ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Emeril Lagasse hung around NOLA a lot in the early days of the restaurant, when NOLA was his first expansion restaurant property and he was only beginning to be known nationwide. It was a fun place to be, back then, because Emeril and his kitchen staff would create some wild dishes. Jablaya on a pizza. Shrimp remoulade served warm over pasta. Fish roasted on planks of wood that would start smoldering, thereby giving a fascinating flavor.
NOLA evolved into a different animal, particularly since Katrina. Its customer base has become heavy with visitors, although it has no small number of French Quarter residents at its tables. You can spot the latter easily: they never ask for Emeril.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
NOLA is Emeril Lagasse’s most casual restaurant, at least in New Orleans. In recent years it’s evolved into Emeril’s Greatest Hits Cafe. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it likely appeals tremendously to the many visitors that wander into the superb location. NOLA has created more than a few of its own specialties, too.
Although the prices here are a shade lower than at Emeril’s other two New Orleans establishments, all the bedrock standards that brought the chef his fame are in force. The kitchen exploits fresh local product, making everything in house, maintaining a full pastry kitchen, and collecting an impressive stock of wines. The service staff is sharp without being formal.
“NOLA” is familiar to all New Orleanians as shorthand for “New Orleans, Louisiana.” It was Emeril’s second restaurant, opened a couple of years after his flagship a mile away. It took over a space built out as a very hip Italian restaurant called Spunto, and took full advantage of the edgy decor while adding more of it. It has historically been the place where his organization brings up new chefs, managers, and dishes.
The restaurant occupies three floors, the bottom one sporting an open kitchen and its popular food bar. There you sit right in front of the wood-burning oven and grill, and watch the food as it’s cooked. The tables on the first and second floors can look at each other over the atrium-like fore part of the restaurant. The third floor is a private dining space with a very cool bar.
FULL ONLINE MENU
»»Miss Hay’s Stuffed Chicken Wings
Homemade hoisin dipping sauce
New Orleans Style Crab Cake
Creole corn maque choux, green tomato chow chow
»»»Emeril’s Barbecue Gulf Shrimp
»Wood Fired Prince Edward Island Black Mussels
Charred corn, roasted peppers, caramelized onions, cornbread crouton, Abita beer-Benton’s ham broth
Whiskey-caramel glaze, buttermilk cornbread pudding, natural jus, haricot verts-fire roasted corn salad, candied pecans
»»Grilled Pork Chop
Brown sugar glazed sweet potatoes, toasted pecans, caramelized onion reduction sauce
»Pan Seared Creekstone New York Strip
Cauliflower purée, confit wild mushrooms, garlic bordelaise
»»Garlic Crusted Drum
Wood-burning oven roasted, brabant potatoes, crimini mushrooms, bacon, sauce beurre rouge
»Pecan Pie Bread Pudding
Sweet potato ice cream, bourbon anglaise, caramel sauce, pie crust crumble
»»Crème Brûlée Trio
Vanilla bean with fresh berries, coconut with a coconut truffle, mocha with chocolate-almond biscotti
FOR BEST RESULTS
Emeril’s people very much appreciate locals, so be sure to let them know you are if you are. Leave room for dessert, a very strong course here.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
One of the best and most innovative dishes here–the fish roasted on a cedar plank–is overdue for a return to the menu.
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 +2
- Consistency +1
- Value -1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +2
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
- Open Sunday dinner
- Open Monday dinner
- Good for children
- Free valet parking
- Reservations honored promptly