343 North Creek Drive
The local paper arrived on Thursday, I was browsing through it and came across an article about this place. It just opened in November, replacing a Pizza joint that I never visited.
On a hill above Walmart, near Ryan’s and in a shopping center next door to the ATT store. Not very large, its maximum occupancy was posted as 65. Clean, neat, painted in muted shades of red and olive green. The floor was large, dark ceramic tiles, the tables and other furnishings black and wood-trim. The art on the walls was all about New Orleans. Along one wall were taller bistro tables, and the large bar was lined with bistro chairs. On the bar was a large potted bromeliad (a thick tropical flowering plant, related to the pineapple). There were several French/Spanish style clocks and a few other items lying around to evoke the style of the French Quarter. The ceiling fans were on, which Angel didn’t care for since the air outside was about twenty degrees and the breeze inside just prolonged the chill.
The music was eclectic, not booming or fast paced, but consistently too loud. Bar-loud. The only song I recognized was a ukulele version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” I think it was the original Israel Kamakawiwo`ole* version, but it could have been a really good cover.
The wait staff seemed entirely female, the hostess/bartender, mostly female. We were seated immediately by our waitress, whom Adam insisted looked like the actress Kirstin Dunst. I agreed that she did, though I’ll admit that I had to look it up after I got home. He was right, there was a resemblance, the smile especially.
Above the bar was a chalkboard, artfully listing specialty wines and drinks. I cringed, I nearly panicked.
I have survived several Hurricanes in New Orleans, though I only barely survived them.
I’m not talking about the hurricane that George W. Bush used to wipe out New Orleans in 2005 (just kidding). I’m talking about the hurricanes that originated there back in the 1940’s and can still be found in frightening abundance. These things are the cause of more sorrow, domestic destruction and moral and financial ruin than could possibly be wreaked by mere high winds and flooding.
The Hurricane is a drink, very sweet, very fruity, usually very large, and polluted with bad alcohol. It was invented as a way to get rid of a stockpile of lousy, cheap rum that was plentiful in post-prohibition New Orleans. The fruit punch had to be very, very sweet to mask the taste of the rum, and they did it well, lime juice, star fruit, whatever sickeningly sweet juice could be found.
Hurricanes are so sweet that there is no sense that there is any alcohol at all. A small, middle aged, out-of-towner can actually drink two or three of these things before he realizes that the devil has yanked out his entire soul by the tender parts.
Hurricanes were invented at Pat O’Briens in the Crescent City, this was the very establishment where I was first corrupted by the drink. I’m not the biggest drinker in nearly any room and never have been. I didn’t even casually drink much at all until my first marriage fell apart. The first few weeks of that breakup were painful, frightening, and unfortunately mentored by a so-called friend that was a true believer in the alchemistic, medicinal properties of mixed drinks. My first swirling, spinning, churning night with three-too-many rum drinks ended up with me waking up in the floor of my bathroom, pressing my swollen brain into the cool tiles, an acrid, vile taste in my mouth and the stench of rum-fueled upchuck still in the air. I didn’t drink much at all after that long, terrible dark month.
I occasionally, and only occasionally, would have some beer, but not even to the level of modest regularity.
In 1992 I discovered Chardonnay while on a business trip to New York City. I was at a loss as to what to order on IBM’s generous tab in the fancy French restaurant so I just ordered what the lady next to me did. I remain in that camp still. A glass or so of a fine boxed chardonnay late in the evening and my life-long struggle with insomnia remains a thing of the distant past.
Since then I occasionally have had one too many, but to that level, the violent spinning, gag-inducing level, not. Hurricanes are delicious, they are tempting, they are deadly, they should be avoided altogether except in the case of horrific natural disaster.
The menus were simple printed sheets of green paper. The offerings were limited but not severely. This was lunch (once again due to work schedules) and our needs were not great. I hadn’t read the entire newspaper article to find out what all they offered, all I really needed to see was “Po’ Boy.” So I already knew what I was going to order. I ordered the catfish, Angel the shrimp, and Adam the grilled chicken. All came with fries. Our drinks were delivered in real glasses, tea, tea and coke. (unremarkable)
A po’ boy is a sandwich, usually seafood, served on toasted French bread. Shredded lettuce, tomato slices, and some form of appropriate mayo are traditional. Taytro’s boasted a ‘citrus chipotle mayo’ which I was a little afraid of. Chipotle is a pepper that, like an attractive woman, is tempting, but also potentially dangerous. It can be overdone, very, very easily.
The wait for the food was a little longer than expected, exacerbated by the arctic gust coming from the ceiling fan. In the meantime we asked for and were given a dinner menu to look over, It was on orange paper and covered both sides. It had additional entrees, steak, etc.
Both menus listed Gumbo and Jambalaya, but none of us had the nerve or desire to try them. I’ve had those dishes before, in New Orleans, and had to pick at them. I’m not a fan of some of the traditional ingredients like okra, andouille and snotfish (clams/oysters) so I was unable to appreciate the dish fully and properly. I didn’t just want to pick at something this lunch, I was hungry, I wanted a po’ boy.
The meals arrived finally and we wasted no time. The fries were medium thick, and cooked perfectly, the sandwiches were half-baguettes, about six or seven inches long. The bread was crunchy on the outside, soft inside. The catfish, shrimp and chicken portions were very generous. Adam showed off a cross-section of his chicken, nearly an inch thick. The catfish, breaded and fried, was perfect, tender, moist, flaky. Angel had some lightly-breaded shrimp in every bite, to the last. Along with the sandwich and fries was a delightful dill pickle spear. The mayo at first added a smoky taste with only a hint of heat. Near the end of the sandwiches though, the additive properties of the capsaicin was more noticeable. At no point was it the main event however and though it was pronounced in the last few bites, its lasting effects were rather short lived. This was chipotle properly, perfectly managed. Enough heat to start a thin sweat, but not near enough to send you retching.
Adam finished his first, a testament to his liking it. Angel was very pleased, stating repeatedly that there was never a bite that did not include at least one whole shrimp.
As we finished, Kirstin Dunst returned with a small plate containing three complimentary pralines. Adam asked what they were, Angel immediately answered, loudly enough to be heard by all the other people in the joint: “Well your father won’t eat them because they contain nuts, but they’re like pecan pie candy.” He ate one, her another. The third, mine, was left on the plate. I don’t like nuts as an ingredient, everybody knows this. The meal was late enough, and substantial enough that we cancelled plans (as if there ever were any) to make anything for dinner later. I simply settled for a small bowl of cream of tomato/ onion soup** and a grilled cheese sandwich.
The service was friendly and very attentive, the price, thirty dollars and change, was very reasonable. The food was simply wonderful. We are already looking forward to going back for dinner sometime, to sample some of the expanded offerings. We highly recommend it and extend kudos and applause to the proprietors. Quality New Orleans styled food in a convenient location, at a very reasonable price. Very high marks for originality and quality!
* Israel Kamakawiwo`ole: A very large, native-Hawaiian guy, he died in 1997 at the age of 38, supposedly of complications from morbid obesity (at one time topping the scales at 760 lbs.). He was considered by people whose job it is to consider such things as the Bob Marley of Hawaii. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
** Cream of tomato/onion soup : Chop and sweat or sauté in a teaspoon of olive oil, some onion, a small amount, maybe ¼ cup or less. Let them just soften or caramelize, your choice. Open a can of tomato soup and pour over the top of the onions. Fill the empty can halfway with milk and half the remaining space with water. Stir and heat until piping hot. Mmmm.