A Metairie Mainstay

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris April 16, 2022 14:00 in Dining Diary

Since the lockdowns, I have preached a simple recommendation, which always follows a rant. It is:

Don’t trust TripAdvisor for any restaurant information, but especially don’t trust it when it comes to hours of operation.

If only I ever followed my own advice. My rants and recommendations were refined periodically, with each new experience. I have gone to restaurants that were closed, and almost not gone to restaurants that were open…too many times. And yet, I keep getting caught doing the same thing.

So it didn’t really surprise me that when I called Arnaud’s recently in bad traffic headed to the restaurant to signal a late arrival, I got their recorded message that they were open Wednesday through Sunday. The day I heard it was Monday, which was a day that was open before the madness began. I was excited to think that they were open again when I made the reservation on Open Table. I didn’t notice the date I made it for was the following Saturday.

So we were already in the city with no place to go on a beautiful spring evening. We drove further into the city with another attempt to visit Chemin a la Mer, until construction detours annoyed me enough to head back to Metairie. I wanted to eat at a neighborhood Metairie restaurant like Giorlando’s or Porter & Luke’s, even though we were dressed for Arnaud’s. And I would have preferred al fresco dining.

Both those neighborhood gems were open, so we chose Porter & Luke’s. We love this place. They were a longtime advertiser with us, and we were honored to have them. There is a happy buzz about the place. 

The restaurant is in the Old Metairie shopping center with Aucoin Hart and Canseco’s. It took over the old Zeke’s space, a much-beloved neighborhood hangout that thrived until owner Zeke passed away. The interior is basic nondescript Metry, but it is a warm and comfortable place for the neighborhood. The major draw, though, is the food. Also, the service, which is Nawlin’s-style friendly.

Before the world changed in 2020, Mary Leigh and I were regulars, because we were working on our house nearby. It has been years since we have been there. Both Tom and I considered it a treat to be there this evening 

As soon as we opened the car door we were greeted in the parking lot by an old friend of Tom’s, an attorney who is there once a month for a compatriot dinner. We walked in to see a pretty busy house, especially for a Monday evening.

If I lived in the neighborhood I would eat there three times a week. The menu doesn’t appear to be much smaller than I remember it.

Here is the best club out there, to me at least. It is always hard for me to deviate from that, so I usually don’t. But this was a Monday, and I finally went with the red beans and ham shank that I have seen waft through the dining room so many times before. Neither of us was very hungry, so we split some onion rings and the red beans special. It is offered with sausage or pork chop as well as the ham shank, but the latter is the one with the real presentation. 

Usually, the shank sits bone-up in the pool of red beans with a mound of rice. But tonight it was on two separate plates, with the ham shank really crusty-roasted. There was a glaze on it (root beer perhaps?), lending a little sweetness to the crust.

The red beans at first seemed to have a flavor in them more assertive than I wanted, but upon more eating, I loved these.

The textural consistency was one Tom and I prefer - creamy with individual beans retaining their shape.

The ham shank was fantastic. Tender, with a crust around the perimeter, it was not too big as they can sometimes be. Considering our hunger level, this was a good portion size to split.

We had to get some onion rings because I am on a quest for the best onion rings around town. These are definitely in contention. This is a place where everything is always great, so you’d expect nothing less whenever you order anything here. This was no exception. They were crunchy enough to be heard when you eat them, but not over-battered. They were just right, greaseless, golden brown, medium thickness. Perfect.

I was tempted to get a few other things while I was there. On the radio show, (2-4 weekdays 990AM) we often talk about Eggplant Sophie, a signature item at Porter & Luke’s. It is renowned for its medley of Louisiana deliciousness. Here is a half eggplant hollowed out and deep-fried, filled with a combination of Louisiana seafood like shrimp and crawfish in a light butter and cream sauce. The eggplant is served with angel hair pasta. This is a wildly popular dish I never seem to try, just because I have my regular go-tos.

The other crowd favorite here is the fried chicken, also a specialty from the late chef Vincent Manguno. It is lightly battered, kind of like Mom would do it, and served with French fries. The French fries are not fresh cut, but they do a fresh cut potato chip that comes with some sandwiches. These chips are usually but not always fabulous.

The menu is heavy on salads, all of which are excellent, especially the Cobb and the specialty wedge, another signature. Three small wedges of hearts of iceberg sit side by side on a linear plate, each of them topped with a different seafood, and corresponding dressing. One small wedge is crabmeat with ravigote dressing, one is boiled shrimp with Remoulade dressing, and the third is fried oysters with a blue cheese dressing. Brilliantly creative, absolutely delicious, and rightfully very popular. We saw half a dozen of those go by to the lawyers in the private room while we were there.

We didn’t stay long enough for dessert, but we did stay long enough to remember how much we love this place. And to promise ourselves it would not be long before we return.