Thursday, September 21, 2006


I Can Close My Eyes and Smell The Gumbo On The Stove

Monday night the New Orleans Saints will take the field against the Atlanta Falcons in the Louisiana Superdome. Nearly 70,000 Louisianians will gather and unite for something they truly love. Cheering on their Saints.

There will be precious little girls in black and gold cheerleading uniforms. Rough and crusty oyster fishman. A grandma sticking voodoo dolls with long stick pins. A guy dressed like the pope.

The concession stands will sell Popeye's Fried Chicken, Red Beans and Rice and Jambalaya.

And when the Saints emerge from the tunnel and enter the field, there will be tears.

To think what happened in that building just a year ago, this evening is somewhat of a miracle... and a rebirth.

A year after the events of Hurricane Katrina, I still have problems talking about it.

Unlike many people I meet in New York who can comment about what happened and what went wrong, I have very different perspective.

I was there.

Living in my hometown of Baton Rouge, watching the winds rip tree branches from the oaks that surrounded my home… I knew this was a storm we would never forget.

As much as I would like to expound on what happened in the days and weeks after the hurricane, I would rather use that energy to talk about the great city of New Orleans, and the one-of-a-kind food shops and restaurants that have made it back.

Below is a short list of restaurants and dives that I literally grew up in. The food is unmistakably New Orleans, and the atmosphere the same. Some of them you may have heard of… many of them you have not.

I’ll be back in New Orleans in a few weeks, and intend on visiting as many of these places as I can. Next time you visit, I strongly urge you to do the same. With over 50% of the restaurants and cafes still closed and likely never to reopen, it is important to celebrate the few that have made it back… and welcome them with open arms.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do… I’ll see you at the bar.

Domilise Sandwich Shop & Bar
5240 Annunication Street , New Orleans, LA 70115

This small poboy shop in the garden district is the quintessential New Orleans dive. It also is the home of what many believe to be the best poboy in New Orleans… quite a statement. I tend to agree. The fried shrimp poboys are piled high with shredded lettuce and sour pickles, the crispy fried oysters sprinkled with fresh lemon and the roast beef, covered in rich beef gravy that is destined to drip down your forearms. This is the real deal… as the saying goes… as good as it gets.

Type of Establishment: American,Creole,Seafood,Po-Boys
Price Range: Inexpensive
Telephone: (504) 889-9126
Hours: Mon-Wed, Fri-Sat 10-7pm
Payments Accepted: Cash

Commerce Restaurant
300 Camp St. , New Orleans, LA 70130

Tradition, tradition. You know this place. Baskets of Tom’s crackers and breadsticks on the counter with a dish of butter pats. Paper napkins. Ice tea. This is that plate lunch joint that always has the stuff you wish you had made that day, but was just too much work (red beans, greens, gumbo, etc). I’ll bet you make friends with someone you’ve never met over lunch.

Type of Establishment: Bkft/Lunch,Creole,Seafood,Po-Boys
Price Range: Inexpensive
Telephone: (504) 561-9239
Hours: 6:00am to 2:30pm Monday – Friday

Johnny's Po-Boys

511 St. Louis Street , New Orleans, LA 70130

Likely the only place in the French Quarter where you can get a real poboy, and a good one at that. I lean towards the roast beef here, but in truth, they can all hold their own. These guys close early, so don’t procrastinate.

Type of Establishment: American,Po-Boys
Price Range: Inexpensive
Telephone: (504) 523-9883
Hours: 8:00am to 4:30pm Monday - Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm Saturday - Sunday
Payments Accepted: Cash

401 Poydras Street , New Orleans, LA 70130

Maybe the most famous poboy shop in the Big Easy, and the process reflect. Tourists come in droves, but truth be told so do many locales… as the black ham with debris poboy may be the best in town. If you have never been here, the long line that forms out the kitchen door may be worth your wait. Stick with the sandwiches and Red Beans on Mondays.

Type of Establishment: Creole,Cajun,Po-Boys
Price Range: Inexpensive
Telephone: (504) 523-9656
Hours: Mon-Sat 7:30am-8pm
Payments Accepted: American Express,Master Card,Visa,Cash

3232 N. Arnoult Road , Metairie, LA 70002

Words can’t describe Dragos. First, know that the BBQ Oyster was invented here. What is it? A fresh shucked oyster on half shell, topped with lemon, butter, garlic and cheeses, then grilled over a open BBQ until hot and bubbly. When you walk through the front door, you’ll see no less that 40 dozen stacked high… as every single table starts with at least a dozen. All the food is great, but don’t kid yourself… the oysters have people driving in from Mississippi.

Type of Establishment: Seafood
Price Range: Moderate
Telephone: (504) 888-9254
Hours: Mon-Fri 11-8:30pm; Sat 3-9pm
Payments Accepted: American Express,Master Card,Visa,Cash

R & O Restaurant

216 Old Hammond Hwy , Metairie, LA 70005

Maybe the most famous neighborhood joint in New Orleans, on the lakefront in Metarie. A classic dive, the food here is legendary…. Hot shrimp and oyster loaves, plates of spaghetti, boiled crabs and crawfish in season…. Ice cold Miller Lite. It’s a gem, and I know few people in South Louisiana who haven’t been there.

Type of Establishment: Italian,Pizza,Seafood,Po-Boys
Price Range: Moderate
Telephone: (504) 831-1248
Hours: Wed-Sat 11:30-3pm, 5:30-8:30pm
Payments Accepted: Master Card,Visa,Cash

430 Dauphine Street , New Orleans, LA 70112

Is it possible that Susan Spicer was the first to really succeed at Haute Creole commercially? I think so. And years after her magnificent Bayone opened in the Quarter, it continues to thrive. This is not a traditional creole joint as you or I know it… but an experience of all of the flavors we love, in a way you’ve never tasted. Long live Bayone, and the creative genius of Susan.

Type of Establishment: American,Creole,French
Price Range: Expensive
Telephone: (504) 525-4455
Hours: Tues-Sat 6pm; Wed-Fri 11:30-1:30pm
Payments Accepted: American Express,Master Card,Visa,Cash

Commander's Palace
1403 Washington Avenue , New Orleans, LA 70118

What can be said? This kitchen, as well as the watchful eye of Ella Brennan has spawned some of the nations finest chefs. The dishes at Commanders are as much of a staple as salt and pepper in any Louisiana kitchen, and the community embraces this institution unlike any other. You can still sip a .25 cent martini at lunch (or free is you are a woman eating alone) and the turtle soup has never been better. I’ve often been asked where I would eat my last meal, and without question, it would be here.

Type of Establishment: American,Creole,French,Cajun
Price Range: Expensive
Telephone: (504) 899-8221
Hours: 'til 9:45p Daily
Payments Accepted: American Express,Master Card,Visa,Cash

Irene's Cuisine
539 St. Philip Street , New Orleans, LA 70116

You can’t help but love Irene’s. It’s in restaurants like this one the Italian heritage of the city pours through, in spectacular fashion. When the creole and Italian flavors cross, you can understand the glory this culture…taking something great, and making it even better. Irene’s is a classic.

Type of Establishment: Creole,Italian
Price Range: Unknown
Telephone: (504) 529-8811
Hours: Mon-Sat 5:30-10pm
Payments Accepted: Master Card,Visa,Cash