Sure, fall is cooling us down, but a handful of new restaurants are heating up. Whether you want to keep it cheap, need a cool new hangout or want to dine like the rich and famous, here are three reasons to eat out.
For the casual lunch and brunch crowd: Surrey’s Uptown, a new location of the beloved café and juice bar, is now at the former Fuel coffee shop at 4807 Magazine St. Famous for their selection of freshly squeezed juices – strawberry, pineapple, mango, oh my – and brunch fare, this new arrival is a welcome gift from the lines at the Lower Garden District flagship. A banana pancake is the size of a harvest moon. The turkey club paired with a whopping side of potato salad is a classic and filling lunch. Sure bets for breakfast and brunch are the decadent shrimp and grits and the migas: eggs scrambled with chorizo, tortilla strips, cheese and tasty veggies. The hash browns aren’t shredded, but actual potato wedges, which some may find odd, but the biscuits are spot on. It is only a matter of time before the line forms out the door, but thankfully outside seating is available.
For a girls’ night out: Frenchmen Street is now home to The Three Muses, where Chef Dan Esses turns out a plethora of well-crafted small plates. Chef Esses honed his skills at Café Degas and Marigny Brasserie, before cooking some epic dinners at Bacchanal, but it seems he’s finally found a venue perfectly suited for his cuisine.
Diners can listen to live jazz, casually order from the bar and stuff together in this smallish joint to share from plates of rabbit empanadas, hand-made gnocchi and charcuterie, all reasonably priced and decadent. The lamb sliders are a must try, with tender lamb meatballs accompanied by tomato chutney and goat cheese. Hats off to those bite-sized treasures your crazy aunt might call “’dem Krystal Burgers, baby.” This is fun, decadent dining without any pretension – it’s the type of hangout you wish had adorned Frenchmen Street all along. You will run into at least three ex-boyfriends and at least three small plates that are love at first sight; mine were the crab and artichoke ravioli in pesto sauce, lobster egg rolls and a piquillo pepper stuffed with feta and lima beans. My advice is to order any form of house-made pasta and to go early, before the crowds bombard the place. The Three Muses is open 4 p.m.-midnight and is closed on Tuesdays.
For the special occasion: You don’t have to use an anniversary or prom as an excuse to go to Mesón 923. The Spanish- and French-inspired cuisine will make any day seem like a luxurious escape. Located on South Peters Street in the Warehouse District, Mesón 923 is the brainchild of Chef Chris Lynch, whose skillful execution of all things seafood is witnessed in the menu’s wealth of options, including various crudo – a selection of raw fish including East and West coast oysters, both a bittersweet and innovative indulgence these days. My oysters were served with a cucumber sorbet that, along with a light Hendricks gin cocktail, was perhaps the most flavorful excursion into oysters I’ve had since Brooklyn’s Marlowe and Sons, Frank’s Oyster House and Champagne Bar in Seattle, or even a dunk in a crisp ocean. The dining room is sleek, if not minimal, with dark walls and a glass window before the kitchen that’s positioned high enough to peek in on the chefs without seeing all their magic tricks. I ordered the tuna entrée, not something I would normally go for, but here it was served rare, with succulent sweetbreads, lending a salty, fatty hand. It disappeared quickly, and I was left to my cheese course – artisinal selections from St. James – and a dessert of Medjool dates served over puff pastry. The best dining is found when the actual meal outshines its presentation on the menu, and at Mesón 923 I must say this is the case, with exceptional attention to intriguing, balanced flavors and gorgeous plating that beckons gawking and photography.
But please refrain from breaking out the iPhone; the only thing needed in this lap of luxury is your napkin.