The Morning Meal

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris May 02, 2024 10:08 in Dining Diary

A dear friend came to our side for business and asked if we wanted to meet for breakfast. The answer is always yes, but we needed to go to Mandeville. Our go-to breakfast spot is here in Covington, and it is the best anywhere, in our view. But I really had to think about breakfast in Mandeville.

The obvious choice is Liz’sWhere Y’at?, but we have been a few times and I always need something new to write about. I remembered LaLou, which is in an old house in downtown Mandeville and the hallowed site of the original Broken Egg.

I remember the origins of the Broken Egg phenomenon. The creator of this operation was inspired by a place he visited in San Diego on vacation. He was so smitten by the concept he recreated it here, with dishes we found puzzling for a culinary mecca like New Orleans. These were the halcyon days for Tom, and he was nonplussed.

If memory serves me correctly, I don’t think the guy was from here, so he didn’t understand that we have a really strong culinary identity. Tom was dismissive of the place and surprised at the speed at which it began to multiply.

The Ruby Slipper has done the same thing without later contracting, and both offer the same ordinary food. Ruby Slipper now has 28 locations, whereas Broken Egg has left the area except for two locations in New Orleans and two in Baton Rouge. They now have a much stronger footprint in Florida.

The little cottage where it all started a block from the Mandeville Lakefront is now called LaLou, offering a large menu of breakfast and lunch fare.

We hadn’t been to LaLou in a very long time, and since its arrival ten years ago, maybe three times total. There was a big downgrade in everything since our last visit.

The menu is really large and it took us a while to get through it. Tom was easy because there was French toast on the menu, though it was called three different things with three levels of ambition. Just by not properly giving the menu the time required, we chose the wrong one.

One of us had a basic omelet for the same reason, menu fatigue. I saw a tamale Benedict and got that.

We sat outside on one of the picnic tables on a lovely spring morning. I feel like and hope that the service inside is better.

The omelet came with a large and ordinary drop biscuit and basic but fine grits. They were not fancy but were a thicker grind, easily doctored with salt and pepper, and copious amounts of butter. I prefer grits I can “fix” myself. The omelet was so basic it was even less memorable than the other items on the table. Veggies and cheese.

I fared much better with my tamale omelet. I loved the tamales, but I never met one I didn’t like. Usually, I ask for eggs over easy instead of poached, but I forgot in the crush of ordering from this stressfully large menu. It was a fine plate of food and I liked the grits.

Tom’s Pain Perdu was the saddest most basic pile of sweetened bread, unadorned in any way. I think I plate food in my kitchen better. 

I hesitated to detail this experience because it is not complimentary and it was only one visit of three items. But when all three items are underwhelming, the law of averages suggests that the rest of the menu will follow.

The website is lovely and suggests glamorous food, and I do wish I had noticed the Brioche Stuff instead of the Pain Perdu. But all the other pics of the food looked like what we had in front of us, ordinary breakfast food. There isn’t anything terribly wrong here, as long as your expectations are set at the right level.

That is the generic state of this morning meal in restaurants, though there are happy exceptions. We stick with Mattina Bella in downtown Covington, a place we feel untouchable by any competitor. Liz does a nice job at the Where Y’at Diner in Mandeville, and the Fat Spoon is fine, but service lags.

Maybe that is why so many are getting into the breakfast brunch game. It's that eternal quest for excellence. Most are the same, with an occasional standout. Just like the wider restaurant landscape at large, all fine but unexceptional, with an occasional standout. We try to stick with those.