NOLA's Five Best Dishes for Sharing
As children, one of the first lessons instilled in us is the importance of sharing. As adults, we do what we damn well please.
Delicious dining options abound in New Orleans, which can make passing a great plate around the table a real test of will. But if you’re feeling generous, here are five dishes to enjoy at restaurants where sharing isn't just allowed, it's encouraged.
Visitors to New Orleans can come anytime of the year and enjoy our po'boys, muffalettas, jambalaya and gumbo. However, due to seasonality, not everyone will be able to get a taste of the city's signature hot, boiled crawfish. One of the area's favored spots for the spicy crustaceans isn't even in NOLA proper. If you've got wheels, head out to Smitty's Seafood in Kenner, which is only a 20-minute drive from Downtown New Orleans. Sit down to a huge tray with a roll of paper towels and a cold brew. If you prefer not to venture out of the city, then Big Fisherman on Magazine Street is your place. Even if you're flying solo, don't be afraid to order way more than you could ever eat. Catch a cab to Audubon Park, find a shady spot under a tree and you'll be certain to make friends who will be more than willing to share a meal and a good time.
While splitting dishes was once frowned upon by The Restaurant Powers That Be, communal dining has been a popular theme with many of the latest restaurants opening in New Orleans. Mesón 923, a sophisticated and ambitious entrant helmed by Executive Chef Chris Lynch, features a scallop appetizer that changes daily. Here, perfectly seared medallions sit atop chanterelle mushrooms in a savory lobster-veal reduction and are accompanied by tempura asparagus. After just one bite, you may be telling your dining companion to order their own. Politely, of course.
It isn’t a secret that restaurants with a focus on small plates provide a bit of flexibility when it comes to dining out. Not only can you satisfy a variety of cravings in one sitting, you can usually appease a variety of budgets, as well. The newly-opened Salú Small Plates & Wine Bar is as appealing to the Uptown collegiate set as it is to the more well-to-do residents. At only $7 a plate, it may seem like a good idea to pop as many bacon-wrapped, mascarpone-stuffed dates into your mouth as possible, but I encourage you to save room for Chef Ryan Gall’s marinated skirt steak with wilted watercress and brandy-wild mushroom cream. Vegetarians, don’t let visions of pork and beef stop you from dining at Salú. Many of the selections are meat-free, including their herbivore paella.
If there is anything that can match the notoriety of our food, it would be our nightlife. When it’s 2 AM and dinner seems like it was ages ago, you don’t have to settle for…well, whatever the rest of the country eats at 2 AM. Stumble down Frenchmen Street to Yuki Izakaya and choose a bottle of sake from their extensive list while you wait for your food to arrive. Dishes such as hot and crispy shichimi-peppered French fries and salmon carpaccio are perfectly sized to allow you to order one of everything and share amongst a big group. Yuki’s steamy ramen bowls are perfect for sobering up, if you’re into that sort of thing. Being sober, that is.
With so many talented chefs calling our city home, it is a task in itself just to choose which restaurant to dine at. If you're considering a night in, order one of the gourmet pizzas from celebrity chef John Besh’s casual Italian venture, Domenica. This wild mushroom pie topped with fontina, bacon and a yard egg makes for a quick, yet satisfying meal. If you opt to dine at the restaurant itself, many of Chef de Cuisine Alon Shaya’s dishes come in large and small portions, allowing you to customize your dining experience.
Wild Mushroom Pizza photo courtesy of Robert Peyton/appetites.us. All others courtesy of Leslie J. Almeida/NOLA-Eats.com.