A Little Bucktown in Fat City
Sid-Mar’s was opened in Bucktown in 1967 by Sid and Marion Burgess, just on the Jefferson Parish side of the 17th Street Canal. It was an institution in that neighborhood until Katrina and the federal levee failures. The Burgess family had plans to reopen in the same location, but those plans were quashed when the Corps of Engineers expropriated the property on which the restaurant was located as part of the project to improve the canal.
Now the Burgesses have reopened the restaurant at 3322 N. Turnbull Drive, a block off of Veterans Boulevard. I have fond memories of Sid-Mar’s original location: I went there with my parents as a kid and with friends when I was in high school, and I was there a few months before Katrina with a big group of friends and our own kids. But until recently I hadn’t checked out the new location.
Sid-Mar’s is located in a space that was most recently a hybrid Korean/sushi restaurant called Gimchi. When the space was renovated, the sushi bar was removed, as were most other indications of the former restaurant, but the interior’s dark wood and reddish-brown decor definitely won’t remind you of Sid-Mar’s former incarnation. The bar is particularly incongruous compared to the worn feel of the Bucktown joint, with blue lights, mirrors and the feeling that ordering sake would be more appropriate than an Abita Amber. It’s not unpleasant by any means, but it’s a bit odd to be eating the classic Sid-Mar’s menu in these circumstances.
That classic menu hasn’t changed much. Sid-Mar’s is still a great place for New Orleans-style seafood and poor boys, and the kitchen is every bit as deft with the fryer as it was before the move. The onion rings I had recently were some of the best I’ve ever eaten; I tend to prefer my onion rings very thinly sliced and with a minimum of batter to distract from the sweetness of the onion. Thick-cut onion rings are more difficult to do well. There’s a danger that the batter will be too thick, undercooked or simply flavorless. Sid-Mar’s rings are pretty much ideal. They are thick-cut, but with a very light, well-seasoned batter that adheres to the onion. I know for damn sure I’m not eating there without at least one order for every two diners.
Other appetizers include barbecued shrimp, cheese fries, hush puppies and fried or marinated crab claws. Soups are limited to two choices: seafood gumbo and crab-and-corn soup; both can be ordered by the cup or the bowl. The gumbo is full of shrimp and has a medium-brown roux. It has a good depth of flavor, and with a couple of dashes of Crystal hot sauce, it was excellent.
Sid-Mar’s also serves salads, and while only the “Wop” salad –– yes, it’s still listed that way on the menu –– and the wedge with rémoulade appeal to me, you might enjoy the grilled tuna, grilled amberjack or shrimp salads. In the latter, the shrimp can be prepared fried, grilled or boiled. As I said, I don’t really recommend salad at a place like Sid-Mar’s, but if you choose that option, fried is the way to go.
The standard poor boys are on offer: roast beef; ham and cheese; and Italian, smoked or hot sausage cover the meats. Fried shrimp, catfish, oyster and soft-shell crab handle the seafood side of things, and all are served on Leidenheimer bread in both half- and full-size portions. The menu has a separate section for sandwiches, including hamburgers, grilled shrimp and grilled fish sandwiches along with couple of specialties. The Sid-Mar’s special is hot sausage with brown gravy and cheese, and the Bucktown special replaces the hot sausage with roast beef and ham. Both the sandwiches and the poor boys are served with french fries, and like just about everything else I’ve sampled from the restaurant’s fryer, the thinly cut fries were excellent.
More substantial offerings are available on the “Dinners” side of the menu. Fried shrimp, oysters, catfish and soft-shell crab come with fries and hush puppies, and the catfish and soft shells are also available broiled. Grilled dinners include chicken breast, shrimp, tuna, amberjack and baby-back ribs. If you’ve had the ribs, leave a comment or e-mail me, would you? I’m curious to know how the place pulls them off –– but not so curious that I’m going to forgo ordering fried seafood.
There is a “New Orleans Classics” heading on the menu that features a half chicken either fried or broiled, a hamburger steak, shrimp fettuccine, and red beans and rice with smoked sausage. Hush puppies, fries, jambalaya and new potatoes are among your options as side dishes.
Sid-Mar’s may not be in the same location, and the ambiance is certainly different, but if you enjoyed it in Bucktown, you’ll enjoy it in Fat City. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday. You can get in touch by calling 831-9541.