Any dermatologist whose appetite is more than skin-deep is going to L-O-V-E next week’s American Academy of Dermatology meeting. New Orleans and food. They go together like fried chicken and waffles, praline bacon and stuffed French toast, beignets and chicory coffee.
Although there’s no shortage of tables in the Big Easy, reservations could be in short supply by now, with thousands of docs ready to pounce on the city’s specialties. So be a smart tourist and get on the phone, or hit opentable.com and line up your plan of attack.
Most derms are probably going to hit the AAD’s breakfast tables before hitting the morning sessions. But if you just can’t take one more muffin-and-coffee meal, consider the following:
Cafe du Monde. Do we really need to talk about this spot? Just do it. It’s easy to incorporate into an early morning jog and the jog back eliminates any guilt (and all calories) about downing two or three sofa-pillow-sized pieces of fried dough.
You also might want to hop on the St. Charles Streetcar and head up to the white-colonnaded Camellia Grill. The streetcar ride is a pleasure in itself, a leisurely trip through a grand old neighborhood of enormous moss-draped live oaks, Audubon Park, and some incredible old homes. Get off at Carrollton Avenue and open the door on the past – a long lunch counter served by (mostly) men in white uniforms and bow ties. Banter with the grill cooks and enjoy an enormous plate of eggs, waffles, French toast, or omelets. Since Camellia serves breakfast all day, you can still enjoy the experience at night, with the added bonus of a piece of pecan pie grilled in butter. Or what the heck – just have that pie for breakfast (626 South Carrollton Ave.; 504-866-9573).
Brunch at the Court of Two Sisters in the French Quarter is a frustrating mix of dreamlike atmosphere in a vine-draped courtyard, and throngs of hung-over tourists lining up at the trough, um, buffet line. The food is decent, but the courtyard not quite as lovely in February as it is in June. And, well, it can be a mob scene (613 Royal St. 504-522-7261).
How about a real surprise – something elegant, discreet, and lovely in the racy French Quarter? For about $60, you can listen to soft jazz and blues by the James Rivers Movement and relax in the Roosevelt Hotel’s velvety Blue Room. For that price , you’ll get endless champagne and mimosas, one entrée off the brunch menu (anything from eggs Sardou to prime rib), and access to buffet of gumbo, chilled seafood, and a dessert table of mini-pastries, speciality cakes, and bananas foster – flamed tableside. For cool cocktails and hot jazz, check out the hotel’s Sazarac Bar, decked out in devilish red velvet for a devilish evening out. (123 Baronne St.; 504-648-1200).
I know, I know – everyone will tell that Acme is THE place to go. But while 50 people are shivering in the outside line, facing an hour wait, you can saunter right across the street to Felix’s, grab a bar stool, and have them shuck you out a dozen fresh, sweet oysters for $10.75. Manager Adrian Zado assured me that Louisiana oysters are still coming in, although the beds around the mouth of the Mississippi remain off-line. “Some were shut down for protection,” because authorities didn’t know how oily oysters would affect diner safety. Other beds died off when the state released more fresh water into the gulf to try to keep oil offshore. Slip in on a Wednesday from 5-10 p.m., and you’ll get a free beer (the local Amber Abita is great) with every dozen oysters, although I like mine with one of those cute demi-bottles of champagne (739 Iberville St.; 504-522-4440).
Lunch and Dinner
Mother’s, close to the convention center, is a controversial place. Tourists love it because it’s in all the books. Locals come for a few specific things –the roast beef with debris particularly. But mostly it’s a long wait in a lunch line, followed by big servings of mediocre food (401 Poydras St.; 504- 523-9656).
Both Antoine’ s and Galatoire’s are old NOLA institutions, these two grand monsieur of the French Quarter offer a similar experience – a time trip back to the genteel era of ladies with feathery hats and the men who coddle them. Antoine’s is the elder brother, established in 1840; Galatoire’s a mere 106-year-old. Antoine’s is heavily French-influenced; Galatoire’s proudly claims “The menu doesn’t change.” Aficionados of lighter, New American-style cuisine might be disappointed in the presentation and the flavors, but both draw devotees of these classic dishes (Antoine’s: 713 Saint Louis St.,  581-4422; Galatoire’s: 209 Bourbon St.,  525-2021).
In the Commercial District, my favorite place is still Herbsaint. It’s small, with a vest-pocket-sized bar, but survived Hurricane Katrina with most of its well-loved offerings, and some darn good new ones. My favorite meal? Shrimp and grits with Tasso ham, any of the pork dishes (the menu changes seasonally), and, for dessert, the brown sugar banana tart with fleur de sel caramel. Reservations all gone? Try the tart anyway; the recipe appeared a few years ago in Bon Appetite (701 St. Charles Ave.; 504-524-4114).
If you want to venture uptown, Brigtsen’s is a great bet. Housed in a charming turn-of-the century wooden home, it serves up Creole classics with a little modern twist. Anything with pork, quail, or rabbit is a can’t miss (especially the panéed rabbit and spinach with the Creole mustard sauce). The “Shell Beach Diet” gives you six different little seafood jewels, for $32. And what’s not to like about banana bread pudding with banana custard sauce? (723 Dante St.; (504) 861-7610).
For a local’s take on food, I turned to my colleague Alicia Ault, who has a long-standing love affair and virtual residency with NOLA. Here’s what she had to say:
Dick & Jenny’s has become somewhat well-known over the years, and a big plus is that they are open on Mondays – there are few fine dining establishments open on either Sunday or Monday (4501 Tchoupitoulas St.; 504-894-9880).
Three Muses. A new-ish place on Frenchmen Street, very small, good chef, has music sometimes. Small plates-type food. It’s getting a lot of hipster buzz (536 Frenchmen St.; 504-298-TRIO).
Patois. This is an old New Orleans place, too, also uptown. Fabulous food, almost impossible to get in. Alicia – is that a challenge (6078 Laurel St.; 504-895-9441)?
Boucherie. In the Carrollton area, it features very highly rated New American/New Orleans food, farm-to-table stuff. I can never get in here, partly because it’s small. And I’m talking even when there’s nothing special going on in town (8115 Jeanette St.; 504- 862-5514).
Coquette. Fabulous cocktails (I had bacon-infused bourbon), some outside tables, nice atmosphere, very good food (2800 Magazine St.; 504-265-0421).
Ralph’s on the Park. A Brennan’s restaurant, Ralph’s is a locals-type special-occasion place on City Park. Service and food are great. A $35 three-course pre-theater menu and a $19 two-course lunch are on offer (900 City Park Ave.; 504-488-1000).
Ye Olde College Inn. Very solid New Orleans food with a noisy, party-type atmosphere. Locals love this place, and I end up eating here a lot because it’s easy and not too expensive (3000 S Carrollton Ave.; 504-866-3683). Also it’s right next to the Rock ‘N Bowl so you can eat and then stumble over for music.
Well, that’s it. And now I’m calling my editor to complain because I’m being sent to cover a stroke meeting in L.A. next week – instead of delicious NOLA.
— Michele G. Sullivan (on Twitter @MGSullivan)