3 Fleur
Average check per person $5-$15
BreakfastBreakfast SundayBreakfast MondayBreakfast TuesdayBreakfast WednesdayBreakfast ThursdayBreakfast FridayBreakfast Saturday
LunchLunch SundayLunch MondayLunch TuesdayLunch WednesdayLunch ThursdayLunch FridayLunch Saturday
DinnerDinner SundayDinner MondayDinner TuesdayDinner WednesdayDinner ThursdayDinner FridayDinner Saturday

Mother’s

CBD: 401 Poydras. 504-523-9656. Map.
Very Casual
AE MC V
Website

WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The city’s longest-running poor boy shop is famous nationwide, and rightly so. Everything is cooked in house from scratch to create a menu of all the New Orleans everyday-dining specialties. Locals decry the fact that visitors have jammed the place and that prices are about a quarter higher than in similar restaurants. But the goodness cannot be denied.

WHAT’S GOOD
Only the best makers of poor boy sandwiches roast their own beef. Nobody else I know bakes its own hams and turkeys. Those two items alone give Mother’s sandwiches an advantage above the typical. For those, and dishes like red beans and rice, gumbo, jambalaya, and plate specials, few kitchens put more in the making than Mother’s does. Most of it is prepared in a distinctive, old-fashioned style which, in some cases, differs enough from the local standard to throw some customers off.

BACKSTORY
Simon Landry (whose wife was the restaurant’s namesake) opened Mother’s in the 1930s. He ran it hands-on for decades, and then his sons Jack and Ed took over and kept the style. Their recipes are links to a bygone era of eating in New Orleans. The recipes were designed to be made anew daily. When they ran out of that day’s meats and platters, the restaurant closed. In 1986, Jerry and John Amato brought Mother’s from the Landrys, expanded it and extended its hours. This created a firestorm among the local regulars, who insist that it’s not as good as it once was. It tastes exactly the same to me, and I’ve been eating there since the mid-1960s.

DINING ROOM
The old brick building with its worn concrete floors was duplicated next door in the 1990s, making tables a little easier to come by. A cafeteria-style counter is where you order and pick up your food, although a waitress might ask to be allowed to fetch your food for you. Cooks are forever breaking through the never-ending line of customers to deliver pots and piles of food to the front line.

ESSENTIAL DISHES
Breakfast
Breakfast combos
»Mae’s omelette (black ham, green onions, mushrooms)
Red bean omelette
Other omelettes to order
»Biscuits
»Pancakes
Blueberry pecan muffins
Starters
Seafood gumbo
»Chicken file gumbo
Sandwiches
Ferdi (ham, roast beef, and debris; turkey can be swapped out for the ham)
Baked ham
Turkey
Roast beef
Sausage (smoked or hot)
Fried seafood (oysters, shrimp, catfish, or soft shell crab)
Entrees
Jambalaya
Red beans and rice
Fried chicken
Fried seafood platters with etouffee or jambalaya
Corned beef and cabbage
Daily plate specials
Desserts
Bread pudding
Pecan and sweet potato pie
Cafe au lait

FOR BEST RESULTS
Mother’s is so famous that it attracts an ungodly number of visitors. But it’s too good to write off as a tourist joint. Just don’t go when the line runs halfway down the block. If you’re up early, Mother’s breakfast is terrific, and until nine on weekdays they have a generous combo for about five bucks.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
It sure seems overdue for a major renovation, but that might create a riot among the regulars. Getting food to the table is at best inconvenient. And the line, when many visitors are in town, is daunting.

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
  • Service
  • Value +1
  • Attitude +1
  • Wine & Bar -1
  • Hipness -1
  • Local Color +3

 

SPECIAL ATTRIBUTES

  • Many private rooms
  • Open Sunday lunch and dinner
  • Open Monday lunch and dinner
  • Open most holidays
  • Open all afternoon
  • Historic
  • Unusually large servings
  • Quick, good meal
  • Good for children
  • No reservations

ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Mother’s owner Jerry Amato talked about expanding the restaurant almost from the day he bought it, over a decade ago. With good reason: Mother’s may be the city’s busiest restaurant in terms of customers served per square foot.

Mother’s food has a heaviness that creeps up on you and weighs you down before you even finish. Some of that comes from the enormous portions. Even if you order half a sandwich (at three-fourths the price), you’d have to have a very empty stomach indeed to get it all down without feeling some pressure. But the cooking itself is heavy. Many dishes involve ham fat, for example. That’s a spectacular taste in things like red beans or omelettes. But there’s only so much of this anybody can eat. I limit myself to one visit every three or four months. But I look forward to them with gusto.


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