An old bank drive thru in Metairie on West Esplanade near Clearview is one of those revolving door restaurants, and even though its current occupant hasn’t been there too long, the new place has potential.
This little spot first came to our attention when Ed McIntyre, decided to try his hand at a gourmet hamburger
Chain. Mr. Ed’s Hamburgers was immediately interesting to us because Ed McIntyre has the Midas Touch with restaurants. His Mr. Ed’s in Bucktown has spawned an empire of New Orleans-style casual neighborhood restaurants, branching out to include Austin’s, and upscale place specializing in steaks, and most lately Mr. Ed’s Oyster House, with branches it seems on every corner. Mr. Ed’s Oyster is modeled after Bozo’s, which was in the flagship location. Chris Vodonovich,( aka Bozo), was a mentor.
The hamburger place, which opened in 2014 at the height of the gourmet burger craze, was short lived. My daughter and I went in there the very first day, and he had already stopped serving the fresh cut fries promised on the menu. The burgers were rather ordinary too.
The space sat idle for a while after Mr. Ed’s exit, and the Creole Cuisine group added this little Metry drive-thru to their substantial portfolio of local restaurants. The Mason Jar had no pizzaz. The interior was uninspiring, and the food fine but not special enough to overcome the peculiar space and the parking, location, etc.
Creole Cuisine has not become the culinary behemoth by hanging on to duds. The little drive thru bank building sat idle again.
Right before COVID struck, The Gumbo Krewe moved in. The name may be familiar because they became famous as a group of good Samaritans from New Orleans who drove up to cook our renown delicious food for first responders after 911. And they just kept cooking.
I’ve passed the place several times since they arrived and the name was familiar from the news coverage, but so long ago now I didn’t make the connection.
On a recent visit to my sister’s house nearby, I swung into the drive-thru. I was shocked at how extensive the menu is. My first order was the gumbo, but which? The dilemma was settled when the manager informed us that the chicken gumbo wasn’t quite ready. Seafood gumbo it was.
I also ordered some seafood boulettes, and a fried Des Allemands catfish and oyster platter. Tom added a bread pudding.
It took quite a long time to get the food, and my curiosity to see the inside got the best of me. This is a small round and very peculiar space which needed something. And here it was. The Gumbo Krewe makes it seem bright and airy. It’s a charming place with minimalist decor and a fast casual counter to order and pick up. There is also table service as well as drive thru. We would not be using either of these methods of food acquisition today. Back to the drive thru.
It was about 15 minutes before the food came. This sounds bad but it means they are cooking it to order, and the wait only seemed interminable because we were in a drive thru. Food windows usually mean fast food, so it was weird to wait that long, but if we had been inside it would have been perfectly normal.
It was only minutes to my sister’s house, so everything was still hot. The gumbo was loaded with shrimp and crabmeat, and studded with ample bits of okra in a soup with the perfect consistency. This surrounded a small mound of plain white rice. A very good gumbo this was, but it had an odd flavor hidden subtly. It was not a bad flavor, just something unexpected.
The seafood boulettes were deep fried and served over a bit of lettuce, with tartar sauce for dipping. These too were very good, but not so crispy. They had a nice flavor and enough seafood in the stuffing, with just the right spice level.
The most distinctive thing about the seafood plate was the value, or rather the lack of it. For $21 there were six oysters that were fried just fine, not especially crispy but certainly well enough. There were a few pieces of farm raised catfish from Des Allemands served atop a pile of ordinary fries. A few hush puppies came with this.
Tom liked his bread pudding with whiskey sauce. There were no raisins in it, which more and more restaurants seem to be getting away from now.
This place and its food was definitely a surprise and I wanted to go back and try a few things that we didn’t have time or space for the first time.
Fresh cut onion rings on the appetizer menu attracted me and I got them this visit. I also wanted to try the cheese fries, which I know are not a big deal, but the Marys are big into cheese fries and we’re always looking to see how they measure against each other.
While I was standing at the counter ordering, I noticed one of the specials boards offered a red snapper with crawfish sauce and a side for $18.99. I had to try it and the side I picked was macaroni and cheese.
The onion rings came in a small loaf, individually sized between small and large. These medium-sized rings were lightly battered, crispy, and greaseless, served with a thick remoulade sauce that’s more closely resembles the orange dipping sauce flanking the Outback onion mum phenom in the height of its popularity. It was definitely thicker than the orange sauce and had another unusual ingredient - not bad, just unexpected. That same theme of a surprise ingredient applied to the dipping sauce for the cheese fries., which were also pretty basic, an adequate amount of cheese and bacon melted in the piles of ordinary fries.
The fish came out with a crawfish cream sauce on top, flanked by a dish of extremely basic macaroni and cheese. Its looks belied its true goodness. It was creamy and very cheesy, with a rich texture and a hint of black pepper, evidenced by a sprinkling of grains throughout. This was surprisingly hard to stop eating. The crawfish sauce was exceptionally good over a generous slab of red snapper. a special value for $18.99.
It probably sounds like I’m not too keen on this place, but quite the opposite is true. Just because they put a twist on things doesn’t make it bad. Everything we have had here is quite tasty, and while it is not brilliant, it is a very good new addition to the neighborhood.
Definitely one to watch.