Many are also munching on sandwiches, salads, fried seafood, and other casual local eats. The crowd is on the young side, celebrating the end of the day either in the nearby offices where they work, or the end of the meeting schedule in the Morial Convention Center down the street. All this goes on into the wee hours of the morning, making Ernst a rare resource for late-night dining–but the quality declines as the hour gets later.
The menu is basically bar food. The best part of it is seafood, most of it fried, made into either platters or sandwiches. The goodness of all this varies, but less so than it once did. In the last year or so the menu has turned away from the food of American chain dinnerhouses (spinach-artichoke dip, for example) to be more like a neighborhood New Orleans place with red beans, gumbo, and seafood platters. Burgers too, of course.
The Ernst Cafe opened in 1902 as a slightly upscale lunchroom and bar for people working in that formerly industrial part of town. Almost exactly on the day when the World’s Fair of 1984 opened right next door, the place began its evolution into a hangout for tourists. By then, most of the factories were gone. In the 1990s, an increasing number of people who live and work in the district joined the crowd, and now party every night. Late at night, it’s popular among people working in other restaurants and the nearby casino.
Much of the old place’s battered surroundings have been preserved, and what hasn’t been is reconstructed in an antique style. Dining tables and bars are scattered throughout the long, brick-walled spaces on both floors. The upper floor has a long, classic New Orleans balcony overlooking the newly-restored pedestrian passageways on Lafayette and Fulton Streets. An oddity of the decor is the presence of swastikas in the design of the old tile floor. These turn in the opposite direction of the infamous Nazi insignia, however, and were here decades before those dastards arose.
Fried green tomatoes, sauteed shrimp
»Fried green tomatoes, fried oysters
»Filet mignon nachos, chipotle pepper-cheese sauce, jalapeno, sour cream
Fried chicken tenders
Soup of the day
»Chicken andouille gumbo
»Eggless Caesar salad
»Buffalo shrimp salad
Filet mignon Cobb salad
»Fried oyster, shrimp or catfish poor boy
»Chicory barbecue chicken sandwich
“Ernster” sandwich (fried oysters and roast beef debris poor boy)
»Roast beef poor boy
»Fried shrimp or oyster platter
»Grilled or fried fish platter
»Red beans and rice with andouille
FOR BEST RESULTS
If the weather’s nice, get a table on the sidewalk, and forget about what time it is. The drinks will be out quickly, but the food might offer the chance to have a second drink before it gets in the way.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Consistency has never been the strong suit here. The best food is at lunch.
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 +1
- Consistency -1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +2
- Sidewalk tables
- Good view
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open after midnight
- Open all afternoon
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations