New Orleans restaurants

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After I wrote about the crab cakes at Oceana Grill in New Orleans, I got a somewhat cryptic email from a reader who told me I should check out a blog web site called EatMeCalifornia.

Hmmmm. Provocative name for a blog site. Maybe a porno site? Or just an angry guy who hates California? Actually, it’s neither. Instead, it’s a poorly-named foodie blog site that, mostly, writes about food joints in California. It’s penned by Brian and Mikey (here’s a free tip, Mikey: Once you become old enough to drink, you need to stop calling yourself Mikey). Here’s how they describe themselves on their blog: “Brian is a snarky SOB. His heros are Chuck Norris, Jesus and John Wayne (in that order) and he would choose invisibility if he had the choice of any superpower.”

A free tip for Brian: Use a spellchecker.

About Mikey: “The 70’s brought us many wonderful things: Star Wars, shag carpet, the Bee Gee’s, the Brady Bunch, and most important his royal largeness Mikey.”

Another free tip for Mikey: Use the grammar check.

Anyway, when they’re not reviewing various brewhouses and burger joints in SoCal, they like to talk about their favorite food show, Kitchen Nightmares. “I love this show and EMC (EatMeCalifornia) are huge fans of Gordon Ramsey,” writes Mikey.

I bring all this up because one of the Kitchen Nightmares restaurants EMC blogs about is Oceana Grill in New Orleans. If I happened to love exclamation points the way most TripAdvisor reviewers do, I’d use several of them right now.

Some of the highlights from Mikey’s blog post:

Oceana, he tells us, is owned by two brothers named Moe and Rami who spend “wonderful New Orleans afternoons yelling at each other, the staff, the tourists, the dogs, the Levies, the street lamps, and the food. I seriously can’t understand how they have a staff. There has got to be a better job than this place. I’d rather be a Wall mart greeter. I’d rather be in a Nicolas Cage movie. Hell, I’d rather be the guy who hoses down the streets after Mardi Gras than work for these guys.”

Grammar and spelling aside (Wall mart?), this is pretty funny stuff.

More: Gordon tastes the food and says “it’s disgusting, it tastes old, and is an embarrassment. Moe actually says he think (sic) Chef Ramsey is clueless and dazzles us further with his insight saying that he doesn’t think the British can cook period. Gordon is Scottish Moe read a book!”

I don’t know who’s funnier here, Moe or Mikey advising Moe to read a book because he’s such a dope.

One more: “These brothers are a complete crack up. One they keep calling Gordon British, two after being called a busy idiot these guys analyze what the meaning could be. Rami lets Moe know that being called a busy idiot is a compliment. This conversation they have could be in a Tarentino movie its that awesome. Moe finishes the conversation by saying he needs to get a British dictionary. This guys gonna give me a stroke.”

Okay, yes, Mikey writes English as if it were his second or maybe third language, but he’s still funny. If you want to read the entire bit, check out EatMeCalifornia here.

As for me, I think it’s time to go back to California. I’ll see you again after the holidays.

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Crab cakes at Oceana Grill where the beer is cold and tasty. Photo by David Lansing.

One of the guys who works the front desk at my hotel asks me every day if I’ve been to Oceana Grill yet. “Best crab cakes in Naw-lens,” he says. Then he hands me a coupon good for 10% off. I must have a dozen of these coupons.

Here’s the thing about people who work at hotels recommending local restaurants: Either they really want you to get a taste of some local authentic food or they are shilling for the establishment. Since this guy hands me a 10% off coupon every time he sees me, I happen to think it’s probably the latter.

So yesterday I got on the computer and Goggled Oceana Grill and checked them out on TripAdvisor where there were something like 1,600 reviews. I love TripAdvisor. Mostly because the “reviews” always make me laugh.

“Well, I am super picky when it comes to crab cakes. All I have to say is that they are amazing. Yummy!” –exray, Cajun Country

“Food was better than sex!!!!” –LA Finest, LA

“The barbecued shrimp was drizzled with some kind of wine sauce that was divine!!! My 72 year old day definitely enjoyed himself!” –Tonya H, Memphis

Other than the fact that almost every review was from someone who absolutely adores exclamation points, two things sort of jumped out at me: One, many of the reviewers said they went there because their hotel concierge recommended it or gave them a discount coupon or both; two, every other reviewer talked about how they had this absolutely incredible server named Scott. Is it really possible that a thousand people would want to talk about their food server–whose name just happened to be Scott?

Obviously with this many people saying the food was better than sex and yummy and amazing (not to mention the 10% off coupon), I had to go.

Oceana Grill extends from the corner of Bourbon Street half way down Conti and must have something like 200 tables but when I checked in with the hostess, at a little after one in the afternoon, and told her I’d like a table for one, she frowned, pretended to look at her reservation sheet, and informed me that they didn’t have a table available. I looked around her shoulder at the half-empty dining room.


“Would you like to sit at the bar?” she suggested.

What the hell.

The bartender—a middle-aged woman with an 80s style puffy hairdo called me Sweetie and asked me what I’d like to drink. I told her I’d like a Sam Adams and the crab cakes.

“You got it, Sweetie.”

The crab cakes arrived before the beer, and the beer only took about three minutes. “Anything else, Sweetie?”

I told her I was good so she could go back to watching some sports talk show on the TV that was discussing whether we should be outraged or not over some NFL quarterback who sported tattoos on his arms.

The beer was fine. It was cold and tasted good. It was exactly what I had hoped it would be. I’m not sure what to tell you about the crab cakes. Maybe you could just look at the photo. Depending on your point of view, they are either yummy looking and better than sex or kind of disgusting. They had a hell of a lot of what the restaurant calls “crawfish and mushroom cream sauce” on top of them and my first reaction was, why do you need to ladle on a gallon of some gloppy sauce over crab cakes? I answered my own question when I took a bite: Because they taste bland and yucky.

After taking one more bite, just to make sure, I pushed the plate away and finished my beer. When I asked the bartender for my bill, she said, “Do you want to take them crab cakes with you?” I told her I did not.

Back at the hotel, the kid at the front desk looked up from his paper and asked me if I’d been to Oceana. I have, I told him.

“Aw right, then,” he said, smiling and offering up a high-five. “Now ya’all know!”

And I do.

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Champagne and fries in New Orleans

New Orleans bar food: Veuve Clicquot and fries at Sylvain in the French Quarter.

The photo above is crap (it was dark and I was using my iPhone) but what you’re looking at is a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and a large plate of french fries, which I ordered last night at Sylvain on Chartres Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans. This wasn’t a strange marriage between haute and poor that I made up; this is something that is actually on the menu. Right there on the bar food menu. Veuve Clicquot and fries. $50.

Is there any other city in the world where you could find Veuve and fries on the menu? I think not. God bless you, New Orleans, for knowing one of my fantasies even before I did.

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