If you’ve driven down St. Claude Avenue lately, chances are you’ve seen a crowd clustered around the corner of Music Street. They are waiting for seats at Morrow’s, a polished new restaurant serving classic New Orleans comfort food with a uniquely Korean twist. Owned and operated by the mother and son team of Lenora Chong and Larry Morrow, Morrow’s has quickly built a name for itself as a go-to spot for well-executed local fare served in a celebratory atmosphere.
The restaurant is a sleek, contemporary space, which stands out in a neighborhood that tends to favor patina over polish. The long bar is accented with a verdant, branded backdrop and the menu has something for everyone – this is the kind of place not just popular with adults, but also with families celebrating birthdays and graduations. It’s built around a core of local favorites like crawfish bread (theirs uses a poor boy loaf as a base) and char-broiled oysters. Start with a cup of gumbo – the stock is thin but packed with flavor and backed with heat from cayenne pepper. The wide-ranging entrée section features crawfish etouffee, “Pasta Lenora” (think fettuccini Alfredo localized with fresh gulf shrimp) and the behemoth “Just Watch” – a sprawling seafood platter featuring shrimp, oysters, catfish and softshell crab which feeds 2-3 people. These is also a rotating series of daily plate lunch specials – consider Wednesday’s butter beans over rice with their excellent fried chicken as a substitution for the smoked sausage.
A unique feature of their menu are the Korean dishes – food writers often hone in on this facet despite the fact the bulk of the menu is comfort food. Still, the Korean choices are well-executed and make for a tempting departure from regional fare. An appetizer of “Lettuce Wraps” features cubes of chicken spiced with gochujang – a fermented red chili paste packed with umami. The Korean BBQ offers a heaping platter of thin-sliced beef ribs on the bone, marinated in a sweet sauce before being grilled. Served on a cast iron platter and generously garnished with slivered green onion, the fat picks up the marinade and the char. Although the portion is generous, you will be picking through the bones for any and all leftover morsels. Another option is the “Bibim Bop,” a composed meal-in-a-bowl featuring vegetables, marinated beef, fried egg and a spicy sauce all served over white rice.
Sunday brunch is a great time to visit, especially for families – get there early to avoid the inevitable wait. Morrow’s offers up a “Red Velvet Waffle” accompanied by three fried chicken wings – a variation on the more traditional “Chicken and Waffles” – which also makes an appearance here. “Shrimp and Grits” are served, as is a decadent lobster-studded mac and cheese. For those seeking a lighter approach, spinach salad garnished with pecans, dried cranberries, red onion and goat cheese is an option, but to come here is to indulge, not to deny. Do yourself a favor and reach for the “Bananas Foster French Toast” instead. You can go to the gym on Monday.
During the week, Morrow’s has a happy hour offering 50 percent off premium drinks as well as $3 shots and $3 beer. Morrow’s does not accept reservations, so seating is on a first-come-first-served basis. Arrive early to avoid the wait.
MEET THE CHEF
Morrow’s is owned by the mother-and-son team of Lenora Chong and Larry Morrow. Lenora, who formerly ran Lenora’s Grill in Pontchartrain Park, heads up the kitchen. Larry’s background is in event management and promotion, among other pursuits, and he is responsible for much of the vibe and aesthetic. The selection of Korean dishes pay homage to Lenora’s heritage and make for a fun and eclectic departure from the straight-up New Orleans comfort food direction of much of the menu.
Morrow’s, 2438 St. Claude Ave., The Marigny, 827-1519, L Tues-Sat, D Mon-Sat, Brunch Sun. MorrowsNola.com
Mid-city comfort food
If you like Morrow’s, other neighborhood hot spots with a party vibe include Neyow’s Creole Café on Banks Street in Mid-City, where the patrons spill out the front door on weeknights and at brunch. There you will also find a menu specializing in Creole comfort food, along with its famously potent fruit punch.