The Tom number 70 birthday party was followed by another party on Sunday when the extended family and visitors trekked across the Causeway to meet at our new favorite place on the Northshore. Pat’s (as in Pat Gallagher) Rest A While opened in the waning days of last year, and on a beautiful sunny day it is definitely a destination.
What was done to the physical property here is so special that the food doesn’t have to be nearly as good as it is. But it is. Pat Gallagher has four other places where his food is served, his three eponymous steak places, and a sandwich place where he is partnered as chef with the building’s owner. It is a similar arrangement here, but the food is much more ambitious.
Rest A While is definitely casual, but the food is sophisticated. Think grilled swordfish alongside a fried chicken sandwich, Crystal Hot Sauce onion rings beside an elegant beet salad with escarole greens, blue cheese, pecans and a perky but sweet vinaigrette. To be truthful, beets were the least represented of the ingredients here, but it was so good no one cared.
All manner of fried seafood plates came with ordinary battered fries and a small cup of good coleslaw. There were hushpuppies on the table with a great aioli, a few amandines, a burger in the steakhouse model, and the most beautiful and unusual wedge salad I have ever seen.
This salad screams fresh green lettuce, and it is a boat of Romaine, with the other standard wedge ingredients inside. The Green Goddess dressing is not a typical one, with a heavy tarragon component. I have still not decided definitely if I like this dressing, but I will still get this salad because it has that Wow! Factor.
The onion rings are fine, freshcut, a little limp and maybe a tad greasy, The hot sauce packs a nice mild punch, but these are not as good as some other versions of this dish around town. Tom is wild about the hush puppies here. Mary Leigh, the hush puppy connoisseur, (if there can be such a thing) is not. Either way, the accompanying aioli is practically intoxicating.
The burger is good and beefy with the classic dressings on a sturdy brioche bun. Hits all the right notes, and even though it is large, it is hard to quit eating it. The fried seafood is ample, crispy, cornmeal-fried, greaseless, and just plain good. The platter is a great size, with all the right things - coleslaw, hushpuppies, and fries. This will not disappoint anyone wanting fried seafood.
Exactly the same can be said for the mac and cheese, which is a nice portion because it is very rich. Large shells enveloped in a creamy smoked gouda sauce and baked with breadcrumbs dusted on top make such a statement it is hard for any one person to eat more than a few bites. We ordered two of these and didn’t get the other one, which worked out perfectly because several of us had had our fill from just the one. Definitely worth getting though.
My sister got a simple corn and crab bisque, which was enormous enough to be a meal, and delicious enough to finish every bite. This was gorgeous, hearty, chunky, and delicious. Loaded with cream. This is Pat Gallagher, after all.
There are a few oyster bars on this property. A raw bar stays busy, and chargrilled oysters always run out. We had a few orders on the table. A basket of French bread slices came out ahead of the oysters rather than with them. The oysters were on the small side and were very lightly embellished. A mere dusting of parmesan, a lot of buttery juice, and a noticeable amount of salt. That is not a complaint. I like salt. But it was noticeable.
When all of this food was consumed, we cut the cake Mary Leigh had made for Tom. It was one of ML’s delicious dense white cakes, this one with praline filling. The servers brought plates and candles for us to use, and the cake made a crumbly mess. No problem, they assured us.
Everyone who showed up was delighted to be there. It was a cold but gorgeous sunny day, and the restaurant was buzzing.
The Mandeville Lakefront was busy with the celebration of the weather and life. Sun danced off the waves of Lake Pontchartrain, creating silhouettes of people sitting on the sea wall.
The restaurant is aptly named. It is indeed a great place to sit and Rest A While.