OUR READERS’ PICKS
There were elections for Congress and on constitutional amendments during the past year, both of which were useful learning exercises for our readers to make their most important decisions – who or what are worthy of the title Ultimate New Orleans. Self-addressed, postage-paid detachable ballots were included in our August and September issues. Ballots were also available on-line. We tabulated the results and have declared the winners according to the following rules.
• Anyone designated as a winner had to have a significant cluster of votes based on the total votes cast in each category.
• In those cases where the votes were so dispersed in so many ways for there not to be any clusters, the categories were eliminated,
nIn those cases where several names fell above the cluster line, finalists were listed in rank order.
• Whenever there was evidence of ballot-box stuffing, those votes were eliminated.
And, of course, ballots with hanging chads were sent to the U.S. Supreme Court for review.
Here then are our readers’ picks of the Ultimate New Orleans. If you have any serious disagreements please send us a Letter to the Editor c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or New Orleans Magazine, 110 Veterans Blvd., Suite 123, Metairie, LA, 70005 – or file a complaint with the FEMA Legal Department.
We remain in awe of the wisdom of our readers and appreciate that they have the wisdom to be our readers.
COURT OF TWO SISTERS BRUNCH WINNERS
Perhaps the government should learn from us. To encourage votes we promised free food. Specifically, we said that we would draw two names from all those who sent in ballots to receive certificates for a Brunch for Two at the Court of Two Sisters. We’ve kept our word. The winners are: Lynnette Boulet – Houston, T.X., and Julia Ann Huber – Metairie. Remember your civics lessons: It pays to vote.
FAVORITE SPORTS REPORTER – Jim Henderson
GREG MILES PHOTOGRAPH
Jim Henderson, New Orleans Magazine readers voted you their favorite TV sports reporter. What is your favorite part of sports reporting? It’s the satisfaction I get from a job well done versus the apprehension I feel before a game.
You’re a 13-time winner of the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association’s Sportscaster of the Year Award, how do you keep your job fresh? I have such a great job. Every time I get a little tired of one sport, another rolls around. Because it’s always in flux – especially with the Saints this past season and what they went through after Katrina – it keeps me fresh.
What was your favorite moment to report on? It has to have been the Saints’ victory over the Rams – their first playoff win – and of course, this past season’s first game against the Falcons. It was so much more than a game – it was so meaningful, emotional and important. The only thing that could top that day is if the Saints win a Super Bowl … in the Superdome.
You also do the Saints play-by-play … Which medium do you prefer, TV or radio? Both are constantly changing and there are things in each that are a lot of fun. There is the thrill of calling a game live – for three hours and 45 minutes – especially a game like the one against the 49ers when the fans are so emotional and energetic, makes the job very enjoyable.
You have two children, Derek and Lindsay, now grown. When they were young, did being a sports reporter influence their lives? When you have young children and have to spend so much time away, you wonder if you’re giving them a nurturing home life, but my job allowed me moments with them that no other could have; for example, my son worked often as my spotter and was able to attend Super Bowls with me. I think I was able to offset a regular life with these special times.
Both my children were active in sports; in fact my daughter went to college on a soccer scholarship. I think [being involved with sports] helped them to be more competitive in their jobs.
We’re all still active in sports … in fact, between my job with the Saints, my son who’s involved with corporate sales for the Saints and my son-in-law’s job as the assistant trainer for Clemson’s football team, we might not always be able to have a family Christmas until February!
What do you do on your time off? I love to work out and play tennis and fish. Really, I just love to spend time outdoors. My wife and I have a house in Poplarville, Miss., that we’ll eventually retire to; I love to sit on our porch there and just relax. — Morgan Packard
BEST LOCAL BAND – ReBirth Brass Band
GREG MILES PHOTOGRAPH
Originally a group of talented high school students known as The Group Brass Band, when Bobby Leonard – who at the time ran the Rebirth youth program – heard them in the French Quarter, he decided they needed a new name, ReBirth, and a new manager, him. When it became apparent to Leonard that these boys were headed for big things, he stepped back from managing, but they kept the name.
Phillip Frazier, the sousaphone player for the band, talked to us about their history and their future.
Your name is advantageous in post-Katrina New Orleans … New Orleans is embracing its rebirth, we’re just happy to be on the program.
You’ve performed with so many music greats, who do you enjoy performing with the most? All of them! But my top five would have to be Maceo Parker, Ani DiFranco, The Grateful Dead, the Neville Brothers and Doug E. Fresh.
Even with your growing popularity you continue to appear humble and approachable; how do you stay so grounded? We love what we do. Most of us started playing in church and that keeps us humble. Our fans pay our salary and they keep us going … without them we’re nothing.
Brass bands are a staple in the musical diet of New Orleans, but are quickly growing in popularity worldwide, why do you think this is? A lot of New Orleans is spread all over and they want it so bad wherever they are. Also, a lot of musicians are going to New Orleans’ musical roots (the horns and sousaphone) and they’re jumping on the sound.
What sets ReBirth apart from other brass bands? Our sound. My brother Keith on the bass drum likes to play it laid back and I like to play it aggressive, so our secret is that we have two tempos playing on the same beat.
With 13 recorded albums, how do you think your music has progressed since your first in 1984? We’ve grown so much since high school – we started playing traditional tunes and now we play more original ones and covers. As the world’s music has changed, ours has, too. Our sound is more mature, but we’re still playful. — M.P.
BEST UP-AND-COMING NEIGHBORHOOD
BEST NEIGHBORHOOD TO RAISE A FAMILY – Lakeview
There has long been a practice in Lakeview of people buying a couple of older houses that stood side by side, tearing them down and building a larger one on the site. Katrina made the “tear down” a lot easier, even, in many cases, starting some of the work herself.
Compared to most of the city’s neighborhoods, Lakeview is a lot younger – much of the original construction traces back to the 1950s. The neighborhood has many of the characteristics of an American suburb, with the one notable exception that it’s within the boundaries of the city. Part of the area’s charm is its combination of urban proximity and suburban lifestyles.
Main Street for Lakeview is Harrison Avenue. As an indication of the area’s affluence, before Katrina there were five banks on this one street. Harrison had all the services of a small town main street, except that few small towns are thriving as well as Lakeview was.
Hammers are again swinging in Lakeview. Gradually the area is coming back. Stately St. Dominic church is holding services – though the congregation has to sit on folding chairs in place of the pews, which were warped by the flooding. And the stained glass window at St. Paul Episcopal Church still glows over the street. Drug stores are nonexistent and restaurants are few, but signs tacked to the empty buildings suggest that the revival is not far off. (Curiously, one amenity that Lakeview does not offer is a view of the lake, unless a person would be perched on the roof of St. Dominic and had binoculars.)
Our readers picked Lakeview first in two categories, “Most Up-and-Coming Neighborhood” and “Best Neighborhood to Raise a Family,” because they remembered what it was. We picked Lakeview because we have high hopes for what it will once again be.
— Errol Laborde
Favorite New Orleans
Actor/Actress (local theater):
Becky Allen. Becky Allen is as appealing as her characters: loveable, loud, with a sassy, hilarious sense of humor that could only be found in the land of hot sauce.
2. Ricky Graham (tied)
2. John “Spud” McConnell (tied)
Most Attractive New Orleanian, Female:
Angela Hill. With big earrings to match her big heart, she continues to remain our classic, and undeniable beauty.
Most attractive New Orleanian, Male:
Harry Connick Jr. He stays dedicated to saving the city, he knows how to party during Carnival season, and oh yeah, he’s good looking, too.
Bobby Jindal. Readers sense that he is going places, He does, too. Maybe the governor’s mansion.
2. Mitch Landrieu
3. Arnie Fielkow
Bob Breck. Always a landslide winner. (Fortunately there are no landslides in the forecast.)
2. Carl Arredondo (tied)
2. Margaret Orr (tied)
3. Dawn Brown
Favorite New Orleans Musician (living in the city):
Fats Domino. Plain and simple: Fats makes us all want to walk to New Orleans, no matter where we are.
2. Allen Toussaint
Favorite New Orleans Musician (outside the city):
Harry Connick, Jr. He’s always welcome back here.
2. Aaron Neville
3. Pete Fountain
Favorite Saints Player:
Joe Horn. With his past catching finesse and his tendency to get a little too festive (touchdown dance anyone?), this Saint scores high.
2. Deuce McAllister
3. Drew Brees (tied)
3. Reggie Bush (tied)
Favorite Hornets player:
Chris Paul. No. 3 is our No.1 – and this 2005-’06 NBA Rookie of the Year is only in the second year of his professional career.
Favorite TV Sports Reporter:
Jim Henderson. He’s one of the best writers among TV sports anchors and he handles the Saints play-by-play radio broadcasts, where the news is more exciting that ever.
2. Fletcher Mackel
3. Ed Daniels
Favorite Local Radio Personality:
Garland Robinette. Some of us know him from his 20 years as an anchor on WWL-TV, he’s had a second career on WWL radio as a passionate voice to guide us in the wake of Hurricane Katrina – we hope we don’t lose him to his art.
2. Spud McConnell
3. Tom Fitzmorris
Favorite Local TV News Anchor:
Mike Hoss. Initially hired as a sports reporter in 1989, taking over as a weekend anchor in 2001 and in 2005 filling the 10 p.m. weekly news anchor slot, Hoss has become a readers’ favorite
2. Angela Hill
3. Norman Robinson
Favorite Local Writer:
Chris Rose. He’s got the passion and humor of a true New Orleanian; and his earnest writing remains entertaining and thought-provoking, whether he’s joking, serious or both.
2. Ann Rice
Most Admired New Orleanian:
Becky Zaheri. With her Katrina Krewe, she continues to show us that we can take initiative and help clean up the city with our own hands.
2. Angela Hill
Best Grocery Store Deli:
Whole Foods. In short, no one leaves this store hungry or disappointed with the giant selection of sandwiches, pizza, salads, sushi … we could go on and on but you’re probably salivating by now.
Best Day Spa:
Belladonna. Bigger isn’t always better – the intimate and welcoming spa is what makes New Orleans women bella.
Best Golf Course:
Audubon. When you’re on this course, you’re less than a mile from the river, the zoo and universities buzzing with excitement; yet this is a quiet, peaceful oasis surrounded by trees and birds and wide open grass … not to mention the great food.
2. English Turn
3. City Park
Favorite Place to Fish:
Lake Pontchartrain. So, fish … you thought you survived a massive hurricane, but you got another thing comin’ at ‘cha … New Orleans fishermen!
Favorite biking/walking/running route:
Audubon Park. The park offers a much-needed break from potholes – the track is smooth amongst the canopy of weeping willows and local plants, plus watching the ducks in the pond is a great way to cool down.
2. St. Tammany Trace
3. Lafreniere Park
Elmwood Fitness. The largest health, fitness, aquatic and racquet sports complex in the area, Elmwood is a service of Ochsner, and so also includes numerous rehabilitation, children’s and nutrition counseling programs.
2. New Orleans Athletic Club
3. East Jefferson Wellness Center
Favorite Place to Buy an Engagement Ring:
Adler’s. Since 1898, Adler’s has remained a constant in New Orleans. From their original shop on Royal Street in the French Quarter to their present day four locations, Adler’s continues to provide that all-important human touch.
2. Aucoin Hart
3. Ramsey’s (tied)
3. Symmetry (tied)
Favorite Antiques Store
M.S. Rau. In one of America’s “antique” cities – M.S. Rau, since 1912, proves to be a fan-favorite with its selection of jewelry, furnishings and unique items from years past.
Favorite Place to Buy Funky Furniture:
Magazine Street. With eclectic shops, interesting mixes of people and beautiful architecture, Magazine Street shops have some of the most unique and, evidently well-liked, items to decorate the home.
Favorite Radio Station:
WWL 870 AM and 105.3 FM. Still a powerhouse, especially in these days when the news is so critical.
2. 89.9 WWNO
3. 90.7 WWOZ
Federico’s. The full service florist has so many options, it’s difficult to choose, but we can always find something perfect for any occasion.
3. Tommy’s (tied)
3. Mitch’s Flowers (tied)
Best Happy Hour:
The Columns. This is always a classy place for a fine drink, with a splendid view of St. Charles Avenue – even Playboy Magazine agrees.
Best Jazz Club:
Snug Harbor. The sound of New Orleans jazz spills onto Frenchman Street from this intimate locale.
2. Preservation Hall
Favorite Place to Take Out-of-Towners:
The French Quarter. It’s the heart of the city; they’ll never be bored by the constant drinking, music, mix of people and there’s something to “ooh” and “ahh” at – whether it’s a piece of artwork, the echo of a beautiful song, beignets … or your crazy aunt flashing for beads.
2. Pat O’Brien’s
3. Commander’s Palace
Favorite Place to Play Hooky:
The French Quarter. We’ve all done it and if you haven’t, you should – get lost and wander in the French Quarter, lose track of time, listen to music, shop, dance in the street, take pictures and strike up a conversation with a character – they’re everywhere!
2. The Fly
3. Audubon Park (tied)
3. City Park (tied)
Favorite Street for a Sunday Drive:
St. Charles Avenue. No matter the time of day, or season, this Avenue is always gorgeous and romantic (but we suggest making someone else drive so you can look without paying attention to those cars ahead of you!) It will be even better once the street is less bumpy and the streetcars return.
2. Magazine Street
3. Lakeshore Drive
Best Up-and-Coming Neighborhood:
Lakeview. We’re pulling for you. Lakeview is a financial and lifestyle center of the city.
Best Neighborhood to Raise a Family:
Lakeview. As the businesses return, each drive through Lakeview proves its only getting better.
Best Remodeled/Renovated Building:
The Superdome. We think the Superdome is better than ever now – let’s just hope that excited fans don’t blow off the roof!
Favorite Historical Landmark:
St. Louis Cathedral. The oldest church on the Mississippi River is still majestic and takes our breath away every time.
2. Jackson Square
3. Lee Circle
New Orleans Museum of Art. It’s the city’s oldest fine arts institution, it is diverse and eclectic and we bet that there is something for everyone to enjoy. Plus, it’s free to Louisiana residents!
2. D-Day: The National World War II Museum
3. Ogden Museum of Southern Art
Best Local Event (open to public):
Mardi Gras. Though translated to mean “Fat Tuesday,” it’s much more than just a day … Mardi Gras is the longest and best party you’ll ever experience.
2. French Quarter Fest
3. Jazz Fest
Best Fundraiser Event:
Zoo-to-do. This is the fundraiser that other zoos study to learn how to do it right.
Best Sound in New Orleans:
Calliope. No boat sings a better – or more upbeat – song than the steamboat Natchez.
Worst sound in New Orleans:
Gunshots. Give peace a chance.
3. Hip Hop/Rap
Best Local Band:
ReBirth Brass Band. They’ve traveled the world, made cameos in movies such as 2005’s The Skeleton Key, and performed at sold-out shows all over the country; we love them not so much for their fame, but because they stay true to their roots and play an important role in the survival of local music.
2. Cowboy Mouth
Favorite New Orleans Song:
“Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” Maybe because we all know what it means …
2. “New Orleans Lady”
3. “When the Saints Go Marching In”
Best local TV Commercial:
Blue Cross of LA. These commercials make us neither blue nor cross. Their upbeat feel brightens the whole living room.
2. Doerr Furniture
3. The Spirit of New Orleans
Best Place to Take the Kids:
Audubon Zoo. Still one of the nation’s best zoos – big enough to be worthwhile, small enough to be able to see everything.
Jazz Fest. Well, we’re the birthplace of jazz, we like festivals, so why not have another excuse to celebrate?
2. French Quarter Festival
3. Mardi Gras
Best Carnival Parade:
Endymion. In Greek mythology – Selene, the moon goddess – asked Zeus to grant a mortal – Endymion – eternal life so she could embrace him forever. We want to embrace him forever, too! Plus, the parade always draws a huge crowd and you’re always bound to run into old friends along the streetcar tracks. But please, let it return home to Canal Street.
Best Place to get Mardi Gras Costumes:
Closet. Dig around, you’re bound to find something … anything goes, as long as its colorful, wacky and/or covered in feathers
What did New Orleans do Right this Past Year?
Celebrate Mardi Gras. Drinking out of plastic cups, catching beads and dancing in the street had never felt so refreshing as Mardi Gras 2006; we showed the world that we still have it in us.
2. Survive (tied)
2. Nothing (tied)
What did New Orleans do wrong this year?
Re-elect Mayor Nagin. A landslide, though dubious, result for the mayor who only two years ago was the landslide reader’s choice for favorite politician.
Best News of the Past 12 Months:
Slower hurricane season. Needless to say, we all held our breath and rejoiced at the much-needed break.
2. Rebuilding of New Orleans (tied)
2. Saints home opener (tied)
Worst News of the Past 12 Months:
Mayor Nagin is re-elected. A dramatic reversal of attitudes about a mayor who was once so popular.
2. Levee breaches (tied)
2. Crime rate increase (tied)
Best Book about New Orleans During/Post Katrina:
1 Dead in the Attic. Chris Rose’s gut-wrenching and honest experience with Hurricane Katrina. He so eloquently put an entire city’s emotions into words, and we’re all impressed with it.
2. The Great Deluge
Person who Performed Best During Katrina:
General Honoré. Mayor Ray Nagin called him, “that John Wayne dude.” He was right.
2. Armed Forces, first responders and NOPD
3. Bobby Jindal
Person Who Performed Worst During Katrina:
Mayor Nagin. If only he had used a speech writer more often.
2. Governor Blanco
3. President Bush
Top Change Made by Katrina for the Better:
The restructure of our public school system. At least there’s a chance. What was there before wasn’t working.
Top Change Made by Katrina for the Worse:
Loss of population. Maybe if there was less of Number 2 below, more people would return.
Best New Weekend getaway Since Katrina:
Destin, Fla. We all need the beach sometime.
2. Baton Rouge
Favorite Evacuation Location:
Baton Rouge. Thank Gawd the repairs on the interstate are complete – for now.
Favorite Evacuation Snack:
Alcohol. It’s New Orleans, in a bottle. Take a little bit with you for some southern comfort, wherever you are.
Most Cherished Possession Lost During the Storm:
Photographs. The materialistic goods weren’t as important as the tangible memories and reminders of our loved ones.
Most Missed Business:
Macy’s. At least we can order on-line, but it’s not the same.
Favorite Katrina Graffiti:
messages on ‘fridges. Here are some of the favorites: “Rotten to the Corps,” “Send Benson Your Maggots,” “Insurance agent inside,” “Sir Stinks-a-lot,” “Tom Benson inside,” “Free beer inside,” “Do not open! The Bowels of Hell await you within.”
2. Bob Rue’s Rug Store on St. Charles: Big dog – ugly wife – gun – gumbo
3. You loot, I shoot!
Favorite New Civic Organization:
Katrina Krewe. Once more, women to the rescue.
2. Women of the Storm
Best Work Accomplished by a Charity, Organization or Group:
Habitat for Humanity. Houses when we need them the most.
2. Katrina Krewe
3. Gutting homes
BEST BURGER – Port of Call
JEFFERY JOHNSTON PHOTOGRAPH
Burgers are to Port of Call what beignets are to Café du Monde or Hurricanes to Pat O’Brien’s. The restaurant and bar is cozy and casual, a fine place to de-stress after work or take the kids out for a family meal. The staff is friendly. The mood is light, and you can pop in wearing your tennis shoes and shorts any day of the week to grab lunch or dinner.
But really, there’s only one reason why you come: the burgers. (OK, it’s not the only reason, their signature drinks are pretty good, too.)
Just a passing mention of them is cause enough for salivation and licking of the lips. Whether it’s a hamburger or cheeseburger, a mushroom burger or mushroom cheeseburger, you can deck it out just the way you like – lettuce and tomatoes, perhaps, with a good squeeze of ketchup and a little extra cheddar cheese to melt on top so that when you bite into it, gooey cheese seeps out the sides. Ooooo, perfect.
The burgers created at Port of Call are not your ordinary slab of beef sandwiched between two pieces of bread. They’re more on par with a decorated, culinary masterpiece – albeit a messy one.
Established in 1963 as a steakhouse in its quiet neighborhood on Esplanade Avenue at the back of the French Quarter, Port of Call continues to attract new customers while catering to their loyal customer base. With a list of awards too long to cite, it’s recognition by our readers as “Best Burger” comes as no surprise.
Let’s also not forget to mention the baked potato accompanying the burger, soaked with butter and whatever else you like – sour cream, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, chives or bacon bits – in its own right, a savory conception.
All in all, a trip to Port of Call for one of its famous burgers is an enjoyable, satisfying experience; though when you leave, stuffed, you can’t help but wonder when your next visit will be. Maybe tomorrow …? — Emily DeSanctis
Five Happiness. This is the restaurant that moved local dining beyond Cantonese to include Szechuan and Hunan. Quick to come back during the recovery, the place continues to deliver a million happiness(es).
2. Popeye’s (tied)
2. Whole Foods (tied)
Best Fried Chicken:
Popeye’s. No contest. Even the Colonel, if he was still around, would likely go for that spicy kick.
Nacho Mama’s. Tacos here are as good as the place’s name is clever. Increasingly we’re becoming a taco eating town. Red beans and rice tacos cannot be too far off.
2. Taqueria Corona
3. Taco Bell
Best Ice Cream:
Angelo Brocato’s. Bring on the spumoni. Thank Gawd it’s open again. It is a scientific fact that New Orleans needs a diet of Brocato’s lemon ice for survival.
2. Creole Creamery
Hansen’s. Mom and Pop aren’t around any more, but thankfully the legacy is in the hands of the next generation. As long as those hands have splashes of snowball syrup on them, life can return to normal.
2. William’s Plum Street
Hooters. It isn’t necessarily wings that make guys want to keep abreast of Hooters, but the quality (of the wings) cannot be denied.
2. Wow Wings
Best Poor Boys:
Domilise’s. This Uptown poor boy joint underscores that the proper poor boy should be served in a joint. The culture survives here. So does the roast beef poor boy ladled with gravy.
3. Johnny’s (tied)
3. Parkway Bakery (tied)
4. Parasol’s (tied)
4. Russell’s Short Stop (tied)
Favorite Onion Rings:
Ye Olde College Inn (tied)
Franky & Johnny’s (tied) You’ll just have to sample them at both places to break the tie. It may depend on if you like your rings better with poor boys or with crawfish.
2. Liuzza’s By The Track (tied)
2. Popeye’s (tied)
Best Place to Buy King Cake:
Randazzo. This is not the place for the old fashioned plain king cake. The heavier the flavoring injections the better.
Best Restaurant for Cajun food:
K-Paul’s. All that Paul Prudhomme did was redefine Cajun cooking, make it world famous and create such a demand for the redfish that the Gulf of Mexico was almost depleted. Besides that, he had no impact.
Best Restaurant for Creole food:
Galatoire’s. Not only for the food, but for the old world mood. If lunch lingers too long, start ordering the pre-dinner drinks.
Favorite Middle Eastern/ Mediterranean Restaurant:
Byblo’s. Metairie is in the middle of the east bank. That’s good enough to qualify as Middle Eastern for us.
3. Acropolis (tied)
3. Lebanon (tied)
Favorite Italian Restaurant:
Andrea’s. From the isle of Capri came a chef who would introduce Italian cuisine to New Orleans from regions other than Sicily. Andrea’s is a winner and as he would say, “Momma Mia!”
Favorite Asian Restaurant:
Five Happiness. Still, New Orleans’ most important Oriental restaurant – their refurbished digs and take-out bar are hints that it’s only getting better. (See “Best takeout” above.)
2. Sake Café
3. Trey Yuen
Favorite Indian Restaurant:
Nirvana. Hurry for the curry while experiencing the Magazine Street boom.
2. Taj Mahal
Favorite Mexican/Southwest Restaurant:
Superior Grill. When you call yourself “Superior” you have to live up to the name. All things superior taste better with a Margarita.
2. Taqueria Corona
3. Santa Fe
Favorite Seafood Restaurant:
Deanie’s. Buddy D. left this world, but also left us with no doubt, “If it ain’t in Bucktown it ain’t the real Deanie’s.” (Except for the one in the Quarter operated by the Bucktown group.) This is the place for fried seafood piled unashamedly high.
3. The Galley
Best Place to get Raw Oysters:
Acme. Landslide win for Wylie Coyote’s favorite place to get a dozen raw – Acme Oyster House. Chilled and salty, they taste better than a road runner any day.
3. Casamento’s (tied)
3. Bozo’s (tied)
Best Place to get Boiled Crawfish:
Deanie’s. Not only is it okay to suck the heads here, it’s practically a sin not to.
2. The Galley
3. Franky & Johnny’s
Favorite Pizza Restaurant:
Reginelli’s. Co-founder Reggie Reginelli once scored on the gridiron, now he’s doing the same with the pizza oven.
2. Italian Pie
Italian sausage. In the future we expect boudin balls to make a strong showing.
Best Restaurant for Steaks:
Ruth’s Chris. Bring the sizzle back to Broad Street – please.
2. Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse
Port Of Call. Solid win for this Esplanade Avenue emporium, which is still a snug harbor for a great burger.
Best Place for Gumbo:
Gumbo Shop. This place’s seafood gumbo is the city’s second best. The best is Gumbo Shop’s chicken and andouille gumbo.
Best Place for Turtle Soup:
Commander’s Palace. Sherry in your soup; wine in your glass – Commander’s is back, at last.
PJ’s. It keeps us perky year round. In the summer, the iced coffee is the perfect cool drink, but in the winter, the fresh roasts keep you warm and awake.
3. Café du Monde
Best Dessert Menu:
Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro.
More than just a dessert, these cheesecakes can be a meal.
Best House Specialty Drink:
Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane. These are the good kind of hurricanes but they can still pack a Category 5 wallop.
2. Napoleon House’s Pimm’s Cup
3. Fairmont’s Sazerac
Best Place for a Margarita:
Superior Grill. Already a winner in the Mexican food category, Margarita dominance is a natural.
2. Santa Fe
3. Taqueria Corona
Best Local Brew:
Abita. Readers showed clear vision through a purple haze. Abita was a landslide winner.
Best restaurant for Fine Dining:
Commander’s Palace. A perennial favorite, post-Katrina cosmetic surgery makes the place even more attractive.
Best Casual Restaurant:
Zea’s. This place does everything well – causal yet urbane.
Best View from a Restaurant:
Bella Luna. Alas it is no more – another post-Katrina victim – but oh, the memories of those moonlit nights.
2. Ralph’s on the Park
Best Restaurant for a Power Lunch:
Galatoire’s. Also a good place to see and be seen.
2. Rib Room
Best Outdoor Dining:
Court of Two Sisters (tied)
Café Rani (tied). Choose your bliss, in the French Quarter or Uptown.
2. Café Degas
Maurice’s. Any place that bakes two kinds of king cake – New Orleans style and French – knows how talk the talk.
Best French Bread:
Leidenheimer’s. Talk about preserving the culture – imagine if the French bread bakers had not returned. Leidenheimer’s did, and now the art of perfect poor boy making can survive, too.
Best Place for a Salad:
Café Rani. Fresh ingredients, light dressings, large portions. This is what salads should be.
Best Gourmet Takeout:
Whole Foods. This place could make an argument for never cooking at home, as long as there’s an oven for heating and a refrigerator for leftovers.
2. Martin’s Wine Cellar
Best place for Vegetarian Dishes:
Whole Foods. Surrounded by bins of organic vegetables and vegan cooking staples, Whole Foods is a natural.
Best place for Breakfast or Brunch:
Brennan’s. Even Eggs Benedict seems plain compared to Eggs Sardou.
2. Court of Two Sisters
Casamento’s. This place with its sparkling white tile is so clean you could practically eat an oyster off the floor – though we still recommend eating from the half-shell, instead.
Best Restaurant to Get Messy:
O’Henry’s. If you gotta get dirty, the dust of shelled peanut debris isn’t bad. Burger drippings can add accent.
2. Franky & Johnny’s
Best BYOB Restaurant:
Lola’s. The Spanish/International restaurant is the perfect place to “bring your own”; you’ll feel like a relaxed European after wining and dining here.
Susan Spicer. In the era of the celebrity chef, and with stiff competition, her star still shines.
2. John Besh
3. Donald Link (tied)
3. Paul Prudhomme (tied)
Bayona (tied). Despite getting less than enthusiastic reviews from GQ magazine our readers know better. Both restaurants are at the top of their list.
2. Commander’s Palace
3. Restaurant August
Best New Restaurant:
Cochon. Totally innovative. Taking rural Louisiana’s creativity with pork dishes and turning it into a white tablecloth restaurant with a country feel. Donald Link has linked the best of urban and rural experiences.
Restaurant Worth the Drive:
Middendorf’s. No need to ponder what to order here – catfish – though you can debate between thick sliced or thin. On a nice night, the drive to Bayou Manchac can be appetizing too.
2. La Provence
3. Sal & Judy (tied)
3. Mosca’s (tied)
3. Trey Yeun (tied)
CLEANEST RESTAURANT – Casamento’s
When Italian immigrant Joe Casamento started his oyster house in 1919, he believed that tile would be easier to clean; thus he tiled the place inside and out, covering every surface – Casamento used four tile companies from throughout the country. That the decorative tiles reminded him of his native land was a windfall.
Today the original, spotless, white tile décor remains, along with many of the original recipes and the tiny, efficient kitchen that creates big dishes bursting with the flavors of both Italy and New Orleans.
Specialties include the famous oyster loaf (served on their unique pan bread) as well as gumbo, oyster stew, fried shrimp, calamari and trout. In addition, the menu offers traditional Italian dishes such as spaghetti with meatballs and a variety of sandwiches.
Casamento’s has won awards and has drawn an occasional celebrity. Susan Sarandon, Nicole Kidman and Tommy Lee Jones have dined at Casamento’s, and the New Orleans-raised Manning brothers come in when they get some time off from the NFL.
The restaurant has remained in the original Casamento family. Joseph Casamento Jr., (the son of the original owner,) runs the restaurant with his nephew and niece-in-law – C.J. and Linda – and the three of them keep the place immaculate, and the food as tasty as ever. – Sarah Ravits
BEST LOCAL BREW – Abita
JEFFERY JOHNSTON PHOTOGRAPHS
Abita Beer, which began in 1986 in a wooded area 30 miles north of New Orleans, has grown considerably during its two decades of existence. In its debut year, the brewery produced 1,500 barrels of beer. In 1994, Abita outgrew this original site and moved a short distance away. Today, the old location is the site of the brew pub, that can seat up to 100 beer lovers.
This year, Abita will make over 45,000 barrels.
Today, Abita has six main beers: Amber, Light, Golden, Turbodog, Purple Haze and Restoration Fleur-de-Lis Ale. But it also makes five seasonal brews and a variety of “specialty” beers. (This winter, look for “Bock” which will be available through March.) They also produce a root beer for those who prefer something alcohol-free with a sweeter taste.
Restoration Fleur-de-Lis Ale is dedicated to rebuilding its homeland; its whole purpose designed to raise money for Hurricane Katrina victims. The brewery itself, located in Abita Springs, was spared major storm damage. The first day that they were able to re-open, Abita immediately began concocting the new beer, made with English Pale, Lager, Crystal and Cara Pils malted barley, which demonstrates an incredible amount of commitment.
Abita donates $1 from every six pack purchased to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation (LDRF), and in turn, the LDRF makes sure that every donated dollar is put to good use while addressing the long-term recovery and relief for devastated areas. So far, Abita has raised $350,000 for charity.
In addition to Restoration Ale, Abita started a new line of merchandise – including t-shirts, hats, pins and car magnets. Every single dime that is made from the sale of merchandise is given to the LDRF. – Sarah Ravits