WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
A block away from the Mandeville Trailhead of the Tammany Trace walking-biking trail is this relatively new cafe serving a small but focused menu in a minimal way. Deep-frying is the kitchen’s best-honed skill, followed by grilling and blackening. That about covers the good eating options, but all of that comes out hot, well seasoned, and (in the fried items, not the burgers) greaseless. A few specials run daily, most of them more ambitious than the standing menu but just as good.
The star of this show is the Rusty Pelican’s crab cakes. Made with lump crabmeat, a minimum of bechamel, peppers and onions holds it together inside a pannee-style bread crumb crust. It’s so good that my first suspicion about it was that they were buying them already assembled and just frying them to order. In fact, they’re made in-house.
The owner first caught the attention of the public with a similar restaurant called the Triple Nickel, which he sold before the hurricane. The Rusty Pelican opened in 2008 with an even smaller menu than it has now. Long-term, it seems to be growing. There are other restaurants around the country with this unusual name, but none of them have comparable menus or seem to be associated with this one. What’s a rusty pelican?
The brick building stands out in a neighborhood of older houses. In one large room, you order at the counter and a server brings the food–almost all of which is served in a wax-paper-lined plastic basket (points off for that, as well as for the roll of paper towels on the table in lieu of napkins, and the plastic utensils). You fetch your own drinks. A few tables are outside on a small patio.
»Crab cakes with remoulade
Cheese fries with bacon and ranch dressing
Fried eggplant sticks
Fried opnion rings
»Fried artichoke hearts
»Hamburgers (numerous options)
Grilled, fried or blackened chicken sandwiches
Shrimp poor boy
»Fried shrimp, bacon and Swiss poor boy
Crab cake poor boy with remoulade
Fried catfish poor boy
Grilled or fried mahi-mahi sandwich
Roast beef poor boy
»Seafood platters (catfish, oyster, shrimp, or combination)
Grilled, fried or blackened chicken
FOR BEST RESULTS
The fried dishes are the best bets. The crab cake is not to be missed unless you don’t like crabmeat.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The roast beef poor boy, made with chunks of beef, is hard to eat and not worth the effort. The minimal service could and should be upgraded.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine & Bar
- Local Color +1
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Open Sunday lunch
- Open Monday lunch
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations