K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
The passing in 2015 of Chef Paul Prudhomme brought new attention to his seminal restaurant. A lot of people who hadn’t dined there in awhile showed up to give their respects. They found, in contrast, the same jolly party that has always marked the scene at K-Paul’s.
The restaurant returns the favors. A few years ago they added a very casual lunch service, reminiscent of the way K-Paul’s was in its early days. Chef Paul set up a unique Cajun-style deli, making outrageously good poor boy sandwiches and other casual eats, at everyday prices. The one I look forward to having again is the shepherd’s pie, which launches that old school-cafeteria special into the flavor stratosphere. The Cajun deli lunches are back on Thursdays through Saturdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Chef Paul Prudhomme’s restaurant has been a wellspring of creativity and inspiration for Cajun and Creole cooking for most of forty years. He fired up everybody up at a time when there was a lot of firing to be done. Many of the best chefs in New Orleans began their careers at K-Paul’s. Many more were affected indirectly by his enthusiasm. The restaurant carries on in that tradition today. Chef Paul has been especially visible and involved since the hurricane. Lunch is back, but in a substantially more casual way than at dinner.
New Orleans historically has not had much genuine Cajun food in its restaurants. Although Chef Paul’s style of cooking Cajun is all his own, the food here has an unmistakable Cajun soul. The ingredients are the freshest and best, with a strong emphasis on Louisiana product. Although the menu has gathered many permanent fixtures over the restaurant’s four decades, it changes daily and always has some surprises. K-Paul’s was the first free-standing major restaurant locally to install a full-fledged bakery for its breads and desserts.
Chef Paul Prudhomme came to New Orleans from his hometown of Opelousas in the mid-1970s, and almost immediately began attracting attention for his new ideas about Cajun cooking. After a stint as executive chef over all the Brennan Family restaurants, he opened K-Paul’s in an old French Quarter joint in 1979. It was an instant phenomenon, and from that day to this it’s almost always been a packed house. The restaurant is managed by Chef Paul Miller, who worked with Prudhomme since before the restaurant opened opened.
A renovation in 1996 transformed the 1830s French Quarter building into a much more comfortable (yet still casual) restaurant with a decidedly New Orleans environment. Many more tables were created both downstairs and upstairs. Although they still accept walk-ins, you can now get a reservation–not available in the early years. No caps on men, no active cellphones in the dining room.
The menu changes every day, as it rides the fresh foods market. These are dishes that have a good chance of showing up.
Chicken and andouille gumbo
Leek and shiitake champagne cream soup
Shrimp and corn maque choux
Fried green tomatoes with shrimp caper dill remoulade
K-Paul’s fried oysters Pernod
Pan-fried rabbit tenderloin with Creole mustard sauce
Crawfish enchilada (in season only)
Roasted pear, pecan, and blue cheese salad
Bronzed swordfish hot fanny sauce
Crawfish etouffée (in season only)
Blackened Louisiana drum
Duck and shrimp Dulac, with oyster mushrooms and pasta
Blackened stuffed pork chop marchand de vin
Eggplant pirogue with seafood Atchafalaya
Blackened twin beef tenders with debris
Bread pudding with hard sauce
Sweet potato pecan pie
Custard marie crème brûlée, with a praline bottom
Thursday through Saturday, K-Paul’s has a deli-style lunch upstairs. That menu changes often too, but this is a good sampler:
Chicken and andouille gumbo
Fried soft shell crab salad
Chef’s cobb salad
Fried popcorn shrimp caesar salad
Deep-fried shrimp or oyster poor boy
Marinara meat ball po-boy
Turkey blt and cheese panini with avocado mayo on focaccia
Sweet and sour chicken
Shepherd’s pie with mushroom gravy
Hoppin’ john (blackeye peas) and smoked chicken breast
Fried flounder with corny cornbread dressing
FOR BEST RESULTS
Make a reservation, and show up right on time. If you’re sensitive to pepper, ask whether the dishes you’re interested are very spicy. The culinary style is robust. If you go to lunch, know that the environment and menu are much more basic than you might expect from such a famous restaurant.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Sides are sometimes of much less interest than the central items on the entrees.
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 +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +3
- Live music some nights
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good view
- Reservations recommended