New Orleans: Rolling on the River

Outside of my room on the 4th floor of the beautiful Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, I can hear a chorus of voices shouting the words “rolling.”  This chorus is repeated over and over again, about every five minutes or so. All night long. A Bruce Willis/Joseph Gordon-Levitt futuristic action/adventure film titled “Looper”  is being shot right outside of my hotel.  Ordinarily this would thrill me to no end.  But it is 10 pm and I have to wake up at 3:45 am for a flight.  Besides, I have already established that the stars aren’t shooting their scenes for another two months.  The star sightings on this trip will have to be the food.

I have four meals to eat in New Orleans while I am in town for a meeting.  I have poured over the Chowhound boards and checked the ratings on Zagat.  I receive a long list of recommendations from a friend of a friend, who is a foodie and also the writer/creator of “Treme” on HBO, which is shot in New Orleans.  Pretty cool! Two of my choices are recommended as his favorites. I am satisfied in the knowledge that I have chosen well.  I leave one meal slot open for a more casual, spur of the moment experience.  I don’t do spur of the moment very well, but I figure it’s New Orleans, how bad can anything be.

Night one.  Dinner at Bayona.  Bayona has won multiple awards including voted #1 for food in New Orleans on Zagat and a James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010 for the chef, Susan Spicer.  The food is contemporary American with a just a touch of a Louisiana accent.

Two signature dishes I’ve read about are the cream of garlic soup and peppered lamb loin with goat cheese and zinfandel sauce.  Both appeal to me, so I decide I’m not looking any further.  The cream of garlic soup is rich, smooth and delicious. I am off to a satisfying start in my New Orleans dining expedition.

Lamb and goat cheese….need I say more?  This is a wonderful combination that could easily be ruined by too much goat cheese.  There is just the right amount.

Both courses are flavorful and I enjoy them immensely, but I can’t say that I’ve had the meal of a lifetime, which truth be told I may have been expecting.
My colleague has a Bayona house salad and grilled duck breast with pepper jelly sauce and wild rice.  She is satisfied with her dishes, if not wildly enthusiastic.

Dessert is a sweet potato tart with cinnamon and caramel and marshmallow  This delivers the perfection we are expecting.

Bayona’s atmosphere is absolutely lovely and there is a beautiful patio that I imagine is a real treat when the weather permits.  I may have appreciated Bayona a bit more if it wasn’t the first place I visited. This would be a perfect place to go to take a break from the classically traditional (and somewhat heavy) Louisiana cuisine.

Bayona, 430 Dauphine St New Orleans, LA 70112
My rating (on a 1-5 scale):   4.0
Zagat rating:  28

I have one day and three meals remaining in New Orleans and it is time for me to tackle the major food groups.  Beignets.  Gumbo.  Jambalaya.  Bread pudding. Shrimp etoufee.

A trip to New Orleans is incomplete without a visit to Cafe Du Monde.  If you have been there, you know what I mean.  Enough said.

Our beignets are closely followed by lunch at Cochon. Cochon features authentic award-winning Cajun food with a creative twist. The atmosphere is rustic but like the menu, there are contemporary touches.

Cochon literally means pig.  I have to say that much of the menu doesn’t appeal to me, as it is just too “piggy.”  Examples:  deep fat fried hog head cheese with field beans or pickled pork tongue with radish and turnips. I decide on two small plates: pork and black bean gumbo and fried green pickles with shrimp etoufee. The soup is hearty with just the right amount of kick. Fried pickles with shrimp etoufee is a wonderful blend of crunchy, tart, and creamy deliciousness.

My colleague has grits.  She is not sure that she’s made the right choice but describes the dish as surprisingly tasty.  I wish we have room for dessert, but sadly we do not.

Cochon, 930 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans

My rating (on a 1-5 scale):   4.0
Zagat rating:  26

At this point I have had a nice sampling of New Orleans’ most popular dishes at two of the cities most notable restaurants.  I have not yet had jambalaya and I know that my trip will not be complete without it. It’s time to fill the open slot in my dining card.

The hotel concierge recommends Bon Ton Cafe, which I hear him recommending to the woman in front of me as well.  I wonder if I can trust his recommendation.  I look online and Bon Ton Cafe appears to be a classic Cajun kind of place.  No bells and whistles- just the real thing- which is what I’m ready for.

I barely need to look at the menu.  I want jambalaya.  The menu features a crawfish jambalaya appetizer and the server informs me that I can get an entree size and add shrimp if I like.  I like.  I am able to finish about half of the generous serving.  The seafood in the dish is plentiful and I love the flavors.  Spicy but not overpowering.  It’s exactly what I needed to complete my taste of New Orleans.   Almost.

There is one more thing that I need to eat before I go, however.  Bread pudding.  I have fond memories of eating bread pudding at the famous Commander’s Palace in New Orleans many years ago.  I am anxious to try it again.  Bon Ton Cafe’s bread pudding arrives swimming in whiskey sauce. It is supposed to be this way.  I have seen it described as “high proof.” I take a bite and am overwhelmed by the whiskey flavor, which is strong and not terribly pleasing to me.  I eat a few bites and take the rest to go.  It will make an interesting breakfast for my crack-of-dawn flight.  As it turns out, once the sauce is drained off it is much more appealing.  I hope the people on my 6:45 am flight don’t think I’ve been drinking.

The Bon Ton Cafe, 401 Magazine Street, New Orleans
My rating (on a 1-5 scale):   3.7
Zagat rating:  25

My dining choices in New Orleans turn out to be a perfect blend of traditional and modern cuisine.  I have sampled some mighty fine food and I have a list of restaurants to try on a future visit, which I hope will be sooner rather than later.  My only regret is that the movie set outside of my hotel window didn’t feature any stars.  I am also just a little concerned that the crew shouting “rolling” over and over again are referring to me, as I  roll out of town perhaps a couple pounds heaver and with my powerful bread pudding in hand.


  1. I lived in NOLA for five years and you were definitely steered in the right direction. I love Bayona and Cochon, and plan to visit Bon Ton Cafe my next trip back. Thanks for sharing, and for making me miss NOLA!!!

  2. The Mom Chef says

    I've never been to New Orleans and am dying to head down there. Those three restaurants look fantastic, but I have to admit that I'd really love to go to August.

  3. foodobsessed says

    I have to agree with Mom Chef. Next trip i am going to August. I hear Dante's Kitchen is great as well.


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