Anecdotes & Analysis
The people who devised the dishes at the American Sector--from proprietor-chef John Besh on down--aren't old enough to have a grip on what the food of seventy years ago was like. I'm not old enough, either, but enough remnants of that culinary era were still around when I started going to restaurants that I know how good some of it could be. And many of the visitors to the museum have active memories of The Big One and all the trappings of life back then. Their sensitivities should be attended to.
The same is true of other trappings of American Sector. It's great that they play the superb popular music of the Big Band era--but they play it so loud and repetitively that it starts to grate. I think they need a curator of food and atmosphere in here.
Why It's Essential
Restaurants in museums are not the dull snack bars they used to be. The American Sector is the restaurant of the excellent World War II Museum in the Warehouse District, with a menu that surveys 1940s retro cooking. The approach is whimsical and nostalgic, but the kitchen takes its cooking seriously, reviving dishes that haven't been popular in a long time, with current ingredients and techniques. The style is somewhere between diner and family-style restaurant.
The World War II Museum grew out of the D-Day Museum. There is a reason it's in New Orleans: the Higgins shipyards here built the boats used in the invasion of Normandy and elsewhere during the war. It has been a runaway success, and continues to grow. John Besh was the dominant restaurant figure in town when the main part of the museum was abuilding, and he was contracted to manage the restaurant here. It opened in 2009.
The restaurant has two parts. The spacious, tall main room surrounds a large bar. Its walls are covered with photographs 1940s celebrities, including many radio stars. The tables feel like those of an old department store restaurant back when. Next door is the Stage Door Canteen, where one can have dinner and watch a live show of dancers and singers performing the superb popular music of the era. It's a set price with a set menu. The servers all wear white jackets and soda-jerk hats. The place really does make you feel a little as if you were in the times portrayed.
For Best Results
Ask detailed questions about every dish, no matter how familiar it may seem. Very little of the menu is played straight. The house-made sodas--served from real seltzer bottles at the table--are not to be missed. Kids' meals are served in cute lunchboxes the kids can keep.
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American Sector1035 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130, USA