America is currently under the influence of the fry basket. Chefs spend a lot of time thinking of new things to deep-fry. A lot of that is because that’s an easy way to cook almost anything, as long as you’re not too worried about what it will taste like. But some chefs approach the hot oil with something creative and flavorful in mind. Here are the best of those items.
As usual, we’ve limited the very large fields in two ways. 1) Fried potatoes have been left out completely, because they could easily form two or three of these lists all by themselves. b) We have gone stressed variety over absolute goodness, because the twentieth-best fried eggplant is probably better than the best fried parsley. And we’ve already done the best fried eggplant. (That list is here.)
- Mid-City: 134 N Carrollton Ave. 504-488-7991. Fried eggplant. Billed as sticks, it would be more appropriate to call them eggplant logs. Here is one of the few sources for fried eggplant where they understand that thinly-sliced eggplant sticks don’t cook right. No two are the size and shape. The marinara sauce on the side is perfect for this purpose.
- Andy’s Bistro. Metairie: 3322 N. Turnbull Dr. 504-455-7363. Onion rings. The menu calls them “onion crusts,” which should not deter you from trying this variation on thin-cut onion rings. The onions are marinated briefly in hot sauce, which gives them an alarming orange color and a mild but tingly extra pepper. The standard serving is a large pile.
- Fausto’s. Metairie: 530 Veterans Blvd. 504-833-7121.Fried artichoke hearts. Fausto’s, like most Creole-Italian places, is masterful in its frying of eggplant, artichoke hearts, and even mushrooms. It comes out with a breading containing lots of herbs and parmesan cheese.
- Barcadia. Warehouse District & Center City: 601 Tchoupitoulas St. 504-335-1740. Fried cucumber pickles.These are found most often in poor boy shops, where they not only make a good side dish, but can be enclosed in a poor boy for added textural interest. What makes the fried pickles at this hamburger specialist stan out is that they make their own pickles from fresh cucumbers. The coating is like the one used for fried catfish. Side of jalapeno aioli gives a spicy verve.
- Upperline. Uptown: 1413 Upperline. 504-891-9822.Fried green tomatoes topped with shrimp remoulade.This dish, now common around town, was created at the Upperline two decades ago by the late Chef Tom Cowman. They still set the standard, with both the red and white varieties of remoulade sauce.
- Pupuseria Divino Corazon. Gretna: 2300 Belle Chasse Hwy. 504-368-5724. Fried plantains. Plantains are close relatives to bananas, and are familiar sides in Central American restaurants like this Salvadoran cafe. The platanos fritos serve as a starch instead of a sweet. Toasty and good.
- Mr. Ed’s. Metairie: 1001 Live Oak. 504-838-0022.||Kenner: 910 W Esplanade Ave. 504-463-3030. Fried mushrooms. Mr. Ed’s serves the entire range of fried vegetables well. That they would also fry mushrooms–and make them taste good–shows how adept they are at this skill. I added some of these to a roast beef poor boy once to such a great result that I tried to talk the waiter into naming the sandwich for me. (Nothing yet on that.)
- Clancy’s. Uptown: 6100 Annunciation. 504-895-1111.Fried eggplant with aioli. One suspects that the reason for fried eggplant at Clancy’s is that Galatoire’s has them, and the two restaurants share many customers. The eggplant goes well with cocktails. They’re served with both an aioli for dipping and powdered sugar (old tradition).
- Two Tony’s. West End & Bucktown: 8536 Pontchartrain Blvd. 504-282-0801. Fried zucchini. Made in the style of fried eggplant, but juicier. Also here is a great version fried artichoke hearts with a creamy Creole horseradish sauce.
- Rusty Pelican. Mandeville: 500 Girod St. 985-778-0364. Fried artichoke hearts. The look and location of this place doesn’t inspire confidence, but in fact they have frying nailed here. Very light, hot and crisp, always absent greasiness, a served with ranch dressing. The pile they serve for the price–it feeds at least three–is the best bargain on this list.
- Shogun. Metairie: 2325 Veterans Blvd. 504-833-7477.Tempura and katsu vegetables. Most Japanese restaurants fry tempura vegetables: broccoli, peppers, carrots, green beans, cauliflower and more. Shogun does all of these well, and they also offer a few vegetables fried in the katsu style–coated with panko bread crumbs instead of the thick tempura batter.
- Eat. French Quarter: 900 Dumaine. 504-522-7222 . Fried okra. The classic Creole fried okra dish usually involves tomatoes, and indeed you can get fried green tomatoes with the okra, or have all of it assembled into a poached egg dish at breakfast hours. Good any way.