I recently was interviewed about one of my favorite topics — food in New Orleans. Here’s an excerpt from that interview. I hope you enjoy and find my suggestions helpful.
Whether you’re planning a trip to New Orleans, or you’ve lived there your entire life, there’s always new and exciting restaurants to try, or maybe even established eateries you may have overlooked. In a city best known for its food, knowing where to eat can be quite challenging for an outsider like me. During my recent trip to New Orleans, I knew my best bet, was to ask a local for some advice. I spoke with long time friend and New Orleans resident, Ray Reggie, to get his take on the best food and dining in New Orleans. Ray is a certified digital marketing expert and consultant, but also a self-proclaimed New Orleans foodie.
Interviewer: So, let’s dig in. Let’s say someone is visiting New Orleans for the very first time and they want to have a truly authentic Louisiana experience. Where would you send them?
Ray Reggie: “That’s easy! I’d send them to Parkway for a po’boy. In New Orleans, it’s not a ‘sub,’ not a ‘grinder’, not a ‘hoagie’, and not just a ‘sandwich’, it’s a po’boy. A po’boy is a foot long sandwich served on crispy French bread. It was originally invented to feed “poor boys” using cheap leftover scraps of bread and meat. However, per usual of the New Orleans laissez-faire dialect, a few letters are often left out of words, and it’s simply pronounced, ‘po’boy’. I think the best place in the city for a po’boy is at Parkway, just a block from Bayou St. John, in the heart of Midcity. My favorite is their fried shrimp po’boy with just lettuce and Tabasco, or the hot roast beef po’boy, dressed.”
Interviewer: Did you say you order your po-boy “dressed”? What does that mean?
Ray Reggie: “Yes, I did. Here in New Orleans, ‘dressed’ means that your po’boy will come with lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and pickles.
Oh! I forgot to mention, to get the full New Orleans experience, be sure to order one of our locally made Barq’s Root Beers to wash it down.”
Interviewer: That sounds great for a casual lunch experience, Ray, but let’s change gears. What if I’m looking for a nice night out on the town and a steak dinner? What’s the best steakhouse in town?
Ray Reggie: “This is a tough one to narrow down, so I’ll have to give you two answers. First, you have to check out Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Metairie. After all, New Orleans was where Ruth’s Chris got its start. For a more casual dining experience, sit at the bar and ask for Mark. He’s the Bar Manager and gives super attentive service. You can enjoy your dinner bar-side while chatting with locals, and Mark will make you an awesome, unique cocktail. If you’d prefer a seated table in the dining room, Marcia has been there for years and will make sure everything is perfect.
Another one of my favorites is Mr. John’s Steakhouse on historic St. Charles Avenue in Uptown New Orleans. The owner, Desi Vega, who was formerly with Emeril’s, runs an impeccable fine-dining steakhouse. Every server is awesome, and every meal is memorable. It’s definitely a must visit if you’re looking for a great steak in NOLA, but come hungry.”
Interviewer: Ray, you definitely know your restaurants, but I’m going to throw you a bit of a curveball. I know you’re Middle Eastern, so what about ethnic food in New Orleans? If you had to narrow it down to just one Middle Eastern restaurant in New Orleans, which would it be?
Ray Reggie: “That’s a no-brainer for me! Being 100% Lebanese, I’m a huge fan of Byblos in Old Metairie. I can assure you that it’s great food and it’s authentic! It’s like eating at my mom’s or grandmother’s house. I love it!”
Interviewer: This might sound a little ignorant of me, but ever since I landed in the Big Easy I’ve heard people mention eating a muffuletta. I’ve never heard of that before, but I wanted to wait until I spoke with you to ask what all the fuss is about?
Ray Reggie: “Don’t worry, I can help with that! Muffulettas are uniquely New Orleans and I definitely recommend trying one while you’re here. A muffuletta is basically a sandwich from heaven! The best place to get a muffuletta is from where it was invented, Central Grocery & Deli on Decatur Street in the French Quarter. Tommy and Frank Tusa (the owners), have kept the generations-old tradition of serving the original muffuletta out of their historic grocery and deli. They start with the best handmade Italian bread, add piles of sliced meats and cheese, and top it off with their own blend of marinated olive salad. It’s the olive salad that really makes the muffaletta special. You can even buy jars of the olive salad there to take home. While you’re strolling the French Quarter, stop by Central and grab a muffuletta to go (and a Barq’s, of course). The river is just a few blocks away, and you can have a picnic lunch while watching the boats roll by.
Interviewer: That sounds like a winner! I’ll put it on the list, Ray. Now, let’s take a drive to your neck of the woods, the Northshore of New Orleans. What’s your number one restaurant suggestion for someone visiting the Northshore?
Ray Reggie: “Without a doubt, the best restaurant with the best service on the Northshore is Pat Gallagher’s 527. I’ve known Pat for 30+ years and he is a wonderful chef. Try the Oysters Pablo. Wow, they are good! Served as an appetizer, he bakes them with spinach, chipotle peppers, Romano cheese, and tequila! It’s such a creative dish you shouldn’t pass on. He also makes his own rendition of a baked crabmeat casserole, Crabmeat St. Francis, originally a recipe of another famous New Orleans’ restaurateur, Warren LeRuth. Of course, it goes without saying, that his steaks are phenomenal, too. After all, Pat was Executive Chef at Ruth’s Chris for many years. He learned a lot from them, but has also bettered their recipes. My favorite entree is the Mixed Grill Combo, which is two grilled Louisiana quail and two grilled Colorado lamb chops (off the rack), served on a super-hot plate of drawn butter. If you’ve never had quail before, Pat cooks the best quail in the world! He is a talented chef, attentive restaurateur, and I am proud and honored to call him my friend. If you find yourself north of the lake, try Gallagher’s 527, Gallagher’s Grill in Covington, or Gallagher’s on Front Street in Slidell. You will thank me later! I am positive you will love it!”
Interviewer: Well, Ray, it seems like we have a pretty good starting list of local spots to check out. Thank you so much for sharing your favorite picks for the best food and restaurants in New Orleans. I look forward to talking with you again and hearing about some of the places that didn’t make this list and the new places you find that will be on the next one.
If you’d like to learn more about Ray Reggie, or any of the restaurants mentioned in this article, please visit www.RReggie.com. I would love to hear about your favorite foods and restaurants, too. Ray Reggie