The Dozen And A Half Best
One of the great strengths of the New Orleans food scene rests in our very casual cafes, found all over town on corners of backstreets. Fear that this resource would be lost in the hurricane aftermath were needless: we have more of them now than we ever did.
So many, in fact, that I had to narrow down the category a lot for this list to make sense. Not included: restaurants whose menus are dominated by seafood (i.e., Drago's, Bozo's, Charlie's, Casamento's), steak, Italian food, pizza, hamburgers, or breakfast. All of those are good, but they need their own lists. Also missing (as they are for all these lists): restaurants that opened very recently. I bring that up to explain the absence of the new restaurant at Parasol's and Tracey's in particular, but there are others.
Click on any restaurant's name for a detailed review.
1. Mandina's. Mid-City: 3800 Canal. 504-482-9179. Mandeville: 4240 La 22. 985-674-9883. The place everyone thinks about when the very idea of the neighborhood restaurant is mentioned. Seafood is king, from shrimp remoulade to soft-shell crabs amandine. Excellent soups; ordinary Italian.
2. Cafe 615 (Da Wabbit). Gretna: 615 Kepler. 504-365-1225. A great old roadhouse on the old main drag in Gretna cooks a wide range of local eats, starting with an astoundingly good turtle soup and ending with some of the city's best fried chicken.
3. Katie's. Mid-City: 3701 Iberville. 504-488-6582. After five years of waiting after Katrina, this excellent Mid-City cafe is back with a more ambitious menu than before. But the beans and chicken and roast beef is all still upper-drawer.
4. Fury's. Metairie: 724 Martin Behrman Ave. 504-834-5646. The small cafe across from Dorignac's does primarily seafood, with high standards: all fresh, all prepared to order. Great daily specials and Italian food, too.
5. Joey K's. Uptown: 3001 Magazine. 504-891-0997. The first of the new era of the New Orleans neighborhood joints is always packed, with good reason: the food is highly various, fresh, hot, and overserved for the dollar.
6. Liuzza's. Mid-City: 3636 Bienville. 504-482-9120. One of the old classics of the genre, with a menu that seems to serve everything imaginable. The poor boys and onions rings are essential; the special platters are delicious; the Italian food pretty good.
7. Crabby Jack's. Jefferson: 428 Jefferson Hwy. 504-833-2722. The commissary and sandwich shop for Jacques-Imo's created the duck poor boy, and lots of other lusty food. Come very hungry.
8. Liuzza's By The Track. Esplanade Ridge: 1518 N Lopez. 504-218-7888. More a bar than a restaurant, but here is a deft kitchen which, in addition to sending out fine seafood and beans and such, has put a brilliant new spin on the roast beef poor boy. Breathtaking!
9. Camellia Cafe. Slidell: 525 Gause Blvd West. 985-649-6211. Abita Springs: 69455 LA 59. 985-809-6313. A growing local chain of kicky cafes (decor by the artist Luis Colmenares). The enormous menu specializes in seafood but cooks all the everyday Creole dishes well.
10. Parkway Bakery. Mid-City: 538 Hagan Ave. 504-482-3047. The rebirth of this classic poor boy shop and the constant upward pressure exerted by owner Jay Nix not only serves a long line of customers, but is seen on national TV pretty often.
11. Lakeview Harbor. Lakeview: 911 Harrison Ave. 504-486-4887. The best hamburger in town. All else (and there's a lot) is footnotes.
12. Parran's Po-Boys . Metairie: 3939 Veterans Blvd. 504-885-3416. For 35 years, it's a neighborhood joint of the old school, even though it's in a strip mall. Everything's prepared in house. As many platters as poor boys.
13. Cafe Reconcile. Lee Circle Area: 1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. 504-568-1157. Aside from being a brilliant asset to the community in training at-risk people, Reconcile puts out first-class home-cooking for the rest of us every weekday.
14. Blue Plate Cafe . Lee Circle Area: 1330 Prytania. 504-309-9500. In a neighborhood with few cafes, this one has a sparkling, original menu and exacting cooking. As good for lunch as for breakfast.
15. Coffee Pot. French Quarter: 714 St Peter. 504-524-3500. Since the 1940s, the best neighborhood eatery in the Quarter. Especially good for breakfast. The calas live on!
16. Ruby Slipper Cafe. Mid-City: 139 S Cortez. 504-309-5531. CBD: 200 Magazine St. 504-525-9355. A cute breakfast specialist with such a fine sense of its surroundings that waiting for a table is inevitable. A new location just opened in the CBD.
17. Giorlando's. Metairie: 741 Bonnabel. 504-835-8593. Since Katrina, this longtime vendor of topnotch roast beef poor boys has renovated itself into a pleasant dining room with a big menu of local classics and Italian food.
18. Camellia Grill. Riverbend: 626 S Carrollton Ave. 504-309-2679. French Quarter: 540 Chartres St . 504-522-1800. The iconic diner in the Riverbend has a second location in the French Quarter. The food is the same as it has been for 75 years, but the sharpness of the service isn't Harry-style.
And that concludes The Year In Dining for 2010. More top-dozen lists will appear every few days.