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4 day August Trip Report: NorCal chowhounds reporting in

Thanks for confirming the poor service at Revolution wasn't just due to it being a late weeknight or our being Asian (which seems uncommon in NOLA--i noticed every Asian person we encountered because we saw so few compared to NorCal).

My husband love seafood so he can't pass up any seafood stew (e.g., bouillabaise, cioppino, councillor) or crabs. If I had a normal appetite, I would have been all over the meatery board. :)

1 day ago
smiles33 in New Orleans

4 day August Trip Report: NorCal chowhounds reporting in

Here's my original thread seeking advice:

To recap, DH and I did a quick child-free getaway to NOLA to celebrate his 40th birthday. It wasn't even 4 full days--we landed Wed night and flew home Saturday morning right after brunch. Overall, it was a successful trip but there were certainly more disappointments than anticipated.

The full list in order with brief remarks:

1) Restaurant R'evolution (dinner) - not worthwhile, we found it way overpriced given the quality of the food/service and it was not dazzling as I had hoped
2) Cochon Butcher (picked up 2 sandwiches and chips to go for snacks in the condo/breakfast the next day) - Gambino was delicious, but the muffaletta hit a flat note
3) Commander's Palace (lunch) - reasonably good but food is not the star here, it's the entire dining experience
4) Luke (Happy Hour cocktails and oysters) - good for a drop-in visit, cocktails were delicious
5) Cafe du Monde (beignets) - overrated and not worth the trip or calories (tasted the same as the ones we had in Disneyland's New Orleans Square--which is pretty sad
)6) Central Grocery (2 muffalettas for breakfast/snacking) - better muffaletta than Cochon Butcher but gigantic portions and overly salty
7) Dante's Kitchen (dinner) - delicious and just one low note (overcooked/dry lamb BBQ entree) but would still return
8) Willa Jean (breakfast) - awesome and would love to return to try other items
9) Cochon (lunch) - delicious (especially the wood-fired oysters!) and would like to return, but crawfish pie was a disappointment (and dry!)
10) Toup's Meatery (dinner) - this meal hit all the high notes and we would love to return
11) Atchalafaya (brunch) - mostly good, though fried chicken and biscuit was a letdown after having Willa Jean's version, but still worth returning

We started out quite ambitious when we hit the restaurants--2 appetizers, 2-3 rounds of cocktails, and 2 entrees (plus dessert at a few places!)--but quickly had to scale back. By the time we hit Dante's Kitchen, I was done with cocktails (except I did indulge in the Bloody Mary bar at Atchalafaya).

I don't know that I'll provide a blow-by-blow for each meal (there were many squeezed in a short time period), but here are a few highlights.

Best overall meal: Toup's Meatery
There were only high notes at this meal, our last dinner in NOLA. We loved the roasted bone marrow (with complimentary whiskey shots via the bone "luge" but I let my husband take both shots), Louisiana crab claws, and Gulf Seafood Couvillion. All three dishes were executed well, but I was most surprised by the Louisiana crab claws--it was perfect for a hot summer night, cool and refreshing with cilantro, lime, fennel, pineapple, and tomato. Sadly, we couldn't eat as much as we did the first night, so I am still kicking myself for not ordering the Meatery board but I wasn't hungry to begin with and could barely eat the items we did order.

Best surprise: toss-up between Dante's Kitchen and Willa Jean
DH's friend had recommended Dante's Kitchen but I hadn't found much info here on Chowhound. We were both thrilled with the bone marrow and escargots (what an interesting pairing) but my big surprise was how much I loved their shrimp and grits. I've only had grits a few times and haven't been impressed but these were life-changing!

As for Willa Jean, it was on the same street as the condo we rented in the Central Business District. I didn't know anything about it, but DH decided to pick up breakfast one morning (we were woken up at 7 am CST every morning by a neighbor's barking dog). He picked up a fried chicken biscuit and a boudin on a biscuit. The biscuits were phenomenal: not dense doughy lumps at all but light, flaky, almost croissant like with a crispy crust. DH loved their cold brew coffee, too.

Best cocktail: Cochon
DH loved the Delta Burke at Cochon (he had 3--the last one in a Go Cup). The two I had at R'evolution were creative (Summertime Blues and the Saint, neither of which are on the website) but not mind-blowing. We weren't able to get to the various cocktail bars I had on my list due to the heavy meals. But we ordered cocktails at various restaurants, so we had Sazeracs, Pimm Cups, and martinis (Commander's Palace's $0.25 special).

Best service: toss-up between Commander's Palace and Dante's Kitchen (two very different restaurants!)
Commander's Palace was far more formal (they replaced nearly full glasses of water with new glasses!), more polished, etc. but Dante's Kitchen was warm and friendly and very proactive. I was surprised by how sloppy and frankly apathetic the service was at R'evolution. Perhaps it was because we didn't arrive until 9 pm on a weeknight but the three staff serving us looked bored and ready to go home. At that price point, I expect far better service.

All in all, we had at least one or two pleasant dishes at every meal, even though our most disappointing meal was our most expensive (Restaurant R'evolution). We also had the opportunity to try a number of unique dishes not readily available in NorCal:

1) beer-battered crab beignets with a cheesy filling and gumbo (in Death by Gumbo) - Restaurant R'evolution)
2) turtle soup and the chicory quail - Commander's Palace
3) Gulf shrimp and grits, Louisiana red fish - Dante's Kitchen
4) Boudin (with a biscuit) - Willa Jean
5) Crawfish pie, alligator, and cochon - Cochon
6) Couvillon and Louisiana crab claws (tiny but so sweet!) - Toup's Meatery
7) fried green tomatoes (in the Eggs Atchafalaya) - Atchafalaya

Let me know if you have any questions.

Aug 30, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

Need one more dinner suggestion

We just returned from NOLA and thought our best dinner was at Toup's Meatery! For reference, our other meals were at Commander's Palace, Cochon, Restaurant R'evolution, Dante's Kitchen, Atchafalaya, Luke, and Willa Jean.

We loved the roasted bone marrow (with complimentary whiskey shots via the bone "luge" but I let my husband take both shots), Louisiana crab claws, and Gulf Seafood Couvillion. It was our last night in NOLA, so we were stuffed and couldn't eat as much as we did the first night (we did multiple meals with appetizers and entrees). I am kicking myself for not ordering the Meatery board but I wasn't hungry to begin with and could barely eat the 3 items we did order.

Have fun!

Aug 30, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

New Orleans May Trip Report (long)

LOL,LorenzoGA, I'm glad you came back to post a less "inflammatory" suggestion! :)

Christine: wow, thank you so much for some great tips to start my research on! I never plan a rigid schedule, but it's nice when I do some research beforehand so I have a full range of options. I hate that moment when one is on vacation and "desperate" (like after the first and second choice places are unexpectedly closed!), which inevitably results in my walking into a random place and "wasting" a perfectly good afternoon on swill.

Jun 23, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

In another thread it was shared that the Hurricanes are pre-mixed, which misses the whole point of getting a cocktail. Mixing cocktails is a craft and I'm looking for the artisans who take pride in their cocktails.

Jun 22, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

It's on my list, but DH is very prone to motion sickness, so I'm a bit worried about him!

Jun 22, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

New Orleans May Trip Report (long)

Thanks, Christine. I'll either add to my existing post requesting recs or start a new one focused on cocktails! I'm definitely planning to try a Pimm's Cup and a Sazerac (even though I normally don't like whiskey because it reminds me too much of my undergrad days!). I had a milk punch for the first time in NYC last year and while it's not something I'd order regularly, I do find it fun to try new cocktails.

In reference to the earlier post re: Pat's Hurricane, we are travelers/visitors who don't like touristy things (e.g., we try to avoid the crowds of tourists, we don't take photos posing in front of things, we don't go to museums/swamps/historical sites, and we don't buy souvenirs that can't be eaten/drank). We have been known to make an exception if it's a food-related touristy activity (e.g., visiting the Ferry Building in San Francisco, which is overrun with tourists). Yet a pre-mixed Hurricane in a loud crowded bar catering to tourists doesn't seem like it merits an exception to our normal policy. I'd much rather try Avenue Pub (which I'm worried may be touristy given its 24 hours of service but all those beers on tap are appealing!), Bacchanal, Sobou, Cane and Table, or the Carousel Bar given our limited time. This may make me sound like a snob, but I'm too old and impatient to deal with a noisy crowded bar with sub-par drinks.

Jun 22, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

Quick trip report from BA visitor

Thanks for sharing your trip report and the tip re: Arnaud's bar not opening until 5:30!

Jun 22, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

Trip Report to Zuzu in Napa, Meadowood in St. Helena, and Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford

We were Domaine Chandon wine club members primarily for that 20% off discount on meals at Etoile! We always went in person to pick up our wines and have lunch at Etoile. I miss their charcuterie plate the most.

I have to say that Auberge's stunning views don't seem to "offset" the quality of the food at all, which is a nice surprise. Too often the places with beautiful views offer lackluster food.

Thanks for reading!

Trip Report to Zuzu in Napa, Meadowood in St. Helena, and Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford

Thanks for reading, grayelf. I wonder if my disappointment is due to heightened expectations on the second visit. We really enjoyed Commis on our first visit but were also disappointed on the second visit.

Trip Report to Zuzu in Napa, Meadowood in St. Helena, and Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford

I thought I'd share a trip report. DH and I celebrated our anniversary in Napa/St. Helena on a quick overnight trip without our kids. Last year, we did French Laundry for lunch and Meadowood for dinner for our anniversary. Meadowood was so amazing that we decided to go back again this year for dinner, with a lighter lunch beforehand.

On our way there from the Bay Area, we stopped at Zuzu in Napa. We were pleasantly surprised by the lunch. The website menu is slightly different than what we had, but we ordered 8 items (4 cold tapas and 4 hot tapas). The waitress did say that most couples ordered 4-6, but we are big eaters and were tempted by so many options. Sadly, paella is only available after 4 pm, so we couldn't order any paella. We did get (and finished every bite!) of:

- ceviche (not on the website menu, some sort of coconut milk/citrus base and I believe it was squid): this was delicious and refreshing, perfect for a warm summer day and the squid was just the right texture, tender and not overly chewy!
- Boquerones (Spanish White Anchovies, sliced Egg & Remoulade on grilled Bread): I was delighted with this dish, too, since I'm normally not a fan of anchovies but this was well-balanced and not too salty/fishy
- Plato de Jamón; Assorted Spanish Jamón Ibérico: I can't recall the accompaniments but this was amazing. We haven't had jamon iberico before and enjoyed the 3 varieties.
- Artisanal cheese plate (not on the website menu, I had a bold blue cheese whose name I didn't catch, paired with honeycomb and dulce de membrillo): great pairing and I enjoyed the honeycomb
- Grilled octopus and dainty baby carrots (not on the website menu): this was delicious, but not enough octopus (I think we had the equivalent of 3-4 slim slices that were 2" long, almost exactly the same size as the baby carrots)
- Bacalao (Salt Cod drizzled with White Truffle Oil & Garlic Crostini): this was the STAR of the meal, as neither DH nor I expected such a surprise. The texture of the fish was light, almost like a fluffy serving of mashed potatoes, and it had subtle yet complex flavors (I do love white truffle oil). We would make the drive back just to eat this!
- Braised Pork Cheeks (two squares of fatty meat that tasted like crispy pork belly and a cold sparerib): this was disappointing. The squares were all fat, without much (if any?) lean meat but the cold sparerib was the worst of it (not tender and really should have been cooked longer).
- Gambas al Ajillo (Fresh Gulf Shrimp with Garlic, Piquin Chili & Smoky Pimenton): I think this is the same description of the gulf shrimp we had. They were mushy and did not taste good. It was our last item, so it was a sad way to end what otherwise had been a wonderful meal.

If we had skipped the last 2 hot tapas, and only have the first 6, we would have said this was an outstanding meal.

Dinner at Meadowood was pleasant, but DH and I both found ourselves remarking that the best part of the meal were the amazing cocktails that Sam the bartender makes. As I commented last year, this is an artisan who loves his craft. I had a strawberry cocktail to begin with, and he modified it slightly as I mentioned I like my cocktails fruitier. It was delicious but I was just blown away by my second cocktail, a watermelon cocktail that was perfect for the warm evening. I would have happily had several more, but had to stop there since I was the designated driver. DH, on the other hand, had 4 delicious cocktails made with ginger beer. The first cocktail with ginger beer was on the menu and DH asked for something different with ginger beer for his second cocktail and then had 2 more of that custom recipe. We were joking on the drive home that we should have asked Sam to make one to go for him, too! DH liked them so much.

Per the souvenir menu, I had:

borage oyster leaf mignonette
dayleaf prawn caviar
potato cooked in beeswax sorrels
abalone eggplant peppers
cucumbers braised in coastal grasses cod collar
smoked cod oyster nettle
duck tea chrysanthemum dill
coal seared foie raw rhubarb
grilled lamb marigold plum
curds whey last year's peaches basils
olive oil blueberry millet
bahri date walnut oil
the garden, candied
chocolate chestnut

Since DH is lactose-intolerant, some of his choices were modified. For instance, when I had an amazing peaches and house-made ricotta cheese dish, DH had greens from the garden with some sort of very light dressing (his half-joking quote, "Am I eating weeds?"). DH had 2 substitutions: he had the salad "du moment" (the inspiration for his quote above re: "eating weeds) and julius roasted dates winter citrus for dessert (a very tangy frothy dessert, which DH did not enjoy as he dislikes citrus/sorbets).

I think the highlights were the prawn stuffed inside a flower (what a surprise!), the bahri date dessert (which had nutty chocolate-like flavors), the potato cooked in beeswax, the duck tea chrysanthemum broth, and the peaches.

We kept wondering why we weren't more satisfied with the meal. Perhaps our trips to NYC have spoiled us--we absolutely loved Jean Georges, Daniel, and Eleven Madison Park. Chef Kostow's food is creative, service is impeccable, yet some tastings were a bit too "precious" for us this visit. Both of us blanched when having the "the garden, candied" which consisted of several garden vegetables that had been candied. The borage oyster leaf mignonette was a small bundle of greens meant to mimic the taste of an oyster--and we were instructed to pick it up with our hands to eat. I would rather have had an exquisite raw oyster.

It reminded me of our disappointing meals at Manresa, Plumed Horse, commis, etc. where we felt like we left hungry and unsatisfied (despite ordering the tasting menus!). I think we just don't like garden-centric meals (we're just not that into vegetables!) and when the meat/seafood dishes don't knock it out of the ballpark, we are left disappointed.

The next day we finished the quick getaway with brunch the next day at Auberge du Soleil. That view is stunning! We had the 3 course meal. It comes with a complimentary cocktail, so we both had a bloody mary (with a housemade mix and Ketel One vodka). It was more subtle and complex than a typical bloody mary made by less talented bartenders, with a nice spicy kick at the end. I started with the Potato Gnocchi (Potato Gnocchi, Wild Mushrooms, Pea Shoots, Parmesan Nage) while DH ordered the Foie Gras (Sautéed Foie Gras, Chocolate Pain Perdu, Cherries, Cocoa Nibs) which was a $15 supplement above the $65/person menu. I do love gnocchi, but the star here was definitely DH's foie gras. The flavors sounded a bit disjointed to me, but the sweet, savory, bitter, and tangy notes all came together well.

DH had the Northern Halibut, Onion Crust, Spring Vegetables, Fava Bean Sauce while I had the Duck Confit Hash, Slow Cooked Farm Eggs, Mâche, Red Wine Sauce. He loved his halibut, commenting that it was perfectly prepared and seasoned. I thought the duck confit hash paired brilliantly with the silky slow cooked eggs and red wine sauce.

We ended with dessert. Since they all had cream and DH hates sorbet, he just ordered the blueberry shortcake dessert to go for our daughters to enjoy. I enjoyed every spoonful of the chocolate parfait (it's not on the website, but chocolate pudding, toffee crunch, and a sliver of shortbread cookie provided crunch and saltiness to the sweet silky smooth pudding.

All in all, it was a wonderful way to celebrate our anniversary!

New Orleans May Trip Report (long)

I loved reading your report, especially your mention of all the great cocktails! DH and I enjoy a good Hendricks martini, too, as well as a number of other cocktails (I favor French 75, lemon drops, and most fruity cocktails, like an amazing watermelon cocktail I had last night). We are going to NOLA for our first visit ever in August, but I'm worried that 2-3 rounds of cocktails with lunch, plus the humidity/heat, will have me retreating to our air-conditioned condo for a nap! So we aren't planning on doing any of the touristy activities until we see how we acclimate.

Jun 20, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

We booked a condo in August in CBD but will make a run for muffalettas ourselves. I plan to use taxis/Uber liberally!

Jun 20, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

Very true, it seems a bit impractical to buy a lightweight dress jacket when CA is so informal. We tip very well to begin with (in part trying to compensate for the terrible Asian tourists who are bad tippers--we are Asian American but waiters can't tell the difference), but I also think there is something to be said about respecting the tradition of CP. We can afford the jacket and it's a basic item DH may eventually wear again (especially if we travel back to the South for a future warm weather vacation).

As mentioned upthread, I'm going to talk to DH about switching out our August reservation given yours and zin1953's opinions on it. Thank you for your recs for Felix and Luke, too.

Jun 08, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

I saw someone else mention Meyer the Hatter in another thread. I'm very tempted to take DH there and see if we can find something. Looks like a great shopping experience! I peeked at the website but only saw some winter wool hats for women. Thanks for seconding the rec.

Jun 08, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

We fly in Wed. evening, so lunch at CP will be on a Thursday (I read that reservations at CP for Friday lunches are notoriously difficult to get, right?). Friday's meals are at Cochon and August (for now).

I had a linen skirt in college--it would be terribly wrinkled before I even left the house so I haven't touched anything linen in the nearly 20 years since. I'm lucky that I have plenty of summer-weight sundresses I can wear. :)

I am glad to hear both Dookie Chase and Willie Mae's has AC. Yet I think I'm also reluctant to carve time out to try one of them because of the heavy fried food/comfort food options. DH and I are trying to focus on seafood and distinctive (but not too unhealthy) cuisine.

Yes, I know our limits when it comes to so many meals out at once. We normally eat quite healthily (thank you, NorCal farmers/purveyors for the rich abundance of good produce, meats, seafood, etc.), but on vacation, we can go a little crazy. Our past NYC and Maui trips have featured 2 meals/day in restaurants and in some cases, really rich food. We'll go back to a light fare menu when we return!

Jun 08, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

Thank you so much for the detailed reply! We're both Cal grads, but we don't live in Berkeley anymore. DH literally only has winter-weight (well, CA winter-weight) wool jackets so I think those will be far too heavy for a NOLA summer day.

I've got a lead on a condo in the CBD that looks lovely, so I'll see if I can book that. I agree, FQ looks like fun but we know who we are: early sleepers who can no longer sleep in past 7 am (given the young kids).

Hmmm, maybe I should re-visit the August reservation then. I'll talk to DH and see what he thinks of Luke, Domenica, and Clancy's (mentioned downthread).

Thanks again!

Jun 08, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

Thanks for the head's up re: Rio Mar. A friend who hasn't been to NOLA in years (but is a chef with similar tastes as us) recommended it. I can't believe their website is still live if they closed last year!

Jun 08, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

Trip Report (long) – Patois, Peche, Brigtsen’s, August, and other great meals!

LOL, that's great! I'll definitely post a trip report when we return.

Jun 07, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

I debated starting a new thread, since this one was focused on NOLA with kids, but I figured much of the same factors apply.

Here are the reservations I have so far:

1) Dinner at Restaurant R'evolution the night we land (possibly straight from the airport if our nonstop Southwest flight is delayed at all!). The menu looks amazing!

2) An early lunch at Commander's Palace the next morning at 11:30 am (which will be only 9:30 PST so I'm planning to skip breakfast so we don't fill up on typical breakfast food). From what I've read here, we'll get a better table/service if DH wears a jacket, so we have to buy him a summer-weight jacket as CA is so casual he only has a few wool sports coats! This is off-tangent, but doesn't linen wrinkle terribly?

3) Depending on time/energy after lunch, we may head to Cochon Butcher or Central Grocery to pick up muffalettas and other food to snack on in our apartment/condo. We usually eat breakfast at home since most breakfast food is fairly typical everywhere we go. I plan to rent a place with a microwave/kitchen, and yes, I have my restaurant reservations but still need to book a place to stay once I figure out whether we want to be in CBD, FQ or GD! Advice welcomed on this, too, though I know it's another tangent.

4) An early dinner at Dante’s Kitchen

5) After dinner, depending on our energy level, music/snacks/wine at Bacchanal

6) Lunch the next day at Cochon

7) If we are up for it, happy hour specials at Luke or Rio Mar

8) Dinner at Restaurant August

9) Early Brunch at Cafe Atchafalaya at 10:30 am, right before our 2 pm flight home

I'm not sure I want to brave the crowds at Cafe du Monde for beignets, nor do I know whether we will want to do a food tour in the heat/humidity of a NOLA summer day. But those are options on my back-up list. I also left off Dooky Chase and Willie Mae's, as I love fried chicken but am thinking we soft Californians really need our AC and I'm guessing those two places won't have it.

I love raw oysters, too, but I read somewhere that August is not the time for oysters and Casamento's is closed when we're there. Anyone disagree and suggest we still go for oysters (maybe at Acme?)?

What do folks think? Any obvious gaps that a first-time NOLA visitor should have on her list? Any suggestions for substitutions? I'm sad I couldn't fit in more--Toup's Meatery, Patois, Peche, Clancy's, etc.

Thanks in advance!

Jun 07, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

Trip Report (long) – Patois, Peche, Brigtsen’s, August, and other great meals!

Thank you so much for your detailed report and photos! I've been compiling a list for our trip later this summer (including several of the places you hit) and it's always nice to read recent rave reviews.

Jun 05, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

Posting an update: we had to cancel this trip due to an unexpected medical issue with a relative but now we've just scheduled a trip without the kids in late August for my DH's 40th birthday! HOORAY!

I may edit our itinerary some (adding R'evolution and Bacchanal?) now that we know it's adults-only.

I'll definitely be back to share a trip report.

Jun 03, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

Thank you so much for the detailed response and great feedback! Man, maybe I should consider an earlier flight that does have a stop, but I hate to think about getting stuck at some other airport if our first flight is delayed or the second flight has an issue.

Restaurant Patois looks fantastic, too. I hope you share a TR after your March trip as we won't be going until after you.

Jan 31, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

Wow, this is the first I've heard of Toup's Meatery and yes, we LOVE meat! I am so intrigued by the BBQ goat--I've only had goat curry out here in CA. The a la carte items look amazing, too--I've never had head cheese or boudin balls. Thanks also for the activity suggestions, as those all sound right up our alley.

Feelings looks like a beautiful date venue--too bad we have the kids with us on this trip. Perhaps on a subsequent kid-free vacation we'll have the chance to try it out? Thanks again.

Jan 31, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

I appreciate your advice, but to be honest, no, I'm not looking for restaurants that would be fun for the kids. Taking the girls with us will influence our choices, in that we don't want to take them to inappropriate venues and I have to make sure it's not a place that uses peanuts (e.g., we never go to a local casual restaurant that has bowls of peanuts as free appetizers given my youngest's allergy). But unless it's her birthday or some other kid-centered celebration where we might prioritize a daughter's choices, we don't eat at places that are only tolerable. DH actually refuses to go to Chuck E. Cheese ever again, even though our girls do like that place very much....Thankfully, I have found other birthday venues where I can bring our own food in so we don't have to eat bad pizza.

Anyhow, I research restaurants beforehand (google menus, scan chowhound, etc.) so I can make sure our girls will have some appealing entree choices (there often aren't kids menus at the restaurant we go to) and confirm that the ambiance is not so formal that their presence alone would annoy other guests (or wholly inappropriate, like a sports bar/Hooters type place). They are usually the only children when we go to most restaurants, so we try to target lunches but if we're traveling somewhere, we go to early dinners right when the restaurant opens at 5 or 5:30.

Thankfully, we have never had any issues with bringing them to restaurants without children's menus and have really only had compliments from other guests. Maybe other guests have muttered/thought to themselves, "Why are those kids here?" but I actively monitor my girls to ensure polite and appropriate behavior and voice volume. DH thinks I'm overly sensitive to what other people think, but I know that if I arranged for a special date with my husband and some other parents brought obnoxious kids to dinner, I would be very annoyed.

The girls are well-behaved and pleasant company. They know not to interrupt conversations (unless they're bleeding) and are still included in our conversations so it's not like we enforce the Laura Ingalls Wilder-era rule "children are seen but not heard."

I certainly will not be taking the girls to any bars, but they're not so sheltered that a bunch of obnoxious and profane guests will shock them. We'd use it as a life lesson--sometimes people who are generally nice and polite use poor language and act badly when they have too much alcohol or are just not being thoughtful.

Anyhow, that's a long tangent, and I hope I did not offend anyone, but I do have strong feelings on this topic. Too many parents coddle their kids and lead kid-centered lives. We love our girls dearly but they are not the center of the universe. We love to eat and since they do, too, we bring them along on our eating adventures when it's appropriate.

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

I did not intend to offend anyone with my question re: CP. I like distinctive dining experiences, but ones where the food is not the star will always disappoint me. Sadly, I have found that the most well-known restaurants sometimes (often?) do not live up to their reputation. For example, Mama's Fish House in Maui has severely disappointed me twice, especially given how folks claim that it is the best seafood on the island. It may have the best view, great service, and lovely ambiance, but it did not have the best food by far. Thus, when researching options for vacation dining, I tend to focus on places where the consensus among reviewers (CH, friends, professional reviewers) say the food really shines. Everything else (decor, service, location, view, etc.) is just icing on the cake unless I'm trying to plan a special occasion meal.

Given the ringing endorsements here, I will happily book a meal at CP.

Jan 28, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

Thanks for including your TRs. I hadn't seen them in my scans of old NOLA threads focused on specific restaurants. Reading about the food at Jazzfest and the trek to Middendorf's are making my mouth water and it's only 9 am here! We won't have a rental car to make that trek, alas, but that does sound like a great trip.

Thanks for your suggestions. I think I could pick up goodies to go from Cochon Butcher to store for late night/early morning snacks. Our kids are usually in bed by 9 pm and up by 7 am. Luke's was on my list initially, but I have read mixed reviews of them as well.

Cafe Atchafalaya's brunch menu looks fantastic--adding it to the list now!

Jan 28, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

Thanks for your input, Shanefink! If we were home in SF, I wouldn't bring my girls to any formal gourmet restaurants, mostly because I don't think it's worth spending over $50 to feed a kid unless it's an special family celebration. They are stereotypical good girls who will behave well even in a 5 star restaurant (which DH and I can take some credit for due to our discipline/parenting, but I also think they were both born with good temperaments). However, since we don't travel often and I'm not sure when we're coming back to NOLA, I'm more comfortable spending the cash to take them along so DH and I can enjoy the nicer restaurants. Of course, I do not want to take them somewhere where the sight of children will annoy others (e.g., I would be very annoyed to have seen 6 and 9 years old at French Laundry or Meadowood, even if they were perfectly behaved, as it's obnoxious to spend $300 on a child's meal IMHO).

I definitely want to avoid tourist traps and chain restaurants (I've been told to avoid Emeril's various restaurants, too!), so I appreciate the warning re: ACME. I did read here that Felix's and Casamento are better. Is Commander's Palace considered a tourist trap or do locals actually eat there?

It's true that my youngest cannot eat any type of fish (trout, bass, salmon, etc.) but she CAN eat shellfish and loves crab, lobster, scallops, prawns, etc. I'm hoping to introduce both to crawfish etoufee!

Jan 28, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

NorCal Hounds with kids heading to NOLA: Feedback on my proposed plan, please!

Hello NOLA Chowhounders! We are NorCal Hounds heading to NOLA for a short 5 day trip (11 meals total as we arrive so late the first night). Sadly, the only direct flight from SF doesn't land until 11 pm at night so no tasty meals that first night. That is, unless one of us heads out after we get our girls in bed....

Anyhow, I've read about a dozen NOLA threads, asked friends, and googled generally so I'd love feedback on some proposed ideas for this trip. Our girls will be 6 and 9 by the time of the trip, are well-behaved, and eat a wide variety of foods (other than the younger one's peanut and fish allergy). We don't need a kids' menu as they eat shellfish, the older one loves sushi/fish, both will eat almost any protein I put in front of them (e.g., they declined veal brains but will eat beef tongue and other unusual cuts of meat).

The emphasis is on food, not ambiance, but I am willing to take them to formal restaurants if that's the best food.

- Cochon (we love tail-to-snout pork dishes!)
- Clancy's (dinner menu looks better to me than lunch)
- Elizabeth's Restaurant (again, dinner better than lunch)
- Bayona (dinner)
- If we're already going to Cochon for dinner, is it foolish to go to Cochon Butcher for lunch given our limited number of meals?
- Bon Ton Cafe (Cajun food but not in a super formal setting)
- Peche (we love seafood and we love cocktails and it looks like same menu at lunch and dinner!)
- Acme Oyster House (my boss rec'd this place and its menu looks great) but I see Casamento's seems to be rec'd more often here on CH
- Jacques-Imos (seems to be some mixed opinions here, but menu looks great to me)
- Mandina's is what our friend rec'd over the other famous places
- Dante's Kitchen was another rec but I can't pull up a menu on their website
- Willie Mae’s Scotch House vs. Dooky Chase (not sure we have time to go to both, and since our friend rec'd Willie Mae's and it has a new location in Uptown, location may be the deciding factor)

We also have a Sunday brunch we could fill somewhere (or we might just stay on CA time and sleep in...).

I'd also love to hear other recs/feedback. A few factors to consider that influenced my choices and may affect what you suggest:

- DH has lactose intolerance and/or mild dairy allergy (no ice cream, no heavy cream, but he can tolerate very small amounts of butter and aged cheese). Most chefs can accommodate this but I mention it because he has had lackluster alternatives at some French restaurants. Thus, this is a good second reason why I'm leaning toward skipping the world-famous formal French/Cajun/Creole (yes, I know there are distinct differences between the three but they all utilize cream more than typical non-French cuisines) restaurants for both the cream and the formal ambiance (e.g., Galatoire's, Antoine's, Arnaud's, etc. which don't seem to get rave reviews here anyway). I still very much want to try Cajun and Creole foods but hoping to go to more casual places and find non-dairy options for DH.

- Budget is not an issue, nor is capacity/appetite. We are the crazy ones who had French Laundry and Meadowood on the same day (11:30 lunch and 5:30 dinner) for our anniversary last year because FL had a last-minute opening for lunch. We had the full tasting menu at both restaurants and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I don't know that I'd recommend doing it, but it was a glorious, once-in-a-lifetime indulgence to hit both of those places on the same day. For what it's worth, we preferred Meadowood (I have a report on CH if anyone's interested).

- We both enjoy shellfish as well as game meats. I'm less interested in poultry or fish, but DH would eat fish and duck.

- We have plenty of authentic and tasty Asian food in CA so I want to avoid Chinese, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Burmese, Thai, Afghan (which I know is more Central Asian), etc. I know there is a large Vietnamese American community in the Gulf Coast, but we have many Vietnamese restaurants in California, too. I really want local cuisine that is distinctive to NOLA.

- I'd prefer to stay within New Orleans since we're relying on taxis/streetcars and I'm not sure I want to travel too far (unless it's REALLY worthwhile).

Thank you for any tips!

Jan 27, 2015
smiles33 in New Orleans

North American destination city for culinary vacation with young kids?

Just wanted to update that we are leaning toward a quick 5 day trip in June to...NEW ORLEANS! I know it will be hot and likely humid (at least compared to California), but I am drooling over the amazing restaurant menus.

Thank you again to all. I'm definitely keeping this thread bookmarked for inspiration for future trips!