Tasting New Orleans' Cuisine (Outside NOLA)
For Mardi Gras revelers, last weekend was the big one in New Orleans. If you couldn't make it for fried oysters and Hurricanes, but you're hankering for the flavors you missed, here are some options in The Daily Meal's 11 featured cities outside NOLA.
At a little more than 500 miles, it's a veritable hop, skip, and a jump from Austin to New Orleans. Okay, the eight hour drive might not be that short, but the relative proximity means there are a few options for New Orleans-style grub if you're jonesing. Gumbo's of Downtown Austin serves gumbo, étouffée, crawfish, and a host of other Crescent City delicacies. For something a little different, there's Sambets Cajun Deli — their crawfish po'boy, boudin sandwich, and gumbo have garnered good reviews. There's always Pappadeaux... March 4th through the 8th they're doing 1 ¼ pounds of boiled crawfish with potatoes and corn for $9.95.
Beantown isn't a hotbed of Creole/Cajun spots, or New Orleans culinary icons. But if you're dying for a po'boy, you can find a few. The Boston Globe recommends the blackened catfish po'boy at Highland Kitchen. Mind you, they also noted La Verdad's chile relleno sandwich, and that didn't rate a mention. If you're truly in the mood for a taste of Mardi Gras, you're better off seeking out oysters. Boston does that right. You can't go wrong at these four places: B&G Oysters, Union Oyster House, Island Creek Oyster Bar, and Neptune.
There was a reason for frequent spottings of President Obama at Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop when he was senator. Po'boys (shrimp, oyster, and catfish), great Johnny Cakes, crawfish, jambalaya, fried okra — they're all there, and you can wash them down with Pat O'Brien's Hurricanes. Through Fat Tuesday, Dixie does a four-course menu for just $19.95. Of course, Chef Jimmy Bannos' Heaven on Seven has three locations that make po'boys with soft-shell crab, chicken, angry chicken, catfish, shrimp, or sausage. (Dixie, Flickr/Eric Guo)
Vegas fits the bill as America's other city renowned for letting the good times roll, and it's home to two restaurants by New Orleans' adopted son, Chef Emeril Lagasse. At Delmonico Steakhouse and Emeril's New Orleans Fish House you can find Creole-boiled Gulf shrimp, gumbo, New Orleans fried seafood, and a few other touches that might bring a little Mardi Gras to the desert.
On his website, Chuck Taggart described himself as "a native New Orleanian living as an expatriate in Los Angeles, California." In what he calls his Gumbopages, Taggart made it his mission to list where to get good Creole and Cajun food in Southern California. Among some of the more heralded by him and others in Los Angeles are Harold & Belle's, Uncle Darrow's, and Les Sisters Southern Kitchen.
CBS Miami did a roundup of Miami's best spots for Cajun and Creole cuisine just a few months ago, focusing mostly on Haitian restaurants (though, of course it featured another restaurant by Chef Bam!, Emeril's). If you don't want Mardi Gras to end, and you don't mind manufactured atmosphere, you could take a trip to Universal Studios in Orlando — they're hosting their own Mardi Gras from February 12th to April 23rd every Saturday and on select nights. Besides the parades and floats, jambalaya and po’ boys are being served.
New Orleans forlorn New Yorkers have a bevy of options. Cheeky Sandwiches does po'boys and "Ben-Yay’s” (left). At Acme Bar & Grill you can find more po'boys and Hurricanes. And you can kick off the night at Ninth Ward with Hurricanes, or use their recipe for a Café du Catnip cocktail to finish the night at home while bemoaning the dearth of places to get a decent muffuletta in Gotham.
Grub Street Philadelphia noted several spots for decent muffulettas a few years ago, including Countryside Market and Nodding Head. (What's going on down there that can't happen in New York?) For good restaurants serving Creole food, Philadelphia Magazine rounded up a list of good spots including Crawdaddy's, Becks Cajun Café, and Marsha Brown. There's always Bourbon Blue, which will be having a Mardi Gras party with live music, beads, and $4 SoCo Hurricanes to go with their alligator quesadillas. Sounds like trouble.
The Front Porch is flying shrimp up from Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana, and "doin a proper boil, with corn, potatoes, Andouille and love." They're also doing jambalaya, and crawfish étouffée, live jazz, beads, and even have Abita on draft. Elsewhere, New Orleans natives might take issue with the license Chef Chris Cosentino has taken with their native sandwich, but the muffuletta at Boccolone in the Ferry Building, while not necessarily authentic, is tasty.
Crawfish, oysters, fried oysters, nine po'boys, étouffée, jambalaya, Marcella's Cookery has only been around since 2008, but has garnered some local praise, including the title of Seattle's Best Muffuletta from Seattle Weekly. For curbside Crescent City fare, there's Where Ya At, Creole food served from the food truck recently described by The Seattle Times as the "it [food] truck of the moment." Po'boys, muffulettas, beignets served in the street — seems more in the spirit with the real thing anyway.
Acadiana fared pretty well with Washington Post critic, Tom Sietsema. You'll find classics like turtle soup, boudin, gumbo, and catfish. According to The Post, it might be worth stopping in at The Bayou — their Tuesday-night party will include someone winning tickets to next year's real party in NOLA.
But let's face it, your best bet for superior New Orleans food is to get there. It's not too late...