Bywater Bites

Sample the sweet and the savory.

Kermit Ruffins isn’t the only reason to visit Bywater these days. In fact the neighborhood is blooming with great restaurants worth a visit. While home to good bar food, barbeque hot spots and a risque country club, Bywater also offers a few impressive gems for ladies who want to lunch, brunch or have a fabulous dinner.

Satsuma Café on Dauphine Street (where Coffea used to be) offers a simple, yet tasty lunch for the healthful minded, and is the perfect stop for a long weekend bike ride or any post=workout feasting. A laid back air inhabits every nook and cranny of the café, from their pretty plants out front, to the bric-a-brac furniture and friendly baristas. Open Wednesday through Monday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., the café offers delicious coffee and espresso drinks, H&H bagels, tasty salads and sandwiches on soft, fresh ciabatta. The roasted vegetable sandwich – eggplant, squash, tomato arugula pesto and gruyere – will melt your heart without burning a hole in your pocket. At $7, I found my sandwich to be a much better bargain than any sequined gown or mannequin head at the Bargain Center next door. The freshly squeezed juices are a must try, including kale and fennel for the adventurous. Though the salads change frequently, the kale-rainbow chard salad should be a menu staple – with fennel, apple, avocado, tamari pumpkin seeds, sprouts, bacon and parmesan dressing, I was blown away by how delicious raw kale and chard can be. The salad is unexpectedly delicate, and balanced well by the abundance of texture and sapidity of the accompanying ingredients. I haven’t stopped craving it since the moment I tried it.

Elizabeth’s, at Gallier and Chartres streets, has the best brunch in town on weekends (serving from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.) for those in search of casual, family-style comfort food. Maybe it’s the plastic tablecloths. Maybe it’s because my grandma’s favorite way to cook was butter plus a cast iron skillet. Dining at Elizabeth’s just feels like a hug. The appetizer menu features the seemingly extinct shrimp callas, fried chicken livers, boudin balls and decadent praline bacon – also served at dinner on the Dream Burger with blue cheese. Having lived in North Carolina for four years, I can attest to the miraculous powers of low country shrimp and grits. Served here with leeks and tasso ham in a beef broth, they’re as tasty as any I’ve ever had – tasty enough to remedy the ill, which is why this dish also goes by “The Hangover Helper.” Despite a wealth of hearty brunch entrées including the very sinful cream cheese stuffed french toast and several takes on poached eggs (the redneck eggs have fried green tomatoes and hollandaise sauce), specials abound and usually feature fresh seafood such as oysters and crab. The bartender also makes some mean cocktails; I’m not exactly sure what the ramifications of drinking a Corpse Reviver are, but I’m certain that what brought you to the point of ordering one is far worse.

Fans of Bacchanal Fine Wine and Spirits know that fall and spring are the best times to dine at this unassuming wine shop-come-foodie destination. Every Sunday evening, Bacchanal features a menu by a local chef (including some of my favorites: Ian Schnoebelen and Dan Esses), prepared outside in the rustic courtyard. I have tasted so many delicious dishes here, from seafood stuffed mirlitons by Anne Churchhill, to lamb pot roast on grilled garlic bread with pickled haricot verts from Nathaniel Zimet. This is a great way for the frugal diner to indulge, since most plates go for $10 or less. Bacchanal has a great wine selection to accompany your dinner, and also offer free wine tastings on Saturdays. Also home to a rather beautiful and tasty cheese board, they now offer a full deli menu served everyday, including indulgent grilled cheese sandwiches: Comte and fresh jalapeños; Tallegio and grilled portobello. With a lavishly green courtyard strewn with Christmas lights, broken chairs, a clawfoot bathtub, good conversations and live local music, this is outside dining at its quirkiest and most romantic. You can’t go wrong here on a cool evening with a hot date if, say, you can find a hot date.

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