While some people may escape our smoldering June weather with a vacation to cooler climates, my main agenda is finding the best place to impress Dad: King of the grill, lover of meats. For a day, at least, we’ll ignore the high cholesterol.
Toups’ Meatery is Mid-City’s newest addition to a growing food lover’s neighborhood. Situated beneath the shady oaks near City Park, Toups’ sleek and casual renovation of a former Greek restaurant is a carnivore’s destination for lunch or dinner. The charcuterie board features all in-house meats and accompaniments, including a heart attack-sized portion of cracklins and a double coronary of creamy rabbit rilletts and candied pork rillons. Fois gras is served with a dense raisin toast, mixed greens, candied pecans and a housemade sambuca jam that tastes like the world’s classiest Jell-O shot. The roasted duck entrée is an enormous half a duck for those who like to share, served over turnips cooked to the sweetness of an apple or pear balanced with a dabble of au jus. An enormous slab of pork chop was also carried outside to a group of diners enjoying the last days of mild weather at one of the large tables. Heaps of in-house fried potato chips accompany thoughtful sandwiches, like the duck, Époisses and jam on raisin bread. The menu often changes to reflect seasonal local produce and (formerly of Emeril’s Delmonico) chef Isaac Toup’s innovative approach to cooking. The sleek bar (with television mostly tuned to the Food Network) is a great place for a duo to dine, too, and I believe that’s where they stash the doberge cake, which is a must if you’re already guaranteed a trip to emergency room. Just remember to bring your leftovers for the wait.
Beloved Bywater barbecue mecca, The Joint is in a new location that still embodies the quasi-ramshackle Poland Avenue destination of yore, but now features a large, fully stocked bar and more room for people-watching; kudos if you can point out who isn’t a local accordion player. The walls are bedecked in signs and folk art, and a few picnic tables still abound, as does the epic smoker, which can be smelled blocks away. The Joint is the type of place that will squelch any type of bad mood. Succulent ribs, brisket and pulled pork are the main attraction. Many people have tried the pulled pork sandwich at various festivals – French Quarter Fest, Chaz Fest, the Blues Festival in Lafayette Square – but dining at the restaurant is necessary to reach meat eater’s Zen. Why? The smell of barbecue wafting through Bywater as you make your trek toward the restaurant; the fact that you can still buy a High Life from an Igloo cooler behind the counter rather than ordering it at the bar; the fact that you can now order a glass of wine at the bar (no judging, but this is a barbecue joint, and who washes down pulled pork and potato salad with Sauvignon Blanc?). You can and should still eat outside. If swatting mosquitoes sounds bad to you, you must not have tried The Joint’s pulled pork sandwich, topped with coleslaw and sauce, with a side of peppery macaroni and cheese on a sweltering night with your beer sweating even more than you are, your chair indenting criss-crosses all over your backside and a smile on your face because this is the way to eat in New Orleans in the dead heat of summer. No plates or silverware need, just baskets of glorious food and plastic forks, paper towels for removal of extraneous sweat and barbecue sauce and lots of egg in the potato salad, the way it ought to be.
Crispy pork belly with butter beans, clams, arugula and harissa sauce is an unusual and tempting approach to the appetizer at Café Atchafalaya.
Toups’ Meatery | 845 N. Carrollton Ave. | 252-4999 | ToupsMeatery.com
The Joint | 701 Mazant St. | 949-3232 | AlwaysSmokin.com
Café Atchafalaya | 901 Louisiana Ave. | 891-9626 | AtchafalayaRestaurant.com