Doing All Things Well
Other cities may have more “five-star” restaurants than New Orleans, but there’s really nowhere else with such a distinct food culture. New Orleans is not immune to food trends, and we have a lot of excellent new restaurants serving inventive food. But New Orleans wouldn’t be the same without our strong tradition of indigenous restaurants, whether white tablecloth or more casual, neighborhood joints.
Those of us who write about food and restaurants in New Orleans found that in the months following the levee failures of August, 2005, we were continually asked about restaurants that had suffered damage and could not reopen immediately. The restaurants about which most people asked were places that offered more than just good food. These spots served as meeting places for regulars and as an island of consistency in a restaurant landscape that seems to change more each year. These are places where you know the servers; where the walls are adorned with family photographs; where you eat things that you can really only get in New Orleans. These are restaurants such as Camellia Grill, Crescent City Steaks, Casamento’s, Antoine’s, Galatoire’s, Dooky Chase and of course, Mandina’s.
All of those restaurants were closed for some period of time in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and some re-opened earlier than others. In Mandina’s case it took about a year and a half, but the family buckled down and overcame all obstacles to bring the iconic eatery back. Diners all over the city and beyond are grateful that they did.
Mandina’s has been in operation at 3800 Canal St. for over eight decades, and Cindy Mandina, who runs the business now, is the fourth generation of her family to do so. The new place looks a little different than it did in the years pre-Katrina, though not so different that you wouldn’t recognize it. You will definitely recognize the turtle soup au sherry, the crab fingers in wine sauce, the Gulf fish meuniere and daily specials like the bruccialone with shell macaroni that’s available on Thursdays, or the Creole Eggplant you can order on Friday.
And you’ll also recognize a lot of the folks dining there, because Mandina’s is a place to which people return over and over. The place was doing good business before the storm, but these days it’s even busier; you should expect a wait during peak hours. Fortunately the bar is still there, and the drinks are still made in the New Orleans fashion – which is to say “strong.” Hit the bar then wait outside under the overhanging roof and chat with your fellow patrons.
Mandina’s, 3800 Canal St., 482-9179, MandiansRestaurant.com