I fu______ hate this title, but SEO dictates that I brand this article with the most generic approach as possible. Therefore, everything following it will be as unorthodox as possible. For some New Orleans locals, that probably includes some of the choices of restaurants that have made this article. Disclaimer, I have NOT VISITED EVERY RESTAURANT IN THE CITY! So, as the saying goes, please do not “at me” if your personal temple of food porn worship did not make it onto my list of my top ten favorite places to eat in New Orleans.
New Orleans is the only place that is acceptable to venture to purely because of the cuisine. I’ve traveled to the Big Easy five times, and I have never struck out with a “bad” meal during any of my trips. I’ve loved EVERY single meal that I’ve devoured. However, there are some eateries that I love as dearly as a relative. I dream about these places. I salivate like an animal when I think of them. I’m frighteningly close to rolling up a sleeping bag and trying to move into these restaurants as my permanent place of residence.
K Paul’s Kitchen
The staff at K-Paul’s is amazing and friendly in a familial way. They actually might take me up on my offer in the last sentence of my intro.
Fewer names are more synonymous with Louisiana cooking than Paul Prudhomme. If your mind is drawing a blank, pick up a bottle of Magic Seasoning Blend out of your kitchen cabinet – that’s him. He served as executive chef at none other than Commander’s palace and is rarely pictured without the wearing of his signature snap brim hat. Unfortunately for the world, he passed away in 2015. However, his long time talented associate, Chef Paul Miller has headed the operation for quite a while, procuring fresh and local ingredients for some of the best tasting dishes in New Orleans.
Turtle Soup and Lies
I never thought that I would try turtle soup. Afterall, turtles are pretty friendly and adorable. However, deep diving into culture is important to me. It also helps that our waitress described the dish as being a lot like a cup of chili. Like most good rustic dishes, turtle soup originated out of an abundance of product. Green snapping turtles populated the area where early American colonists settled. In my case, the meat came ground and served in a dark brown roux. This made it palatable as opposed to trying to down giant chunks of mystery meat.
The soup had a gamey consistency and a oceanic taste, similar to gator or frog legs. Had no one told me that I was eating turtle, I could have cleared the entire cup. It truly was delicious and a lot like a savory, bold, chili. Knowing that the animal I was eating has such an endearing personality – at least in cartoons – made it hard to swallow. I tried to be ethical and not waste food by passing the cup around the table and giving the family a taste. I was not ethical in telling them it was “delicious and they must try” when I really thought it was a difficult meal emotionally.
K Paul’s green onion dressing will have even the most reluctant of folks interested in salad again. The creaminess of ranch dressing meets the tangy flavor of scallions to create the most perfect condiment known to man. Once you eat this, there will be no other dressing or dip that compares. Seriously, I will appreciate all fan e-mail telling me that you life has been changed by this experience.
A Terrible Comparison and My Death Row Meal
I love crab claws. I hate the amount of work I need to do to get to the meat. I’m willing to eat a lot, I’m not willing to exercise to get my food. I’m not a hunter gathered, and this is not the stone age – I shouldn’t have to do that shit. Enter: fried crab fingers. The hard work of de-shelling was done for me, and instead the meat was battered and fried in a creamy and breaded filling. To some this may be sacrilegious, but I can best describe these delectable bites as an elevated seafood take on the hushpuppy. Fresh, delicious crab without the pain in the ass work, and added benefit of lightly fried and battered goodness made this an outstanding appetizer. The creamy sriracha sauce served on the side made for a great accompaniment.
I have five death row meals; this next dish is one of them. Paneed veal with lobster herbal brie cream was my entree of the evening. If you haven’t been able to tell, I do really well with creamy. The savory melt of brie cheese and heavy cream leaking onto a mountain of mashed potatoes is my idea of heaven. The veal (also covered in the cream and brie) was perfectly seasoned and the combination of all of the above with lobster and herbs is worth killing for.
New Orleans Is Haunted. Straight Up.
I felt a bit dizzy and went to the women’s restaurant on the second floor (where we were seated) to use the restroom and splash some water on my face. I went into the stall and did not see anyone enter from under the stall door, but was surprised when I heard shuffling. As I left the stall, I stopped in my tracks seeing a beautiful young woman washing her hands, almost obsessively in the sink.
She kept sighing and seemed as though she were looking for an “in” for conversation. “I cut my hand” she said. Despite my better judgement, I looked into her sink expecting to see a small cut, and instead seeing a giant gash across her palm. Concern consumed me. “Oh wow, you should put pressure on that.” She continued washing and washing. “My boyfriend thinks I’m crazy. I grabbed the glass too hard.” I laughed in a small way and went to grab a paper towel. She repeated the sentiment about her boyfriend twice.
I told my family about the encounter, and I looked around the restaurant throughout dinner trying to find the woman. The dining room was small, and only people who dined on the 2nd floor would use that bathroom. I never saw her again. I even looked around on the first floor and she was nowhere to be found.
Click here, and prepare to salivate: http://www.kpauls.com/
French Market Restaurant
One of my favorite parts about visiting the French Market Restaurant is walking in during the afternoon when barely anyone is there. Apparently there’s an upstairs rooftop dining area to eat; I have no interest in that. Instead, I take a seat at the bar in the dark dingy back area. I order the same meal every time, and spend hours drinking while bullshitting with the bartender. French Market Restaurant could be seen as touristy, and yet it is free from photo snapping, Insta-worshiping, phone scrolling masses of people that plague just about every corner of the earth.
There’s no pressure to be getting the greatest shot and documenting every single moment of the dining experience. It’s one of those rare eateries where the afternoons pass slowly. People talk face to face while sipping an ice cold beer. It’s a come-as-you-are casual dining establishment, and that is partly why it makes my list of top ten favorite places to eat in New Orleans. These types of places are disappearing from society and I’m not happy about it.
When I eat here, I don’t ever deviate from my typical meal of choice. The crawfish boil with a side of the corn, potatoes, and sausage is the first thing I try to eat as soon as I land; because simply put – it feels like home. It’s the ultimate Cajun comfort food. I consider New York the home of my body and cultivator of my personality. However, I consider New Orleans the home of my soul.
For me, there is no greater affirmation that I’ve landed in the Crescent City than diving face first into a hot plate of crawfish fresh from the heavily seasoned boil. (the literal image of this is beyond funny to me – scolded by a bucket of crawfish.) Typically, I hate snow crab legs, but I always order them here, they’re damn good and a portion of the price as the big guys. Last but not least, the macaroni and cheese. Its bold and creamy taste underneath a mound of more broiled cheese can warm the heart and bones during even the rainiest stormy afternoon. Sound like your type of place? Click here: https://frenchmarketrestaurant.com/
The Pelican Club – Sazeracs and Bugsy Siegel, Apparently.
My mother walks into the room and declares loudly, “Alright, fuh Thanksgiving, I made res-uh-vations for the Pelican Club.” She’s a meticulous and amazing researcher. Even though she’d never been to the Big Easy yet, she did her due diligence. “The Pelican Club? That sounds like an old gangster hang-out” my dad retorted. “It’s a restaurant, Steve. In New Aw-lins.” I can listen to my parents have normal run of the mill conversations all day long. Even the most generic and normal topics are nothing short of hysterical when they discuss them.
We entered Pelican Club on Thanksgiving day and…yeah – I could see some big time gangsters passing an evening here back in the days of Capone and Rothstein. The main dining room of Pelican Club immediately hearkens back to a time of 20th century old world sophistication and elegance, but not snobbishly so. It is very hard to find a restaurant that has exceptional food and feels exclusive. One where the staff aren’t thrown into cardiac arrest when you use the dinner fork for salad.
The room is slightly dim and faintly glowing. The room appears to go on for miles and miles and everything in it screams grandiosity. The paintings which hand on the white and tan two toned walls are as big as a bathtub. The ceilings are enormously high and decorated with wood paneled ceilings fans. The chairs have wood paneling as well with black leather and the table clothes of course are white and perfectly starched. The ambiance is undoubtedly southern, but also possibly transported from another era entirely.
The duck, shrimp, and andouille gumbo is to die for, full stop. My three favorite proteins in one warm and delicious cup? As Michael Scott would say, that’s a win-win-win. The Pelican Club boasts some amazing entree options, I was most impressed by the offering of Thai Massaman Curry – one of my favorite dishes when visiting Thailand.
However, I’ve an affinity for lamb so I chose that and was not disappointed in the least. It was unbelievably tender – one of those “like butter” deals where you could probably cut the lamb with a spoon. The crispy outside and heavy seasoning makes me salivate even writing this, and the asparagus and potatoes on the side were a phenomenal touch. I highly recommend the sazerac, shoo fly, or pomegranate martini to accompany any meal. The shoo fly being an elevated and sexy take on the gin and tonic, incorporating features such as lavender bitters and violet liqueur. For more information: https://www.pelicanclub.com/
For anyone who has made it past a pre-school level of math, you’ll notice that this is a partial list. Stay tuned for part two of my top ten favorite places to eat in New Orleans! Eager to learn more about my time in New Orleans? Try here: https://whatilearnedis.net/2019/11/17/new-orleans-through-the-years/