Top Three Restaurant Meals – October 2009 – NOLA!

As September was all about NYC when it came to restaurants for me, October was all about New Orleans. The Crescent City is a marvelous food destination with plenty of great Creole and Cajun cuisine as well as cooking representative of other areas. We ate extremely well in that fine city, making it very difficult to choose a top three. I had outstanding dishes at The Acme Oyster House, Herbsaint, Coquette, Cochon & MiLa, but the meals were not as fully wonderful from top to bottom as the ones I chose for my top three. The one dish I had at Stanley – Eggs Stella!, which are a version of Eggs Benedict that also included a beautifully fried, generously sized and delicious soft-shell crab, was great and worthy of adulation but fell short because I had only that one dish. The same is true for the always wonderful beignets and coffee at Cafe du Monde. At Cochon Butcher I had one great sandwich – the Cubano – and one mediocre – shrimp salad (the raw onion left me with a terrible, long-lasting after-taste). Domenica, John Besh's New Orleans Italian restaurant in the Roosevelt Hotel was solid throughout, but never spectacular. That leaves these as my top three meals:

  1. Stella! – I have already written about it fairly extensively. I can't say that I have ever had a better meal in New Orleans. This would have been a great meal anywhere and Stella! would be a great restaurant anywhere, even if it was slightly different depending on its location. The fact that Chef Scott Boswell's food has such a strong New Orleans base, yet manages to be a truly global (in a good sense) yet personal restaurant is what makes it so special. Stella! has become, on one visit, one of my favorite restaurants in the country.
  2. Bayona – Susan Spicer was in the kitchen the night we were there just as she was 15 or so years ago when my wife and I first dined there. The cooking is not particularly trendy, but it doesn't have to be. The food is just delicious and served in a lovely French Quarter setting. I particularly enjoyed the sweetbreads, which were as good as any I have ever had. The andouille stuffed rabbit roulade with fried leg was also stupendous. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera that evening.
  3. Willie Mae's Scotch House – open just for lunch, the fried chicken deservedly gets top billing, but the chicken fried pork chop is no slouch either and the sides of butter beans and red beans are just wonderfully tasty and the definition of comfort food. This New Orleans institution was devastated by Hurricane Katrina just like much of the rest of New Orleans. A lot of the area around the restaurant has yet to recover, though the restaurant made it back relatively quickly largely thanks to the assistance of The Southern Foodways Alliance.

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