Sunday, March 28, 2010

New Orleans: Willie Mae's Scotch House

New Orleans is known for its indigenous cuisine and unique Louisiana flavor. You can't resist local favorites like beignets, muffulettas, po'boys, gumbo and pralines. A trip to NOLA is a must for any bonafide foodie.

Instead of making elaborate plans and reservations to the more notable restaurants in NOLA, I decided to wing it and paruse the city on my own by foot. I consider these my 'no reservations' outings. A no holds barred, eat as you please sort of adventure.

The first stop on my list was the fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House. I've heard so much about this place that I had to go. It was fortunte that Willie Mae's reopened in 2007 after an extensive repair overhaul post-Katrina.

I arrived by cab a few minutes before the restaurant opened at 11am. I took a few moments to look around the neighberhood and I have to say, it's not a pretty site. It didn't deter me though. Willie Mae's was a recipient of a James Beard Award.

While I was waiting outside, I met two other diners from Boston excited to get their hands on the infamous fried chicken. Since I was on my own, they invited me to dine with them. At 11am sharp, we were allowed into the dining room. The decor was simple with a hand full of wooden tables and chairs. A picture of Willie Mae herself stood on a shelf above our table.

Next, the menu. It was fairly simple. You can't go wrong with a menu item that says "America's Best Fried Chicken" for $10. The entree comes with 3 pieces of chicken and a side item of your choice. I selected the butter beans as a side and added on corn bread.

First, we started off with fresh lemonade. I liked how their version had a good ratio of lemon citrus and sugar. I hate how most lemonades are sour and filled with pulp. Ack!

Homemade Corn Bread
The size of a tea cake, the corn bread was fluffy but it still had a slight grainy texture. Very good.

Butter Beans with White Rice
I dunno how to describe this dish but it reminded me of a Filipino dish called Balatong which is a mung bean soup. The beans used here are essentially lima beans. The texture is similar to Balatong but with larger beans and without the vegetables (like I mentioned before I'm a Filipino that doesn't like to eat vegetables).

It didn't take long for the chicken to arrive and boy did it make a lasting impression. Three people, nine pieces of chicken. Does that look like nine pieces of chicken? I think not.

Fried Chicken
Holy cow! Pretty darn good fried chicken. The chicken pieces were lightly drudged in a wet batter which made the chicken very juicy. It seems the chicken was made to order because when it came to our table, it was still steaming hot. I had to wait a minute or two to dive in because the pieces were still HOT.

Afterthoughts, believe the hype. The chicken was absolutely delicious. We had a great time so did other diners in the room that afternoon. You know you're embarking on some good eats when everyone at their table is quietly eating. I saw one gentleman stop and look at his food. I know that look. It's the look of a satisfied customer.

Things to know:
  • No reservations accepted. Try to arrive as close to 11am as possible. The restaurant closes at 3pm.
  • Price Range: $, cash only.
  • Willie Mae's is located in between Bayou St John and the Seventh Ward, must take a car or cab into this area. It's ok to walk back to the French Quarter during the afternoon. Just don't walk alone.
  • Willie Mae's doesn't have a website so you have to rely on reviews from Yelp.
  • What to order: Fried Chicken, Butter beans, corn bread and bread pudding.
Willie Mae's Scotch House
2401 Saint Ann Street
New Orleans, LA 70119

Monday, March 22, 2010

New Orleans: Acme Oyster House

The first time I've been to New Orleans was a few months after Katrina. It was a devastation site. Seriously, the city was in shambles. It was heart breaking and I vowed that I would come back again once things get back to 'normal-somewhat'. Four years later I jumped on the opportunity when Marc had an assignment at USDA in New Orleans. While Marc was working, I was off exploring the city what I call my 'no reservations' outings. This gave me the opportunity to see the city without sticking to an itinerary or time table. Eat as I please so to speak.

One of the stops I made was to the Acme Oyster House. My BFF Jen recommended this place without giving the name of the place. She only told me to, "go to the seafood place with the long line". Umm, yeah. Easy said than done.

While walking down Bourbon Street, I noticed this place with a neon sign and rope rails. Ideally, when you come to the Acme Oyster House, you don't want to see a line (on the left). In reality, there's a line. A long line. I happened to come here twice throughout our trip since I had nothing better else to do. The first time, no wait. The second trip, we waited in line for 20-25 minutes.

Once you get passed the long line, you have the option to sit at a regular table or at the Oyster Bar. I recommend doing the Oyster Bar since you can see first hand how oyster shucking is done.

So on to the menu. I made two trips here which you can identify by the checkered or marble setting.

Chicken & Andouille Gumbo with Rice - $4.99 (cup)
Nice dark roux with a spicy kick. Adding Tabasco is not needed.

Seafood Gumbo, Shrimp and Crab with Rice - $4.99 (cup)
A lighter roux than the meat version but still nice and well-balanced. Not too spicy.

Fried Peace Maker Po-Boy with fried oyster and shrimp & Tabasco infused mayo - $10.99
The sauce was tangy with a bit of hotness. I preferred the oyster side than the shrimp.

Oyster on the Half Shell - $10.99 (dozen)
I've had bad experiences with oysters so I was a bit skeptical when Marc ordered it. He told me if I can eat goose breasts and duck liver, I can eat oysters. It was fabulous. We ended up ordering another dozen since it was shucked to order.

Chargrilled Oysters topped with Acme's Seasoned Butter and Grated Romano Cheese - $9.99 (1/2 dozen)
Man, if there was one thing you had to get here, this is it. The oysters are grilled on an open flame which melts the butter and cheese, YUM! First scoop up the oyster, then drudge the bread slices into the shell to soak up the excess butter and cheese. Aww, delicious!

New Orleans Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce - $4.99
Ok, I'm not into bread pudding. It's probably because I had some pretty awful ones. I can honestly say, this is the best damn bread pudding I've ever had. Hands down, outrageously good. Wow, I loved each bite.

So what's the verdict? As you can see with the above photo, this is the place to be when you are visiting New Orleans. Long line or no line, you can't leave this place without having them oysters.

Things to know:
  • No reservations accepted. Gotta come out here early to get a seat. I don't recommend coming here with a large group. You're going to wait 45-60 minutes. You will not be seated until your entire party is there. Eat at the Oyster Bar if you can.
  • Acme Oyster House has five locations, the original is located in the French Quarter. Here's the menu:
  • Price Range: $$
  • Location: Bourbon Street and Iberville Street, look for the long line.
  • Attire: Casual (think sports bar).
  • Must order: Chargrilled Oysters, gumbo and bread pudding.
Acme Oyster House
724 Iberville Street
New Orleans, LA 70130

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Preview: New Orleans, LA

Just last week, we took a short trip to New Orleans, LA. Actually, Marc was working for a week but I tagged along for a few days. I know I'm jumping the gun on this one since I still have one more Honolulu post. I had quite an adventure in the Big Easy that I couldn't resist. Besides, that Honolulu entry is going to be pretty long (covering four locations).

Anyways, I'm off to Washington, DC next week for a work related conference but as you already know, I won't leave without exploring what DC has to offer. Hello, minibar!