Wednesday, June 1, 2011

NOLA Eats | Port of Call & Napoleon House

Dinners in The Big Easy were memorable, but make no mistake the brunches and lunches were just as noteworthy. The laid back, casual food and drink establishments in New Orleans are top notch.From the burgers at Port of Call to the Jambalaya and Muffuletta at Napoleon House to the Beignets at Cafe Du Monde and the not-to-be missed upscale three course brunch at Brennan's, we ate like there was no tomorrow. (Warning: this is no time to start a diet.) It is doubtful I can pack all the aforementioned spots into one post; but if my first two recaps have you off planning a trip, there is a lot you need to know about lunch down here and I'm not about to skimp on the details.Port of Call sits on the outskirts of French Quarter bordering a neighborhood called Marginy. It is definitely walk-able, providing a nice leisurely stroll down Bourbon only slightly off the beaten path at 838 Esplanade Ave. We entered through a battered forest green door with an awning to match over head and a tiny brick stoop underfoot. We hesitantly maneuvered past the crowds inside, searching high and low for a hostess after no one seemed eager to greet us. It was super busy and felt like a locals haven. Dimly lit with weathered dark wood walls, it's a convivial dive with decor representing its namesake. A thick maritime rope net drapes overhead and nautical maps and rafts line the walls. Hostess, are you in here?! Eventually we flagged her down on the opposite side of the bar.Thankfully, it was only about a 10 minute wait after we put our names in. We were seated in a crowded back room at a table squished in the corner. With a window front view overlooking a side street, daylight streamed into this section of the joint. Heavy drapes convened in the corner and a framed vintage Hawaiian themed poster hung on the opposite wall. Port of Call was recommended to us with a note that they had amazing burgers. We were a bit surprised to learn that burgers are the only thing on the menu. I barely exaggerate. There were a few entree options along the lines of a $30 Filet Mignon and rib-eye steaks, and sides come only in the form of a baked potato. (No french fries here!) They do offer your typical rowdy NOLA cocktail menu but we started off easy on the livers with bottles of Abita Amber. With the limited menu selections dictating our order, the decision was an easy one, burgers and baked potatoes for all!! Eventually we had to laugh at the fact that someone would recommend you "get a burger here" when it is legit all you can get! Word to the wise. That being said, I wasn't at all unhappy about this. In fact, I was absolutely thrilled with my burger. A large juicy monster of a patty came loaded to the nines with long strands of shredded yellow cheddar cheese, a boatload of crisp onion, a thick slice of tomato and tangy dill pickles. I have never experienced this much cheese, never mind the fact that it is shredded, on a burger until now. Incredible! Barely contained by a soft sesame seed bun, this is one of those dive in face first and make a mess of yourself in the process burgers. And a serious hangover cure to boot, thank you very much! The enormous piping hot baked potato comes loaded with your choice of sides; cold sour cream and thick coils of freshly chopped chives were the natural compliment.Our waiter was a nice guy - very attentive, making sure to offer us more beers and promptly delivering extra napkins before we had to ask. Best burger in the city of New Orleans? The locals will tell you so. Must visit while here? I'm tempted to say yes! Sure you can get a burger anywhere, but this is truly a damn good one. I am ultimately really glad we ventured here for lunch on our first day. If you wanted to do the same I wouldn't steer you elsewhere, unless you had limited time and in that case I would definitely recommend you to visit this next spot.....
On our second day we went to lunch at Napoleon House, an iconic cafe and bar with historic French Quarter atmosphere situated at 500 Chartres St. Locals and tourists alike flock here whether for lunch, dinner, late night, or a drink at the bar.
White paint chips off from the brown walls where antique framed photos hang in a haphazard collage. It is immediately charming and wants to transport you to another place and time, a characteristic I've come to realize is typical of many bars in NOLA. We entered to find yet another line at the hostess stand, and no hostess in site. Today we were in a time crunch with reservations to board the Steamboat Natchez in the near future, so when four seats opened up at the bar and a good 5 minute wait later saw us no closer to speaking with the hostess, we jumped right up. We were greeted immediately by a hardworking bartender with character. Ha! Not Napoleon, the gentlemen below. Already a Bloody Mary deep (to-go from the hotel bar makes for a fabulous morning pick me up) the Pimm's Cup ($5.50) was eager to please. The British Gin based liquor is combined with lemonade, a splash of lemon-lime soda and garnished with a cucumber for the epitome of a refreshing cocktail. Wouldn't you know, this is actually the beverage that Napoleon House is known for. Order one for sure. They are also known for their Muffulettas, the Italian sandwich infamously associated with New Orleans. Definitely a must order while in NOLA, a whole sandwich here only costs $14 (trust me that's a deal, it's HUGE.) We decided to split one four ways. You could also order a half ($7.50) or a quarter ($4.25) on its own. The whole sandwich is served on a round sesame seed loaf and cut into quarters. The amazingly fluffy yet dense bread is layered with classic Italian sandwich meats including ham, Genoa salami and pastrami. Dueling cheeses in the form of swiss and provolone melt generously over a house-made olive salad. The "salad" seals the deal with crispy bites of celery, salty capers, red peppers and of course, small chunks of olives. Accompanying the main plate are crispy pickle spears, whole olives and pearl onions. I believe a typical Muffuletta is served cold and therefore Napoleon House's version is significant for being the only hot one in town.  The menu offers a side of portion of Jambalaya for $3.25 with any sandwich. I was excited to try this classic creole rice based dish combining peppers, onions, tomatoes and celery with chicken and sausage and whole lot of spices. Theirs did not disappoint and while I totally could have eaten more, this small scoop ended up being the perfect accompaniment to the sandwich. The fact that easily shareable and smaller portions were offered on the menu, combined with the swift service of the bartender allowed us to finish quickly and be on our way in time to board Steamboat Natchez for a cruise on the Mighty Mississippi. 
Port of Call on UrbanspoonNapoleon House Bar & Café on Urbanspoon

13 comments:

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

I miss NOLA already. I definitely cooled off with many an Abita and enjoyed an original muffaletta at Central Grocery. Looks like you girls had a great trip!

Elizabeth said...

All those old buildings are fabulous! I would love to visit someday.

In and Around Town said...

That burger and the jambalaya look awesome - I love abita beer, always on the look out for it up here

Maggy said...

Basically, I can only read your blog when I'm sure I'm not hungry. Yum.

Kinsey Michaels said...

New Orleans looks like a really fun place to visit. That burger looks out of control haha.

Michelle Collins said...

The amount of cheese on that burger is BEAUTIFUL. These posts are making me want to go on vacation so badly!

Jennyboo said...

I want to visit New Orleans more than any other travel destination in the US. My grandmother is from there and she would always make the best fried chicken. All of this food (and delicious beverages) makes me want to go there even more!

Meesh said...

that CHEESE is just CRAZY!!!! large shreds FTW. Nice.

Amber Blue Bird said...

holy lord that was a lot of cheese. That must have tasted soo good

Simply Life said...

oh that burger looks so fun to eat!

Meghan@travelwinedine said...

Yum, everything looks amazing, and there is lots of it! Pimms Cup must have been refreshing down there!

Alicia said...

This has me craving jambalaya....I must make it soon!

Megan said...

Wow! I love the cheese on top of that burger! I sometimes use shredded cheese at home when we don't have anything else, but I've never piled it on like that!