Dozen Best Shrimp And Grits
The combination of shrimp and grits is of recent introduction to New Orleans. It’s a signature dish of the Low Country of South Carolina, where it’s on nearly every menu. But no sooner did the idea show up here–and get goosed up with Creole flavors–than it swept with amazing speed through New Orleans menus.
Two aspects of this dish intrigue me. The first is that the dish is much better than it sounds. “Shrimp and grits” doesn’t exactly sound right. But, after trying at least thirty versions around town, I can say that I’ve somehow never had a bad one. Which is a miracle.
Second, no two versions of the dish are alike. The sauces in particular range all over the map, from the creamy sauce at the Upperline to the spicy, barbecue-shrimp-like sauce at Atchafalaya. And everything you can imagine in between.
Essential to the dish are stone-ground grits with some body, preferably with something creamy stirred in. Standard breakfast grits get left behind.
1. Atchafalaya. Uptown: 901 Louisiana Ave. 504-891-9626. The definitive New Orleans-style shrimp and grits around town has a deePly red-brown sauce with some heft to it, enormous shrimp of barbecue size, and fabulously good, rich, texturally perfect grits.
2. Upperline. Uptown: 1413 Upperline. 504-891-9822. “Cane River Country Shrimp” is what the menu calls them. Big shrimp on a grits cake with reduced shrimp bisque as the sauce. Unique and wonderful.
3. Nola. French Quarter: 534 St Louis. 504-522-6652. More complex than most. Sautéed shrimp, grilled green onions, smoked cheddar grits, apple-smoked bacon, crimini mushrooms, with a sauce made of red chile peppers, beer, and butter.
4. Jacmel Inn. Hammond: 903 E Morris. 985-542-0043. Barbecue shrimp and grits with smoked gouda, all playing nice together.
5. Dante’s Kitchen. Riverbend: 736 Dante. 504-861-3121. Spicy grilled shrimp with stone-ground grits and and andouille red-eye gravy.
6. Cafe Adelaide. CBD: 300 Poydras St. 504-595-3305. This one is somewhere between a bouillabaisse and a courtbouillon–plus grits. The shrimp are simmered in a chunky stock with tomatoes, herbs, and saffron. A saffron-tinged aioli is on the side, with a sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano over the top. (The cheese may be one ingredient too many.)
7. Gallagher’s Grill. Covington: 509 S Tyler. 985-892-9992. Classic New Orleans barbecue shrimp, with the grits decidedly in the background, but not out of place.
8. La Petite Grocery. Uptown: 4238 Magazine. 504-891-3377. Shrimp and grits, shiitake mushrooms, bacon and thyme.
9. Red Fish Grill. French Quarter: 115 Bourbon. 504-598-1200. Barbecue shrimp, grits enriched with Creole cream cheese (now there’s something different!), with fried green tomatoes underneath it all.
10. One. Riverbend: 8132 Hampson. 504-301-9061. New Orleans-style barbecue shrimp and grits with wild mushrooms. It’s on the lunch menu, but they’ll make it at dinner, too.
11. Le Meritage. French Quarter: 1001 Toulouse. 504-522-8800. It’s offered in the section of the menu built for sparkling wines. Gulf shrimp and grits, tasso, red-eye gravy.
12. Drago’s. Metairie: 3232 N Arnoult Rd. 504-888-9254. ||CBD: 2 Poydras. 504-584-3911. Rich, in the style of the New Cajun dishes of the 1980s, with tasso in a creamy sauce. The serving may be too large to hold your appetite all the way through.