High Hat Cafe

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris March 01, 2024 11:32 in Dining Diary

Sometimes I wonder how Tom settled on a place to eat out. It’s hard for me, because I am encumbered by things he wasn’t, like not wanting to go somewhere in a neighborhood I found intimidating, or a place that didn’t feel good. For him, it was strictly about the food. I think my feelings are more the norm, but still, I have to write and talk about something.

With a meal to experience and content to use, I scanned my mental map of the city and decided on High Hat, a place I have been to only once, and a long time ago when Adolfo Garcia owned it. Several years have passed since then and I was still in no hurry to go.

High Hat is a place counter to my sensibilities. I would call it quirky, but weird is more appropriate. “Not to my taste”, though I really wish it was. Or I did. The menu is vast and full of interesting things, particularly sides, which I gravitate to anyway.

This visit would be a real search to find some common ground. The menu is exciting. and I want so much of it. There was a vague idea in my head of what I would get until we walked in and saw fried speckled trout on the menu. Also a macaroni salad, and a few pies that seemed interesting.

We started with the basket of cornbread. I also wanted a basket of fries which are housecut here, and pimento cheese, and the gumbo “with a dark roux” seemed like a good idea. For entrees, we settled on a Cuban Sandwich and the fried trout special. I also got that macaroni salad and a side of coleslaw, just because I love coleslaw.

The cornbread was so ordinary I wished I had gotten a slice for $2 instead of a basket for $6. It wasn't bad, but  it just wasn’t necessary to eat more than a few bites. We did not get the basket of fries because our really great waitress advised us that the Cuban Sandwich came with fries. I am always grateful when a server saves me money.

Pimento cheese is another of those menu items I always compare to my own, and theirs comes up short. This was very different from mine, which tends to be loaded with “stuff” This was pure smooth bright orange pimento cheese. I have to put this on par with my own. It reminded me of orange Play Doh, but the flavor got me past that very quickly. It was sharp and tangy and just perfect. The crostini it was served with were too thick and a little salty, but also very good, and this was a nice combo.

The highly-touted “dark roux” gumbo was another disappointment. It is hard to describe what I mean by this but sometimes meat in a dark gravy or sauce or soup has nothing behind it but the color, and the meat can be overcooked in a way that is just odd. This gumbo had all those unpleasant qualities. Too thin, flavorless, strange texture to the meat, and totally uninteresting except for that bewildering meat thing. It was dark, though.

The macaroni salad could more accurately be described as a carb salad, containing potatoes as well. This was not objectionable, just surprising, I have never seen that. It was tasty enough and creamy. I don’t see macaroni salad much but I do like it. This was an unusual version, but good. 

The coleslaw was equally good. Very thin and stringy cabbage vegetables in a creamy base, this was not too sweet. I brought it home to eat some more.

The Cuban Sandwich was another disappointment, mainly because I didn't care for the sweetness of the housemade pickles, and the pork was not especially good. I kept wishing I was eating Katie’s Cubano, which is smoky and perked up with regular dill pickles and a shock of yellow mustard. The best.

Accompanying the sandwich was a pile of terrific housecut fries. These were the best I have had in a long while. They were not cold and limp, they were salted fine, and were the right thickness. 

Tom’s fish was an interesting plate of food. I simply have to start reading through menu items, or blackboard descriptions. When I read fried speckled trout I pictured a fried fish platter in New Orleans. I even stupidly asked for tartar sauce. What arrived was fried fish in an unusual batter, set atop pan-seared buttery broccoli, accompanied by yellow curried rice.

There was nothing wrong with any of this. It was just completely different from my expectations. This is my fault for not reading through descriptions, but why is due diligence required by the diner? This is New Orleans, and fried speckled trout conjures up images of a platter of fish with a pile of fries. The tartar sauce was more of that ridiculous herbal sauce. We didn’t need it anyway with a platter like this.

I liked the curried rice, and I liked the broccoli, and I like the fish, but it is hard to overcome an image of something else.

The food was good. The service was great. Really friendly and special. Servers are guides who are very proud of what they are serving. They want to help you love it. And I love that.

High Hat is full of neighborhood people who go there a lot. The servers seem to know them. The food is overall fine but not something I need to return for. It’s a little weird, and I am tired of weird. I will leave it to the regulars. My patronage is not needed.