Have you ever not done something, then after finally doing it kicked yourself for missing all the previous chances to do it? Tom has gone to the Crescent City Steakhouse for his “Farewell To Beef” lunch since before my time with him. The idea never really intrigued me because food is not as high on my radar as on his, so I never even thought to say a proper goodbye to beef. The only connection I made was enjoying the puffing Boeuf Gras in the Rex parade, which I rarely saw.
But each year this tradition with Tom held strong, and he went by himself. But he was hardly alone. People were welcome to visit his table or book space there, and it was always a party. When Tom first started to go to the Crescent City Steak House, he was one of a handful of people in there on Mardi Gras. The tradition caught on and by the time I first went in 2017, it was a scene. Last year it was a two-hour wait. But it wasn’t until this 2021 visit that I truly appreciated what this was all about. And how delicious, really delicious, the food is.
First, I went with the commitment to indulge. When I saw onion rings pass us headed to other tables, I wanted some. These are not pretty things. They are large, some broken, with no presentation considered. They come out of the fryer hot, are dropped onto a plate and head out to your table. What they are is hot, crispy, and really quite delicious. The batter sticks to them and the inside is soft. The best hand cut onion rings I have had. I made a mound of ketchup on a small dish and indulged like a kid.
Tom ordered garlic bread touting its merits, but I saw ours go to the table adjacent to ours, as evidenced by their delighted surprise. When some did arrive, I had to agree. This was buttery, full of garlic, and toasty around the edges. Irresistible.
Krasna Voikovich, who started the place with her husband in 1934 and who now runs it with sons Anthony and Frank, makes tripe, and always saves a bowl for Tom because she knows he loves it. Krasna is an adorable person who stays busy with the garden she tends in the back of the restaurant, the cooking she does for the restaurant, and travels back to her homeland Croatia. It is always a delight to visit with her, and a highlight of every visit there. Krasna is not the only human delight at the Crescent City Steakhouse. The staff is adorable, right down to the buss staff, like our waitress Earnicka, who lived in the neighborhood and has worked for Krasna since she was 13. She couldn’t talk highly enough about her employers, and they about her. When the back of the house and front feel that way about each other, how can it not reflect in the experience?
We ordered a filet, which comes the old-fashioned way wrapped in bacon, and Tom shocked Anthony by ordering a ribeye instead of a strip. I also got spinach au gratin, Lyonnaise potatoes, and shoestring fries. When the steaks arrived I wondered if this is where the steaks-in-butter craze began. Crescent City predates the others, so probably, but these were swimming in butter on the hot plate.
When I ordered my filet medium-well, Anthony asked if I wanted it butterflied. I said no, and the steak I got was more of a tournedo, which was considerably smaller than other filets heading through the dining room. I wasn’t upset about this, but it proved that they must be cutting this prime beef to order if necessary. The steak was well done, and the next time I will order it like everyone else. It was clear from the taste that this was premium beef. Very tender and really delicious.
Tom’s steak was also first class. Fatty as all ribeyes are, it too was tender and cooked exactly as he asked. Same intense beef flavor.
But it was the sides that wowed me. After seeing the onion rings, when I saw shoestring fries on the menu I figured they must be hand cut as well. I also ordered Lyonnaise potatoes, which I used to like everywhere but now rarely see a worthy version anywhere. And the spinach au gratin was definitely not creamed spinach. It was rather odd, until I was told that the yellow color was not due to turmeric but yellow food coloring, a staple of old-fashioned restaurants. Part of their charm, I guess.
The Lyonnaise potatoes were just like I remember them from when I liked Lyonnaise potatoes and could order them without a big question mark of what I might get. It’s hard to beat a good version of these, with just the right butter sludge and the vegetables soft enough but still offering a flavor pronouncement. These were great.
But the fries!! Move over, all you hip places. The real deal is at Crescent City Steakhouse. These fries were extra long, foldable, the sweet spot of golden brown, crispy, the perfect square width of ¼ inch, and the proper salt. Utter perfection. I will be back for more of those fries in short order.
All of this was piping hot. The Crescent City is what I have always dissed to Tom as an old fartery - a place that hasn’t changed anything in decades. And that is what has always put me off about it, and most of Tom’s other faves, all of which I have come around to love. But this was a meal like you would have at your mom’s, but only if your mom found the very best ingredients and did them proud. It was a meal straight out of the last mid-century, and isn’t that maybe refreshing considering the tumultuous times of this one?
I actually can’t wait to get back to the Crescent City Steakhouse to have another meal from another time. I’m not ready to concede on an argument Tom and I have had for thirty years: is a meal about the place or the food? Both is better of course, but if you can’t have both, I might be inclined to agree. It does sort of always get back to the food.
I can’t wait to return to the Crescent City steakhouse, where a meal like I described is still at decades-past prices. I want more of those fries. And I want to talk Krasna into a featuring a steakhouse burger to go with those fries during lunch Tuesday through Friday.