Friday's drive to New Orleans was great! I finished reading The Quiet Game by Greg Iles, and Chip listened to music and drove. We left around 11:30 am and pulled into the Crescent City three short hours later.
I read about folks doing a French Quarter "oyster crawl" on the New Orleans Chowhound boards, and I decided we had to try it out. Our list of restaurants to try was ambitious... our plan was to stop in at each spot, have a drink, and try their signature oyster dish.
Luke: raw P&J Oysters
Antoine's: Oysters Rockefeller (the original)
Red Fish Grill: BBQ (basically an oyster fried Buffalo-style... with Crytal hot sauce and blue cheese dipping sauce)
Desire (in the Royal Sonesta): charbroiled
We walked into Luke right at three o'clock and got some great news from our server: from 3pm to 6pm oysters are 25 cents each and drinks are half-off! I immediately ordered a champagne cocktail and a dozen P&Js. We were both starving from having no lunch, so we decided to try a cup of their seafood gumbo, too. I love Luke, and I always recommend it to folks visiting New Orleans.
The restaurant is pretty, with a classic French bistro vibe (although it is much bigger than most bistros in Paris). We've only been for breakfast/brunch/lunch because there are so many other great dinner choices in the area. We have probably eaten there six or more times over the past few years, and the food has always been great. The service... well that is another story. Often slow, sometimes painfully slow. But this time it was perfect! Our server was attentive and friendly, and the timing of the meal was excellent.
Another round of drinks later, and we were ready for the next adventure: Antoine's.
We stopped by the hotel to change into nicer duds (Antoine's is a fancy place after all), and footed it over Canal Street, down Bourbon, to St. Louis Street. We entered the main dining room at around five o'clock, and it simply sparkled! From the brass chandeliers on the ceiling to the mirrors on the walls, down to the pearl-white floors. So pretty! We told the maitre d' we were looking for the Hermes Bar, and we were led to a beautiful bar across a small hallway from the main dining room. Our waiter was fantastic. He was quick and seemed happy to be serving us on a beautiful Friday evening. I had another champagne cocktail - a French '75 - and ordered the Oysters Rockefeller. The food came, we had more drinks, and we watched guests arrive for a wedding rehearsal dinner taking place in one of the fifteen dining rooms at Antoine's. Given that neither of us really liked the oysters, we somehow spent two hours in the bar. As night fell, we observed the ebb and flow of the bar's regulars on a gorgeous Friday night.
At this point, things get a little fuzzy :)
We decided we were done with eating for a while, and we wanted to listen to some music. We headed across the Quarter to d.b.a. where a band was just starting up. Yes, we headed there. And yes, we made it there. But no, we did not make it in any reasonable amount of time.
After four champagne cocktails in four hours, what can I say? I did NOT make an efficient navigator. Somehow we made it down Royal Street, across Esplanade Avenue, and right across Frenchman Street within 30 yards of the bar, and then kept going... We ended up on Elysian Fields a little drunk, laughing our butts off because somehow we ended up in the middle of a movie set. With period costumes. And mules and donkeys pulling old-timey Mardi Gras floats. Hilarious at the time! We walked right through the set while the director was on a ladder with a megaphone. I wish I'd have gotten a photo of that!
We had a round and enjoyed the band, then at nine we were starving again. I was craving the BBQ shrimp that I'd heard about from Mr. B's Bistro. Chip was up for anything, so we headed fifteen blocks or so back up Royal Street for dinner.
The atmosphere in Mr. B's was bright and exciting. New Orleans BBQ shrimp are served shell-on, swimming in the butter-laced BBQ sauce. When my BBQ shrimp arrived, they came with a bowl for the shells, a warm, damp towel so I could wash my hands after peeling them, and a paper bib. My waiter wasted no time tying that bib on me! When I picked up my fork and knife to cut the heads off, he looked at me really suspiciously and asked, "Do you know how to peel shrimp?" Apparently he thought I was going to try to peel all of them with my fork and knife. Once I explained that I was just taking the heads off with the knife, but I fully intended to peel them with my hands, he left me to it. And wow - those were the best shrimp I've ever had! Perfectly tender and the BBQ sauce is to die for. I sopped up every bit of sauce with the delicious french bread, then ended the meal with their bread pudding.
We didn't make it to all or most of our spots on the crawl, but we did have three excellent experiences on Friday. The oysters at Luke were fresh and juicy. At Antoine's, I didn't like the licorice flavor of the Oysters Rockefeller, but I loved the atmosphere. I know now that they add a little herbsaint (licorice/anise-flavored liquor) to the rockefeller topping, and I'm not a fan of that flavoring. Mr. B's BBQ shrimp lived up to the hype, and you can make them at home! The recipe is on their website.