life (with kids) MAIN Travel

Why the best meal I had in New Orleans cost me $9 & other restaurant reviews

As long as I blog I should never ever be allowed to go on vacation. Because what happens is that I forget I have a blog. Am I still supposed to be calling this is a blog? Is this a lifestyle website now because the word blog isn’t cool anymore? That’s another post.

Anyhow, suddenly it’s a week after I posted the first New Orleans trip post when I should have posted this one way earlier. I wish I had a great excuse other that the snow has melted and we like good Canucks all headed the hell outside faster than you can say Daylight Savings time is reeking havoc on my kids bedtime. We dragged out the flip flops and put away the parkas sitting there thinking “Did I jinx it? Are we going to get a blizzard in May?” Because you know the moment you put away your winter clothing is the moment your garden gets destroyed by a fluke snowstorm.

So we’ve been outside because it’s been above zero, heading into the double digits where we’re literally redoing the garden at the expense of our back muscles for your future entertainment on here. But speaking of gardens, let’s get back to that nice place across from the Garden District that I would like to call our future second home when we win the lottery, the French Quarter.

Now if you regularily read my site you will note that I hate cooking. I mean I really hate cooking. And it’s not that I don’t know how to cook despite my many jokes against my ability to do so, it’s that I cook so much that it has literally sucked all the fun out of it. Our family cannot agree on a single meal including my kids who love everything the other hates and I am pretty sure my husband James eats more chicken in 48 hours than your family does in a week. So I will take any excuse for anyone else to make me a meal. All you food bloggers with your 10 hour cakes and your overnight steak marinades and salsa made from scratch on nights you get home from work, you are awesome and never stop being you. Feel free to come be my neighbours any day so I don’t have to do it anymore.

In which case, New Orleans, Southern cooking, Étouffée, Crawfish and Cajun and Creole dishes…bring it on!!

So let’s get into it shall we. The 101 of where we ate and what happened and why the best meal we had, of course didn’t happen until the last day.

DAY 1

Which was kind of like Day 1.5 because we were supposed to get into New Orleans before dinnertime the day before (we went from Sunday to Thursday) for an extra half day of vacation. Instead we got there at 8 pm (thanks Delta!) and we were starving. The place we wanted to eat at was closed and at that point the only thoughts going through my head were “Somebody get me food before I eat nine beignets at 11 pm and convince myself that they contain protein”.

So we walked into Cafe Pontabla which is located on the corner of Jackson Square. Now the service was fine and the meal wasn’t terrible, but it certainly didn’t entice us to come back for seconds. This is a far better location to get a drink and people watch than it is to go to eat. Don’t say you weren’t warned. Actually Trip Advisor warned us but we noticed that halfway through our meals on their restaurant review app.

Cafe Pontalba

In which case Day 1.5, Monday morning, we woke up, had breakfast at the hotel then did lots of sightseeing.

Then lunch.

This time we went straight for our original choice Meals from the Heart Cafe, which is currently rated # 1 on the the Best Places to Eat on TripAdvisor. And what it is, is a little takeout/sit down lunch cafe in the French Market on Decatur. Where the service was phenomenal.

But the food. Sweet mercy.

Have the crab cakes. Then try not to ask them their recipe for both the salad dressing and the sauces. I can’t even begin to tell you how good this was. In fact it was so good that we went back the next day for lunch.

Meals from the Heart Cafe - northstory.ca

Vegan options.

Gluten Free options.

Healthy options.

Unbelievably perfect. Proof that you do not need to batter fry everything in order for it to taste good. We both had the Crab Cake Passion.And again, their house garlic-lemon Remoulade sauce for the salad alone was so divine it made me wonder why this place hasn’t been franchised and expanded. Maybe that’s exactly why.

Some insane amounts of walking around and touring the quarter later, we started to think about where to have dinner. Royal House Oyster Bar had this great balcony around it and I thought it would be a fun experience to go have dinner there. So we stopped by in person and made reservations.

Royal House Oyster Bar New Orleans - northstory.ca

When we got there that evening however, the next shifts staff had no record of our reservations and we were told we weren’t allowed to make reservations the same day. They did in the end find a spot for us on the balcony (which was why we made the reservations in the first place), but I won’t lie, this did put me off a bit. I understand that as a business I am sure tourists flake on them a lot. But it’s the idea of looking forward to something and then having it start off on the wrong foot.

Luckily our waitress was really great in changing up the mood and the food was very nice. James said the roasted corn was seriously the best he’s ever tried. The one thing about the balcony I should warn you about – while the view and experience of it is great, the balcony is old and slanted. So you’re sitting on an angle. And every time someone walks or gets up, it bounces.

Meaning hold onto your beer on your table.

View from the balcony dining at the Royal House in the French Quarter New Orleans - northstory.ca

Me at the Royal House in the French Quarter New Orleans - northstory.ca

Shrimp Creole at the Royal House French Quarter New Orleans - northstory.ca

Later that night, instead of falling asleep at 9 pm in the hotel like the rockstar parents that we are, we decided to hit up Bourbon and went to Saints & Sinners.

Saints & Sinners Channing Tatum's bar in the French Quarter New Orleans - northstory,ca

Which is owned by Channing Tatum, who I had no idea grew up in Mississippi and his Dad is from New Orleans.

So James of course was very happy to discover that the bar served up the Chive’s KCCO beer because he had wanted to try it out.

KCCO beer - northstory.ca

Having a KCCO beer in New Orleans at Saints & Sinners - northstory.ca

Inside Saints & Sinners New Orleans - northstory.ca

Having a drink at Saints & Sinners in New Orleans - northstory.ca

I loved our bartender that night,  a really great girl India who we chatted briefly about the differences between the people in New Orleans vs oh say Toronto. I know Canadians have this rep of being polite and kind but half the time if you’re walking down the streets of Toronto, they’re too busy avoiding making eye contact with you because that may interfere with their attempts at exuding the “Don’t you know who I think I am” mentality.

Unlike the South. You don’t get the term Southern Hospitality for nothing. Or as India put it (and this needs to be put on a t-shirt) “We’re all up in each others shit over here.”

Love that.  Torontonians, take a hint. Try smiling at someone today. Perhaps say hello. Start up a conversation. You’d be surprised how that can make someone’s day.

We do however have one minor suggestion for Channing to add to his bar.

Channing if by chance you read this, we love your movies. Congrats on your baby girl and your beautiful wife /happy marriage with Jenna. You’re a Steelers fan? Amazing. And I am pretty sure James laughed his ass off at 21 Jump Street though I am still secretly convinced that’s exactly what happens when he’s at work with his crew.

But you need to add a foot rest area to the base of your bar.

Our feet kept looking for a ledge to rest on and trying to use the bar stools is not the same thing. Other that than that, you got a great staff and a great look to your bar.

I was going to title this post “The one thing Channing Tatum needs to add to his bar in New Orleans” but then I felt like I would mislead all the Channing fans out there who think I have a photo of him with us at the bar? That’s not right.

So instead I can leave you with a photo of my husband from our first trip to New Orleans that got me a lot (and I mean a lot…) of email asking if that was really James. Yes it’s really James. But come on now, is that all it takes to get me page views here? I’ll post more pics of him if you want as it’s way easier than getting some DIY projects done and up.

New Orleans Trip

This paragraph is getting way off topic and he is going to kill me when he reads this, so onto our next Day of restaurant adventures.

DAY 2

Hot breakfast, Hotel le Marais. Folks, hotels with breakfasts included. Never ever booking one without one again.

For lunch we went back to the French Market and Meals from the Heart Cafe where this time it was all about the crab cake PoBoys.

Inside the French Market in New Orleans - northstory.ca

Crabcakes from Meals from the Heart Cafe French Quarter New Orleans -northstory.ca

Dinner.

After me making the last call about dinner the night before I said James you choose tonight. He seems to have way better luck than I do.

So we went to the Oceana Grill.

Oceana Grill French Quarter New Orleans- northstory.ca

We walked in and the first thing we thought was “Are we in Red Lobster?” and kind of worried that maybe we had made a mistake. I honestly think we were hoping that it would have had a less kitschy ambiance and little more ‘something something’.

The food took care of any of our misconceptions. Now I hadn’t read anything about the reviews and past drama about this place – the whole Kitchen Nightmares and Gordon Ramsey escapade – or else I would have probably had some preconceived notions. After we ate there and read them I thought are we really talking about the same place?

Seriously, the food was good. Really good. I had the Crawfish Étouffée and James had the tuna steak and both were very good and good sized meals.

Crawfish Etouffee at the Oceana Grill New Orleans French Quarter - northstory.ca

Don’t judge a restaurant by its cover folks. This is the big lesson of this trip several times over.

After that James being a giant football fan (his favourite team are the Steelers) wanted to go check out Deuce McAllister’s Ole Saint Kitchen and Tap, which is a relatively new  to the Quarter on Royal St.

Can we talk about their beer list?

Ole Saints - having a drink at their great bar in the French Quarter - New Orleans - northstory.ca

No really, look at the beer list.

Ole Saints amazing beer menu in the French Quarter New Orleans - northstory.ca

Damn.

This is where James tried the Lazy Magnolia Jefferson Stout and promptly realized that we can’t get this goodness – just like my seasonal Abita Lemon Wheat Beer – back in Canada. This is the price you pay for falling in love with local beers. Great staff and great selection. We even had the Habs game on that night and Raptors in the playoffs. Lots of Canadians visiting down there.

DAY 3

You know how some people are fancy dress up and 5 Star Restaurant, small food portion but presentation matters type of people?

I am not that type.

I am however the type that really appreciates local pubs and fresh seafood. As a kid my family went to Florida a lot on vacation and we would always wind up going to get shrimp by the pound, that were sold at all of the little rustic pubs under the docks by the Gulf of Mexico. And you’d sit there with a giant bowl of shrimp and bread and devour it. Those were my favourite kind of meals and I wanted that kind of experience here.

Now you don’t get to experience more local cooking than heading to NOLA during crawfish season, so I really wanted to try some boiled crawfish.

And it was kind of surprising how hard they were to find and how many restaurants didn’t offer it. But thanks to the fun filled world of Google and other local bloggers, turns out The Original French Market Restaurant and Bar did.

They also had balcony dining. So after a very long morning out, we stopped in mid – afternoon to see what it was all about.

The Original French Market Restaurant & Bar New Orleans French Quarter - northstory.ca

The Original French Market Restaurant and Bar French Quarter New Orleans - northstory.ca

The Original French Market Restuarant and Bar - New Orleans- northstory.ca

Our waitress was great and explained to us the technique of how to eat them. Which was very interesting to learn that all of the meat is in the tiny tail part of this craziness.

New Orleans Crawfish - northstory.ca

Trying crawfish for the first time in New Orleans at the French Market Restaurant - northstory.ca

The spices and experience of eating them was great, but we still wanted something else. So we ordered these guys.

I have never seen shrimp this big in my life and this includes all the years of us going to Florida.

Shrimp dinner in the French Quarter New Orleans - northstory.ca

Having a beer at the Original French Market Restaurant & Bar in New Orleans - northstory.ca

You know what we deserved after this great meal?

More beignets!!

Now look, most days the lineups to get into Cafe Du Monde look like this.

Line up for Cafe Du Monde French Quarter New Orleans - northstory.ca

But what a lot of people don’t realize exists, is this glorious invention on the other side of the building called the Take Out Window.  Cash only. Take note.

Cafe Du Monde menu French Quarter New Orleans - northstory.ca

Cafe Du Monde Take Out window French Quarter New Orleans - northstory.ca

And that line goes way faster, so you can get your goodness to go and eat it in Jackson Square.

Cafe Du Monde Beignets and Coffee - French Quarter - New Orleans - northstory.ca

Fast forward to dinner.

By this point in the trip we were tired and really didn’t want to have a heavy sit down meal. We wanted something a lot more relaxed and inexpensive.

Now Killer Poboys kept showing up everywhere we looked online and in media snippets as the best thing to happen to French Quarter food in a long time. Did I mention they have only 5 sandwiches on their menu and still have that reputation?

So we went.

Killer Poboys are located INSIDE the Erin Rose Bar. You basically have to walk into the bar, then walk to the back and there they are. In which case you won’t see it via street signs. You know you’re in demand when you’re not advertising and people will still try to find you.

Erin Rose bar - French Quarter - New Orleans - northstory.ca

NOLA til ya die is right - New Orleans Killer PoBoys - northstory.ca

Inside Killer PoBoys French Quarter New Orleans - northstory.ca

Ordering a Killer PoBoy in the French Quarter New Orleans - northstory.ca

I ordered the Roasted Sweet Potato and Local Greens Poboy and James had the 5 Spice Beef Meatloaf Poboy.

Best meal I had in New Orleans

I am not a vegetarian or a vegan.  But anyone that can take plain sweet potatoes and veggies and make them taste this bloody good, could easily convert someone and deserve all the accolades they get.

This sandwich cost me $8.25 + tax still came in just under $9. And if you include James sandwich that’s still under $20.

In our past two trips here, we’ve eaten at majority of the top rated restaurants and have easily paid 10 x the price of this meal on sub par food. I told them before we left that it was easily the best meal of our trip and I meant it. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.

For all you planning your bucket list trips to NOLA, if you get a chance, go get one of their Poboys. And do not wait til the last day of your vacation.

Before we left the Quarter we stopped off to get some famous pralines.

Magnolia Sugar & Spice Pralines - New Orleans - French Quarter - northstory.ca

If you’re on a diet don’t walk in. The smell alone will bring you to your knees.

Magnolia Sugar & Spice Praline company store - French Quarter - New Orleans - northstory.ca

And of course I had to take some of this home.

Cafe du Monde Beignet Mix - northstory.ca

When I try to make them I’ll definitely document and write about it. Because my attempts at baking posts make for excellent entries on here. Like the time I tried to make rainbow cake for the first time and the aftermath of that little experiment.

Beignets shouldn’t be hard…should they?

Don’t answer that. Just go to New Orleans and try them and all the great food out for yourself.

Thank you again NOLA for all of your Southern Hospitality!

5 Comments

  • Reply
    Kristen S
    May 8, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    I now desperately want to visit New Orleans!

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 10, 2014 at 8:22 am

      I think you guys would fall in love with it there. Then again b/c of your Instagram I need to go to Denmark.

  • Reply
    Jo-Anna@APrettyLife
    May 9, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Wow! Now I’m big time craving beignets! Your trip looked SO amazing – New Orleans is definitely on my bucket list!

    • Reply
      Alex
      May 10, 2014 at 8:23 am

      I think you should make some homemade ones and show them on your site! I’d love to see your take on them b/c I’m betting they’d be delicious.

  • Reply
    sylvia
    May 10, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    hi alex! my husband went to new orleans and brought back the exact same box of beignet mix. i’m not much of a chef or baker either, but this mix wasn’t very hard to do. just two tips: the batter is REALLY sticky and you have to flatten it out. i did it on a really large plastic try and had to use a lot of flour. also, since you are frying them, your house will stink like oil for a day or two afterwards–and i hate the smell of oil 🙁 so the second time i made them, i did it outside lol. after you drown the little pockets of doughy goodness in icing sugar and drink it with a hot cup of coffee–its all worth it!

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