Last year when a visitation and memorial service was concluded at a Mid-City funeral home, some of the out-of-town participants hopped across the street to partake of a late lunch at one of their favorite New Orleans restaurants. They were relatives and friends from Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee — and the deceased wouldn’t have been offended. The place was one he held in high esteem, too, and he’d have been with them had the circumstances been different.
I managed to get there myself last Saturday — waiting until 1:30 to go with my daughter and a friend so we wouldn’t have to wait in line for a table — and enjoyed drumfish amandine, French fries, French bread cut in rounds, buttered and slightly browned, green beans, a big house salad. I took home the bread pudding for later.
The night before, to — hmmph — accommodate someone who lives in a town where soft-shell crabs are never on the menu (wasn’t I nice?), we visited a little West Bank eatery for fried jumbos with eggplant sticks powdered with Parmesan cheese, and small sides of crawfish etouffee and rice.
The day before that in an outing Uptown, at one of the city’s premiere restaurants with old friends who once worked with me at the T-P, my entree was the barbecued shrimp and grits, which followed a bowl of a specially concocted and deliciously different tomato soup with oysters.
All of that was topped off by a lunchtime visit on Sunday with daughter and out-of-town guest on a trip to Carrollton to one of the city’s oldest Chinese spots, where I relished a plate of scallops, asparagus and baby corn in a tasty sauce and accompanied by a bowl of brown rice with plenty of tiny shrimp in it.
Made you hungry? Me, too. But I won’t be going out to eat again until Wednesday. Let’s see — on DeGaulle right down the street from our house I can have tasty sushi crunchy rolls or fried tacos with guacamole or the best po-boys in town or crawfish or shrimp bisque with a wrap of anything I can imagine to order.
Meantime, I read this morning on the Washington Post app on my Kindle that the restaurant business is in a slump nationwide. I can’t tell whether that’s true in New Orleans, because all these meals, except for the one in the prestigious restaurant, which was filled up, were timed to take place when there wouldn’t be crowds.
Also, the summertime exodus of regular local customers for vacation spots on the coast, and a tourist influx that diminishes in the late summer when conventions aren’t in session should be taken into consideration.
I think that people who live here and people who visit put eating first among the things they enjoy most. And popular destinations like the World War II Museum — where the cuisine is getting better and better — are run by folks who understand that.