Part two of my top ten favorite places to eat in New Orleans coming in hot! I went to Muriel’s for a bachelorette dinner, and it was the perfect place for such an event. Muriels’s describes itself as “casual fine dining” and this short description could not be more fitting. The restaurant’s ambiance practically drips of elegance, but in a sexy and chic way rather than being haughty and uncomfortable. Deep red walls with white trim are decorated with golden framed paintings and golden embroidered curtains in one private room. In another, light brick is draped over deep green walls which hearken to the bayous which are ever present in Louisiana.
Chandeliers and candles dimly light the restaurant for dinner, and the entire venue gives off an upscale Bohemian vibe. Muriel’s seems almost fit for a seance to accompany dinner. Actually – if that is what you are into, Muriel’s does in fact boast a seance lounge which is decorated in furnishings that are reminiscent of a Gypsy carriage. Muriel’s is the sexiness of New York City, mixed with the feeling and decor of the Gulf South and the intrigue of mysticism.
During my first visit to Muriel’s I arrived early and began with soaking up the ambiance by lush having drinks at the bar. To sit in such a lush and attractive environment drinking the evening away would have been satisfying enough. The unique cuisine of Muriel’s raises the bar that much more.
One of the finest dishes I’ve had the pleasure to taste is Muriel’s savory Gorgonzola cheesecake. This is offered as an appetizer and is ingenious. It holds the shape and style of an actual cheesecake with savory, sweet, and even tart flavors. Muriel’s menu describes the dish as, a “Gorgonzola prosciutto terrine, honeyed pecans, crispy prosciutto and slices of tart green apple.” The crawfish and goat cheese crepes are creamy and warm the bones, soul, and stomach with their richness. I ordered the shrimp and grits as my dinner entree, and was not disappointed.
Nothing cures the awful feeling of a Sunday morning hangover quite like fried chicken and carbs. The night prior to this meal, I had gotten ridiculously silly, and not just any level of silly. My friends and I had danced for six hours straight at the same venue on Bourbon Street. We pulled countless middle aged women onto the dance floor to dance with us, and a few were taken by force.
These memories come in flashes as I lay reeling in our hotel bed surrounded thankfully by cool air and darkness. In one instance, I remember both my best friend and I grabbing a reluctant elderly woman by each arm to come join in the fun after she alerted us that her hip wouldn’t allow for dancing too much.
In another instance, we ran into a girl from high school and continuously called her the wrong name even though she corrected us no less than six times. I remember yelling to the live band to change up the music because I’d heard them play this song already. “Ma’am, you’ve been here for five hours. There are bound to be some repeats.”
Full of flashes of embarrassing behavior my head ached and my stomach was in knots. It felt as though it would cave in. We made the only logical next move – venturing into the Treme for Willie Mae’s chicken.
The line was long, and it was no less than a squillion degrees outside. The sun beat down mercilessly, and I thought for sure I’d faint. Thankfully, an angel appeared, and ironically she was from Brooklyn. The woman had driven herself to Willie Mae’s and happened to have cool water in the back of her car. She ran and brought both my best friend and I bottles of the water and laughed with us about the stories we told her of our wild night before. Combing over the details of the night before as well as discussing life in New York City made the time on line feel nearly painless.
The decor of Willie Mae’s is simple, but effective. The orange painted walls are lined with photographs, paintings, and signs are almost feels as though you may be sitting in a friend’s kitchen or living room. However, one does not come here to appreciate art, you come to eat.
Willie Mae’s will ruin all other fried chicken for you. Forever. It’s juicy meat and crisp skin melts in your mouth and stays in your soul. The skin is thickly battered, only slightly greasy, and is served piping hot and fresh. The mac and cheese is creamy and flavorful and the red beans and rice is the best in the city. Be prepared that portions are HUGE – bigger than my child at birth. If you go to Willie Mae’s, be prepared for a nap afterward!
The Gumbo Shop
I’m sure the Gumbo Shop is not a hidden gem per say, but it certainly feels like one. The Gumbo Shop is a favorite among New Orleans locals in the French Quarter. It’s tucked away behind a wrought iron gate and down a short narrow alley, so it feels hidden. Eating furthest back in the garden patio makes one feel like the eatery is especially hidden.
Looking up at the staircases you might feel as if you’ve wandered into Stanley and Stella’s place in Elysian Fields. That’s more than enough of a reason that Gumbo Shop is one of my top ten favorite places to eat in New Orleans. You also wouldn’t be wrong if you felt that you were in some tropical paradise, perhaps Cuba. The perfected daiquiris only add to that vibe. In all honesty – our party of four felt that the daiquiris we enjoyed here far surpassed any we’ve had in the Caribbean. The banana daiquiri was my choice. It was strong, bold flavored, and perfectly sweetened.
Gumbo Shop is fortunate enough to have one of the most charismatic, kind, patient, and entertaining waiters on the planet. I feel like such a terrible human, because I cannot remember his name, but I hope he knows the worth of his talent. Our family still talks about how awesome this man made our experience. He had a subtle sense of humor and was over the top accommodating. He walked us through descriptions of dishes several times and referred to everyone as “baby” and “darling.” He even brought us some samples of food when we could not make a decision about what to order.
The award winning chicken gumbo is acclaimed for a reason. It has a smoky bold flavor and its combination of spices are divine. Trying to satisfy a carb craving, I sprung for the crawfish tasso pasta. The dish consists of penne pasta coated in a cream sauce, spices, and topped with a more than generous topping of crawfish tails. This was an excellent combination of New Orleans famed form of seafood with savory, creamy, salty goodness.
Stay tuned for part three and all of my other New Orleans restaurant reviews. Missed part one? Click here.