New Orleans Food & Spirits
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Secondary restaurant locations–the ones which usually cause the first-time dining to get lost as he looks for the place–have a way of cooking much better food than you expect. That is certainly true at all three locations of New Orleans Food And Spirits. They are indeed purveyors of very good eating in very casual places.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
The generic, forgettable name and the corny menu language (“gumbeaux”) disguise a very good neighborhood seafood restaurant. Overloaded platters of fried oysters, shrimp, catfish, and soft-shell crabs are all prepared to order, crisp and hot. And they grill as well as they fry. The three locations have aspects of a neighborhood cafe, with poor boys, beans, gumbo, and specials.
Nothing is fake here, not even the Cajun-inflected dishes. These people really know how to cook. The grilled and stuffed fish is also good. Some of the specialties are overwhelmed with thick, blanketing sauces, but even those are edible. And they come forward with many fine, unexpected specials, with the legendary Thursday stewed rabbit being the best example.
The restaurant is the successor to a little neighborhood place in Houma. The Bergeron family expanded well beyond that, for a time even having an outpost in Birmingham. The West Bank NOF&S opened in the early 1990s, and instantly became a packed house. The Bucktown location came next, occupying the building where R&O used to be. It was one of the very few restaurants to survive hurricane Katrina in the West End and Bucktown area. The Covington branch appeared in 2004.
The Harvey restaurant is a pleasant but busy dining room in a suburban style. The Bucktown location of this three-unit seafood specialist is a big, somewhat crowded room whose windows gaze onto the levee. The lake is on the other side of that for postprandial walks. The Covington restaurant is the most scenic, suspended as it is above the Bogue Falaya River.
Voodoo crawfish rolls
Crawfish corn soup
Grilled or fried chicken salad
Shrimp remoulade salad
Garden salad with oysters, tuna, shrimp or chicken
Yellowfin tuna steak
Fried farm-raised catfish fillets
Hickory smoked chicken breast
Two center cut pork chops, grilled or Hawaiian style
Fried oyster, catfish, shrimp or combination platter
Redfish Pontchartrain (grilled or blackened, pasta, Pontchartrain sauce (creamy with crabmeat and crawfish)
Bon temps chicken (blackened, angel hair pasta, Pontchartrain sauce
Catfish topped with creole crawfi sh stew
Crawfish stew over rice
Stuffed eggplant, crabmeat, pasta, Lafayette sauce
Blackened tuna, pasta, Lafayette sauce
Blackened ribeye, Lafayette sauce
Red beans and rice, pork chop or grilled catfish (MO)
Panneed chicken, pasta with red sauce (WE)
White beans, stewed rabbit, pork chop, or catfish (TH)
Fried eggplant with shrimp cream sauce (FR)
Fried oyster, catfish, or shrimp poor boy
Blackened or grilled chicken sandwich
FOR BEST RESULTS
The portions are very large. Even a salad might push a meal into the Too Much zone if you have an entree. To get Thursday’s rightly famous stewed rabbit and white beans, show up early. They always run out. The great sleeper on the menu is the panneed chicken with pasta and two sauces on Wednesdays. Red beans are among the best in town. (Wish they served it with hot sausage.)
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The coatings on the seafood taste and look exactly the same, giving a lack of contrast to the platter. Don’t get too excited about complex, saucy dishes: they sound better than they really are. The menu, which hasn’t changed in a long time, is due for renovation.
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
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar -1
- Hipness -1
- Local Color +1
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good view
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations