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Review: Tru Burger

The Tru Burger

The Tru Burger

Tru Burger is hands down the most casual of the new burger joints to pop up in New Orleans. It’s not fussy or frilly and feels like a throwback burger joint — complete with shakes, but without the cheesy burger joint hats.

Normally, I immediately recommend the burgers. But I have to give proper service to Tru Burger’s corn dog. It’s hand-dipped in a batter that fries to a cakey texture that’s moist and crispy all at once. I like my corn dogs with mayo, something some people say is odd, but I’ve liked it since I was a kid.

Anyway, all I can say about this corn dog is that it’s the best corn dog I’ve had outside of the ones at the State Fair of Texas. And that’s a huge compliment.

Onto the burgers. The burgers at Tru Burger are fairly simple and a nice size, not too big, not to small. All of the burgers are cooked to medium, but you can specify the temp you want your meat cook to. I usually go for medium rare. All the patties at Tru Burger are 100% Creekstone Angus and ground in-house.

Tru Burger's Hand-Dipped Corn Dog

Tru Burger's Hand-Dipped Corn Dog

The buns have a nice texture and basically melt in your mouth which is a nice effect and something I’m not used to in a hamburger bun.

One of my favorite burgers is the Charlie Burger. It’s served with bacon, Swiss cheese and coleslaw. I add Sriracha to give it some heat which contrasts nicely with the coolness of the coleslaw.

On some visits, the Swiss cheese doesn’t melt on the burger which I think takes away something from the burger as a whole. But overall, this is a great choice.

The Tru Burger itself if also a good choice. It’s a simple burger with your choice of cheese loaded up with onion, tomato, lettuce and pickles. The pickles alone are reason for ordering this burger. While it’s simple, it works. It’s a good, if not outstanding, burger.

Charlie Burger

Charlie Burger

The fries are thin and crispy. I think they’re some of the best fries in town. The sea salt crystals give them just the right amount of saltiness to balance the earthiness of the potatoes.

I find the shakes at Tru Burger a little underwhelming. I do like that they’re served with bubble tea straws so you don’t have to battle the cup for who wins the shake. But that said, the shakes I’ve gotten have been just okay tastewise. I’ve also had some shakes with ice crystals in it which I’m not a fan of.

Overall, Tru Burger is a solid choice for burgers in New Orleans. I see it on the fringe of upscale burger joints. It’s more suited for families, drop-ins and quick cravings for a burger.

Tru Burger is located at 8115 Oak Street. Tru Burger is open Tues. through Thurs. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. and Sat. from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sun. from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: The Irish House

First things first, I’ve only visited The Irish House for lunch, so this review is for lunch only. With that out of the way, let’s discuss The Irish House.

Is New Orleans a suitable environment for a refined Irish restaurant? My answer: yes and no. Most of the flavor profiles of the dishes I’ve had weren’t bad, and while they may stay true to their Irish roots, the concept is odd.

Bacon and Cheese Croquettes

Bacon and Cheese Croquettes

In my opinion, Irish food doesn’t need refining. It’s meant to be simple food for simple people. Unfortunately, all the dishes I’ve had were too conceptualized and overthought. But, like I said, nothing tasted bad, so there’s that.

My favorite appetizer is the Bacon and Cheese Croquettes. Served with an onion marmalade and chive sour cream, these little croquettes are (not surprisingly) like little fried baked potatoes. They’re worth ordering, but could use some more cheese or maybe just a sharper variety. I wanted the cheese flavor to accentuated the croquettes more than it did.

While the Tomato Barbecued Chicken and Waffles I ordered were my favorite thing, I’m not sure they truly qualify as Irish food. Chicken and waffles are somewhat trendy in today’s culinary landscape and Chef Matt Murphy at The Irish has given his version a unique twist.

It’s a savory waffle topped with barbecued chicken, ratatouille and caramelized onion. The only portion of the dish I couldn’t really get behind was the ratatouille. It didn’t add anything for me, but didn’t necessarily take anything away from the dish. Overall though, the barbecue sauce is the perfect sweet sauce for the chicken and the waffle.

The Shepherd’s Pie (a traditional Irish dish) has gotten rave reviews from some of my friends, but it wasn’t the biggest hit with me. First, the portion is entirely too small for an $11 portion of a dish comprised of mashed potatoes, ground beef, peas, carrots and pearl onions. To me, this is an example of paying for refinement and presentation over taste and ingredients.

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie

Another issue I took with the Shepherd’s Pie is that the ground beef is too fine. While I realize that’s a personal preference, it made it hard to keep the beef on the fork because it was so fine.

I really did enjoy the addition of pearl onions into the Shepherd’s Pie. It gave the dish a nice sweet element to counterbalance the saltiness from the beef, mashed potatoes and cheese.

As a general rule, it’s a safe bet to order anything involving potatoes. The Irish House has potatoes perfected.

The Irish House has an awesome beer selection including, you guessed it, Guinness. So it’s 100% a stop in if you’re looking for a pint. I haven’t had a chance to sample the bar menu, but I’m hoping it’s nitty gritty bar food versus the refined dishes I’ve had at lunch.

Overall, I can’t complain about the food at The Irish House other than it being overrefined. Chef Murphy came over after a stint at the Ritz-Carlton so I imagine he brought techniques and processes with him typical to the audience the Ritz attracts — I just don’t know if I see The Irish House attracting the same crowd.

So the moral of the review is to drop in for a pint, watch a game, have some food, but just be ready for refined Irish food that may not be similar to what you’ve had in a more traditional Irish pub.

The Irish House is located at 1432 St. Charles Avenue. Dining room hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: St. James Cheese Company

Beecher's Cheddar

Beecher's Cheddar

I’m spoiled when it comes to good cheese thanks to St. James Cheese Company being located only two blocks from my house. It’s always a treat to stop in whether it’s for lunch or to pick up some cheese.

Another big reason for a visit is the weekly cheese classes. For $20, you get six samples of cheese and six sample glasses of wine (or beer). It’s a great deal, plus, it’s educational.

Aside from the great weekly classes, the prepared food is another highlight for St. James Cheese Company. On my last visit, I had the Beecher’s Cheddar, a smoked turkey sandwich on ciabatta with fresh basil, tomato and avocado. I got mine with no tomato, but it’s a a great sandwich with come complex flavors that come from simple ingredients.

One of the best salads is the Manchego. It’s a bed of arugula with almonds and pear with a quince vinaigrette. It’s probably my second favorite salad to the summer salad that comes with prosciutto and peaches.

Manchego Salad

Manchego Salad

The Ploughman’s Lunch is another great option that gets you a little bit of everything: three cheeses, pork pie, salad, bread and chutney. It’s one of the best things on the menu.

If you only stop in to grab and go, this is your place for cheese. In fact, the best cheese I’ve ever had came from St. James Cheese Company. Called Humboldt Fog, a goat’s milk cheese that described as “creamy and luscious with a subtle tangy flavor.” If you can’t decide on a cheese, just ask one of the cheesemongers for advice and they’ll hook you up with one appropriate for you event or wine pairing.

St. James Cheese Company really has it all when it comes to cheese. Whether you stop in for lunch, to grab and go, or for a cheese class, you’ll leave satisfied and with a full belly.

St. James Cheese Company is located at 5044 Prytania St. in Uptown New Orleans. Their hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Fri. and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sun.

 
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Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: J’anita’s

St. Chuck Duck

St. Chuck Duck

Located at The Rendon Inn, J’anita’s has some of (if not the) best bar food in New Orleans — and bar food is an art, in my opinion. It can’t be too greasy or too filling to measure up.

J’anita’s uses great ingredients to make sandwiches, soups and sides worthy of five-star status. They also have daily specials that are worthy of cult status.

Probably the best special is the Meatloaf Sammich. I can honestly say it’s the best meatloaf and best meatloaf sandwich I’ve ever had. A slab of housemade meatloaf, mozzarella cheese, green pepper and red onions is served on ciabatta bread from Stein’s Deli. Just so you know, it’s the Tuesday special so plan ahead accordingly.

The regular menu offers several standouts. On my first visit I had the Best Fish Sammich Ever!. They’re name for it, not my opinion, but it’s pretty accurate. It’s ciabatta bread with a redfish filet, bacon, grilled onion, feta, lettuce and tomato. Using redfish definitely sends this fish sandwich to another level.

Tater Salad

Tater Salad (Complete with Animal Cracker)

My favorite item overall is the St. Chuck Duck. Holy duck! The St. Chuck Duck is a grilled sourdough with currant tapenade, blue cheese, cheddar cheese, grilled onion, green apples and cabernet-sauteed duck. Did you get all that? It’s a lot, but everything works so well together. This has to be one of the best sandwiches in the city.

Another item worth mentioning is the Not Quite Cuban. It’s pulled pork, bacon, Swiss cheese, pickles and chimichurri sauce on a pressed ciabatta. The pork was smoky and delicious and worked well with all the other not-so-Cuban ingredients.

I would also recommend the Adult Grilled Cheese. It’s loaded with cheddar, pepper jack, feta cheese, bacon, grilled onion and tomato — though I never allow tomatoes on my sandwiches. It’s ooey gooey and bacony and delicious all pressed between two slices of sourdough.

Meatloaf Sammich

Meatloaf Sammich

I do have a complaint about J’Anita’s. Every single time I go, they are out of guacamole. I’m dying to finally try it. One day…

As for the sides, I’ve yet to have one that wasn’t phenomenal. The Tater Salad and Cheese Grits are tied for my favorites. The fries are steak-cut fries which I’ve never been a fan of so I usually don’t go for those. The Cole Slaw is also delicious and not overloaded with mayo. You really can’t go wrong with any of the sides.

The folks at J’Anita’s know what they’re doing when it comes to food. It doesn’t surprise me at all that they recently opened a second location inside Grit’s Bar. While I’ve yet to try that one, the Janita’s at the Rendon Inn has yet to disappoint me. In fact, it’s always exceeded my expectations. Do yourself a favor and venture off the beaten path to try J’Anita’s.

J’Anita’s is located in The Rendon Inn at 4501 Eve Street in the Broadmoor neighborhood. It’s a bar so the hours run pretty late.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: Domenica

Affettati Misti

Affettati Misti

Full disclosure: I worked at Domenica for a few months in 2010, so if you think that is a conflict of interest, read no further.

First and foremost, Domenica has one of the best happy hours in town. Not many places can match 50% off of pizza, beer and wine (by the glass). You can get a lot of food and drinks for a great price.

Aside from that, the menu rotates very frequently to keep things seasonal. If it’s on the menu, the main must-have is the fried squash blossoms. They’re addictive.

Other top favorites of mine include:

  • Squid Ink Tagliolini — Topped with delicious blue crab and loaded with fresh herbs, it’s light and refreshing and doesn’t fall into the heavy pasta dish category.
  • Gnocchi (changes seasonally) —
    Banana Zuppa Inglese

    Banana Zuppa Inglese

    Domenica has the best gnocchi in town, you can’t go wrong ordering any variety. The best I’ve had to date was the Spinach Gnocchi with Bacon and Brown Butter.
  • Roasted Cauliflower — You order will consist of an entire head of cauliflower that is roasted. What really sends this dish over the top is the whipped goat feta. It has the consistency of hummus, but the pungent taste of goat cheese.
  • Tagliatelle — The rabbit and porcini mushrooms blend very well with this pasta to create a deliciously gamey dish.
  • Affettati Misti — Start with this. It’s basically the deluxe meat and cheese plate with accoutrements. The meats and cheese are awesome as is the bread that accompanies everything. And make sure you get Panna Forte.
  • Squid Ink Tagliolini

    Squid Ink Tagliolini

  • Spicy Lamb Meatball Pizza — All the pizzas are cooked in a wood-burning oven that makes them taste authentically Italian. You can’t really go wrong with any of the pizzas, but my recommendation has the best balance of cheesy, meaty, fresh, tomatoey.
  • White Truffle Risotto — The main reason to order it is for the pancetta croutons. The gnocchi is good, too.
  • Crema Fritta — I’m not sure what this creamy cheese is breaded with, but it gives it a texture unique to any fried cheese I’ve had. The bacon and onion marmellata is also stellar.

If it sounds like I’m suggesting you order a large percentage of the menu, I am. Domenica has consistently improved every time I’ve visited. Head chef Alon Shaya really has a great understanding of this type of Italian cuisine — and that comes through 100% in all of the dishes.

After you’ve indulged in the savory courses, don’t pass up a dessert. Domenica has a very talented pastry chef, Lisa, who puts together unique dishes. In a visit this summer, I had the warm peach cake with salted caramel, blueberries and blueberry-basil sorbetto.Now, while I like all of those ingredients separately, I was curious to see how they worked in the same dish. The result: a heavenly dessert that had just the right amount of salty and sweet.

Pizzoccheri

Pizzoccheri

The Banana Zuppa Inglese is also worth raising your spoon form. The banana cake is extremely moist and the butterscotch mousse make a topping. It’s kind of like a bread pudding/banana pudding mash-up.

Domenica is not a place to miss and is my second favorite Besh restaurant behind the flagship restaurant of August. My only tip would be to skip the lunch menu and go for happy hour and/or dinner. The dinner menu is exponentially better than the lunch menu, but you really can’t go wrong.

Domenica is located in the Roosevelt Hotel at 123 Baronne Street.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: Cowbell

I think I visited Cowbell for the first time early in 2011. From the first bite, I knew it would be a place I frequented often. So it came as no surprise to me when Cowbell was named The Gambit’s Best New Restaurant (as selected by readers).

Cowbell Burger

Cowbell Burger

The burger craze is in full swing in New Orleans, but out of all the burger joints (old and new), Cowbell is hands down my favorite. The beef is always juicy and cooked perfectly. Add American cheese, bacon, a yard egg and Cowbell’s homemade Mojo sauce and you’ll be transported to burger heaven. The burger with zinfandel, bacon and onion compote can take you there as well — it’s just a different journey.

The Cowbell burger is so good, it makes it hard for me to order anything else off of the menu. Fortunately, I break the habit and order other items from time to time. One of the best I had was a salmon special with black beans and avocado. The waitress (who knows me well by now) recommended and was spot on (as usual). Her name’s Tarani, you should ask for her if/when you go in though she seems to be behind the bar most of the time these days.

Additionally, you can’t go wrong with any of Cowbell’s grilled cheese sandwiches that seem to change daily. The Fried Oyster Salad is also delicious when oysters are in season. The Fish Tacos are good, not great, but will do the trick.

Hand-Cut Fries

Hand-Cut Fries

But admit it, what you really want is the burger. I know, I’m the same way. A lot of my love for the Cowbell burger comes from the meat itself, but the potato bun should be given some of the credit. And if you think I’m crazy for getting the egg, try it yourself, you won’t be disappointed. The yolk from the egg will burst and soak into the potato bun given the burger a whole new flavor profile.

You can even sop up the yolk overflow with the hand-cut fries that are always crisped and seasoned just right. Or you can always substitute (for an extra charge) Cowbell’s kickass Mac and Cheese in place of the fries. Their Mac and Cheese is made with white cheddar and roasted poblano peppers. It’s creamy, has a subtle kick and is filling.

Another thing you won’t want to leave without is the Fresh Made Apple Pie. It’s baked individually into a puff pastry, but it’s worth every bite and for $5 it’s a steal.

Mac and Cheese

Mac and Cheese

Cowbell used to by BYOB, but now that they have a liquor license it’s $5 for the first bottle you bring and $10 for each after that. Most of the drinks they have are of a nice portion and they have one of the best margaritas in town, surprisingly enough.

Cowbell is 100% deserving of winning Gambit’s Best New Restaurant. You may experience a little bit of a wait now that it’s on people’s radar. Service is normally great (like I said, ask for Tarani), but there’s one lady who I would avoid. You’ll know her if you get her. Simply put, she’s just not friendly. Thankfully, the food more than makes up for it. And Brack May, the owner, couldn’t be a nicer guy. Invite him over to your table if he’s around.

Cowbell is located at the intersection of Oak St. and River Rd. at 8801 Oak St. Hour are Tues. through Sun. 11:30 a.m to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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Review: Kim Son

Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls

If you live in New Orleans, it’s possible you’ve never heard of Kim Son. It flies under the radar as far as Vietnamese places go and it’s located off the beaten culinary path. If you do know about Kim Son, you know it’s one of the best go-to places for Vietnamese and features one of New Orleans’ most expansive menus. Even Cheesecake Factory would be put to shame by the number of offerings.

I only stumbled across Kim Son because one night Pho Tau Bay and Nine Roses happened to be closed. Since then, it’s become my number one spot for Vietnamese. As a bonus, they also have a ton of Chinese dishes if you don’t want Vietnamese.

Pho with Medium Rare Beef Flank

Pho with Medium Rare Beef Flank

Kim Son has the best pho I’ve ever had, some of the best tofu I’ve ever had, and the salt baked items (shrimp, scallops, lobster, tofu and squid) are out of this world.

I can never go without having something salt baked. Usually, it’s the shrimp, but when I feel like splurging, I go for the lobster. The seafood itself is baked (though I think it’s fried) to an amazing crispy texture. Plus, the sauteed onions with ground black pepper and chili flake send things over the top.

Another favorite of mine is the Pho with Medium Rare Beef Flanks. The beef comes out medium rare, but cooks in the hot broth releasing even more juice into the broth and taking in the broth flavors at the same time. That’s my favorite version, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.

Salt Baked Shrimp

Salt Baked Shrimp

The make-your-own beef spring rolls make a great app to share at the table. You customize your spring rolls by adding in cucumber, cilantro, lettuce, carrots and other garnishes.

You also can’t go wrong with any of the tofu dishes. Try the tofu curry in the clay pot or the tofu with eggplant. Kim Son calls it “bean cake,” but rest assured, it’s tofu.

I haven’t had time to make it through the whole menu (that would probably take years), but everything I’ve ever had has been outstanding. It’s consistently fresh, never greasy and always tasty. Other Vietnamese places have great dishes, but none of them can match Kim Son’s overall effort.

Kim Son is located 349 Whitney Ave. in Gretna on the Westbank and is open Mon. through Sat. from 11 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Eatin'

 

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