When you have two celebrity chefs and one restaurant opening the expectations tend to be high. Aarón Sánchez and John Besh’s collaboration brings traditional Mexican cuisine to the heart of New Orleans. If you are going in expecting burritos and enchiladas then you are in for a disappointment. The menu features items such as the ‘coba triadic’ a raw fish ceviche, crispy Brussel sprouts and kale salad (See Menu) alongside several typical mexican dishes such as tacos and enchiladas.
The restaurant is located on Poydras street in the CBD. The decor is cool and hip: Giant graffiti art covers one wall and beautiful chandeliers hang from the high ceilings. The bar is the perfect spot for happy hour drinks and tacos.
We went early Saturday evening at around 6.30 p.m. Besides a few other patrons the restaurant was still empty. The menu was one page with a handful of small plates, tacos and large plates. We decided to order several small plates in order to try as many dishes on the menu as possible. First up was the Cobia Tiradito, a ceviche consisting of leche de tigre fish, cucumbers, avocado and other vegetables ($16). The flavors were great but it was drenched in rock salt which took away from the overall flavor.
Next up was the Queso dip ($10) which was good for the first 5 minutes but turned into hard cheese within minutes. As far as queso dips go, this dish was not anything extraordinary. For a healthier dish to counter-balance the quest dip, we ordered the Kale salad ($12). It was the best thing about our meal even though it too was too salty.
The beef flautas ($12) were an epic failure and we left the dish untouched. It was dry, salty and just not what you would expect at a place like Jonny Sanchez.
Overall, we were left unsatisfied and decided to stop ordering before we were disappointed further. The best part of the meal was the plantain chips and salsa dip although after having the top layers of the chips suddenly the chips became stale leading one to assume that they reuse their chips!
There is nothing I hate more than trying a new restaurant and being so utterly disappointed. Needless to say, Johnny Sanchez will not be added to our list of ‘must-dine’ spots in New Orleans. With so many amazing places to eat in New Orleans, the competition is tough and restauranteurs need to be on top of their game. The celebrity name can only take you so far when the food is just not good. I hope that this place improves because it is a beautiful restaurant in a spot that lacks other similar options.
It’s that time of year. Festival season has arrived in Lafayette! While having spent the majority of my time in New Orleans at the Jazz festival in the past few years, this year I am staying put in my new hometown of Lafayette to attend Festivale Internationale de Louisiana. So I am preparing this guide for those out of town visitors and locals alike looking for some local gems to dine at and to experience cajun cooking (and the occasional non-cajun meal). As a caveat, my followers will know that I am not cajun, nor am I even from here but having spent the past two and a half in this town and being an avid foodie, I’ve tasted my way through town and can confidently list my favorite places to dine which is quite personal to my taste. I hope you enjoy my picks.
Dark Roux is Lafayette’s newest farm-to-table restaurant focusing on serving local foods and telling the story of Louisiana foods. The menu features local farmer’s and suppliers such as Gotreaux Family Farms, Mary Mary Markets and Bread & Circus Provisions. Favorites include boudin balls for appetizer and boudin benny for brunch. The restaurant also has a bar and pantry stocked with local products. On weekends a live band plays outside making it the perfect place to brunch or have a romantic dinner with your loved one. (see menu).
It all started with a condiment and charcuterie stand at the farmer’s market at the Horse Farm in Lafayette and evolved into a restaurant last year and brought with it a breath of fresh air to the local Lafayette dining scene. This hip restaurant features local favorites with a modern and unique twist. (see menu).
Chef Justin Girouard spins out some delicious local fare with his own personal touch. He makes his own boudin (not blood sausage as in France but Louisiana’s version of boudin: a mix of sausage of pork, rice, and cayenne). A great place for brunch and lunch. Everything on the menu is delicious but an all time favorite is the Cajun Benedict (see my post dedicated to the Benedict…because it is that good)!
Bon Temps Grill is where we take our out-of-town guests for a good local meal. Bon Temp Grill serves “Swamp Edge” cuisine in an urban Cajun atmosphere. The restaurant layout is cool and the food is fantastic. Favorites include the tuna tartar served with a side of potato chips and the buttery bbq shrimp. Don’t leave without tasting the bbq shrimp, it is absolutely to-die-for! And if you are bold enough try some of the frog legs.
While it is hard to find any other types of authentic foods in Lafayette there are a few hits that should not be missed. Pamplona Tapas Bar is our favorite go-to spot for tapas and wine. The restaurant features Spanish cuisine en par to many tapas we’ve tasted in Spain. The cocktails are unique and delicious as are the large variety of spanish wines. So if you are looking for something other than your traditional cajun, hit up Pamplona located in the heart of downtown Lafayette.
One of the few authentic vietnamese restaurants in Lafayette, Saigon serves up some of the best vietnamese dishes in town. Located in a strip mall the place can easily be missed. Favorites include the bbq short rib meal served with rice and salad and the large variety of pho to slurp through. Saigon Noodles recently opened a sister restaurant on Johnson street called Blu Basil Wine & Grill.
The Saint Street Inn was founded by Nathan Stubbs and Mary Tutwiler, two journalists turned chefs determined to keep the cooking local. Seafood from the Gulf, produce from Acadiana’s farms and innovative cooking set the table for an inspired menu. Nestled in the heart of one of Lafayette’s oldest neighborhoods, The Saint Street Inn also plays host to a variety of community events, from benefits and fundraisers to live music events and cookoffs. Both the kitchen and bar stay open late and there’s always a spot on the big front porch to sip a local brew and watch the sun go down.
Johnson’s Boucaniere opened in 1937 in Eunice, La and relocated to Lafayette some years ago. Boucaniere which means ‘smokehouse’ in english is a popular spot for lunch in Lafayette. At JB they smoke all of their speciality meats which include pork sausage, pork and turkey tasso and beef jerky. They also serve plate lunches from their in house made smoked meats which are made fresh weekly. Make sure not to miss this one.
9. Pop’s Poboys | 740 Jefferson Street, Lafayette, LA 70501 | ((337) 534-0621)
I’ve never been a fan of Po-Boys (shocking!) until I tried Pop’s. Pop’s Poboys opened in April 2015 and is located in beautiful downtown Lafayette. Chef Collin Cormier and team bring eclectic flair to Louisiana’s favorite sandwich and beyond. Their twist on the traditional poboys are out of this world delicious. Favorites so far include the Banh Banh shrimp and the Hot Hot for all those fried chicken lovers out there.
For desserts and coffee these three are my go-to in town for quality coffee and sweets:
Reve is a micro-coffee roaster servicing the greater Acadiana area (and beyond) in the retail and wholesale of freshly roasted, specialty grade coffee beans. Be careful as their coffee is addictive!
12. The Lab | 1042 Camellia Blvd. #6, Lafayette, LA | 337.889.5782
The Lab handcrafted coffees creates delicious coffee flavors that are hard to find around here. Not to mention their delicious baked good and house-made gelato. Located in the beautiful River Ranch neighborhood the Lab is definitely a treat.
Have I missed any of your favorites? Please feel free to share as I continue to eat my way through Lafayette!
(Please note some of the photos are taken from the restaurant’s online gallery: French Press, Johnson’s Boucaniere, Saigon Noodles, Jolie’s, Olde Tyme Grocery + Bread and Circus).
A whole lot has changed since we moved away from New Orleans in 2012. New neighborhoods are popping up all over the city along with so many new businesses. It makes my heart smile to see the city doing so well and my stomach even happier to experience so many new restaurant openings. One of the ‘newer’ places that have recently opened that I am just in love with is John Besh’s Willa Jean in the CBD. It is the mastermind of BRG Executive Pastry Chef Kelly Fields and Pastry Chef Lisa White (of Domenica and PIZZA Domenica) which is named after Fields’ grandmother.
I love the space which is designed by Curtis Herring. It adds a modern and elegant touch to iconic southern food. Brick walls, Edison bulbs and the restaurant’s “Uneeda Biscuit” mural add a stylish touch to traditional southern classics.
The bakery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, allowing the two chefs to show off their savory sides. The lunch and dinner menus are organized by “snacks,” “tartines/sandwiches,” “salads and soups,” “hot plates,” and “extra stuff,”. The Intelligentsia Coffee program is delicious but Willa Jean also serves boozy slushies as well as tea- and coffee-inspired craft cocktails.
If you need to find me on any given morning in New Orleans, chances are I’ll be here sipping on my coffee and enjoying the space.
Open Sunday through Thursday- 7am-9pm; Friday and Saturday-7am to 10pm
Another great restaurant by the Donald Link restaurant group has opened on the corner of Magazine and Julia streets in the warehouse district. This time, it is called Peche and focuses on simple coastal seafood with a unique, modern approach.
The restaurant showcases an open kitchen where diners can see the fire and seafood grilling in the back, an oyster bar serving fresh gulf seafood including oysters, crab meat, and fresh gulf fish and a large bar. The result is a very fresh seafood-oriented menu (although if you really want red meat there are a few options there as well). The decor is rustic seaside with exposed wooden beams throughout the open plan restaurant. One thing I noted while we were dining was the noise level. It was extremely loud. Too loud. We had to shout to hear each other at dinner.
Our meal included many various dishes from the menu including oysters (both Connecticut and Gulf), frog legs, smoked tuna dip, shrimp toast, and tuna tartare and salmon. For the main entrees our table shared two whole fish: red fish and mangrove snapper.
Almost everything we ordered tasted perfect but I did find the fresh oysters to be extremely salty. Too salty to eat. I was told that that is how oysters from the East Coast taste. But I’ve had enough oysters to know that that is not the case, especially not with gulf oysters. I heard others complain of the same. But other dishes were quite perfect. The smoked tuna dip served in a bowl with a side of crackers was so good, I may have finished one completely on my own.
The Whole grilled fishes were served on a large plate smothered in delicious sauce. The red fish was sizzled to perfection and covered in a citrusy herb topping which made it extremely tasty. The snapper was prepared in a different sauce but was just as good. In the end there was nothing left except two fish skeletons staring up at us in shame.
And while completely full at this point, stuffed with enough seafood for a month, we ordered dessert. My favorite was the chocolate, peanut butter and banana pie and citrusy key lime pie.
Overall, dinner at peche was a great experience. The food, decor, service and ambiance make for a great night out. I guess the New Orleans Saint’s feel the same as I do, throughout the evening we saw some of the players including one of my favorites, Jimmy Graham. Donald Link has done it again. I’m wondering what will come next, Boeuf the steakhouse?
After our three days of adventures in Madrid we packed our bags hopped on the train and made our way south to Sevilla.
Sevilla was all that I imagined it to be and more: bursting with color and antique charm, beautiful historic buildings, endless rays of sun and flamenco. The Alcazar Palace Complex is a stunning collage of architectural styles and beautiful green gardens took our breathe away and the Cathedral was impressive you with its beauty and its status as the burial site of Christopher Columbus. We spent our days touring the town on foot and nights eating tapas in only a few of the more than 4000 tapas bars in town. On the first day that we visited the town we ended our walk at the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza. Around the corner from the Plaza de Toros we found a restaurant called Baratillo dedicated to the art of bull fighting and decided to give it a try.
Bull heads lined the walls and locals and tourists alike crowded the room. As a newbie to the art of tapas we werent too sure of our selections but there was one thing that I discovered while in Sevilla which was so delicious that I ended up having three servings per day.I wish I remembered the name but only have the photos to remind me of the taste. Fries served with a meat stew and gravy. Very simple but simply delicious.
The dish called Broken Egg or Huevos Rotos is quite popular all around Spain consists of fried eggs, fried potatoes and pieces of Iberico ham. It is simply delicious and made it to our list of orders on every occasion.
The house special- the Berenjenas Baratillo was to die for. Not sure what the sauce that covered the thinly sliced eggplant dish consisted of but whatever it was- it was so delicious we had to order more.
Baratillo restaurant is located at: Calle Adriano, 20, 41001 Seville, Spain, El Arenal
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka has long been on my list of Japanese restaurants to try. Sadly, with all the other delicious selections in the West End, I never had the chance and each time that I did try there was always a long line up out the door making me think twice.
On my last trip to Vancouver, I finally made it in the door and was seated within minutes (a miracle according to restaurant fans). For those of you who still don’t know, I love Japanese food, Japanese culture, and anything and everything Japanese. My love for ramen- that steaming hot bowl of Japanese soup is like no other. I would give up an arm and a leg for a good bowl of Ramen. One night after watching the ‘Ramen Girl’ on TV- I decided that I would quit my life and school and move to Japan to learn how to make a great bowl of ramen. That dream never panned out but you if you are ever looking for me, try your nearest Ramen shop. I might be in there slurping away on some good old ramen.
Santouka Ramen is a Japanese chain restaurant which opened doors in Vancouver a few years back, given Vancouver’s large Japanese population. It seems quite popular with both expat Japanese and local Vancouverites. The menu consists of a list of the basic ramens and other dishes for those who arent too big a fan of ramen. We ordered a side of Gyoza (Japanese pan-fried dumpling) to start. Oh how I have longed for a taste of these delicious treats in my days in Louisiana where authentic Japanese food is non-existent. What suffering I go through. These gyozas were delicious and gone within minutes. A friend who has never tried ramen- shyed away from the thought and ordered a bowl of Salmon Don. The serving was on the small side making it an ideal starter for those who are extremely hungry. As for me I always order the Tonkotsu ramen– a mild, pearl-colored soup where the pork bones are simmered for 20 hours to make the perfect broth. Before serving the vegetables, noodles and other ingredients are added to make magic. I’ve been to several Ramen shops in Vancouver and found this ramen to be only average. I’ve definitely had better in neighboring ramen shops located on Denman street.
My partner in food in Vancouver and I both looked at each other and agreed that this Ramen joint is by far not the best in town. Leaving us with the same question? What is all the fuss about? Why such line-ups when there are plenty of other good authentic ramen places in the West End? Perhaps, nostalgia brings those expats here reminding them of their home. While the food is consistent and good it is definitely not worth waiting an hour for (although the other ones definitely on Denman definitely are). (see post on Motomochi Shokudo)
Even though I am a city girl, I love getting the chance to experience rural life every once in a while. Since I am a busy student, these opportunities don’t come up all that often, so I try to find some slice of rural life in Philly. The easiest way to do this is to check out some of the areas and markets where fresh produce and goods are sold a few times a week. At this point, I have been going to the Rittenhouse Farmers’ Market for a few years now, and I am consistently happy with my experiences there.
While it may not exactly be quite the country experience I desire, this market offers up everything from flowers to chicken breasts every Saturday in the block surrounding Rittenhouse Square Park. I haven’t tried every stand yet, but I do have a few solid favorites that I check out each time I stop by.
My favorite stand is by far the FreshaPeel Hummus one which has some of the best prepackaged hummus I’ve ever had. One thing I love about the company is that they make both the traditional savory and more revolutionary sweet hummus. I almost always get the Lemon Kale Hummus when I stop by, especially in the summertime, since it has a nice light flavor.
I also recently tried the sweet Chocolate Cherry Hummus. Although I was initially wary of how a sweet hummus would turn out, this one was phenomenal and tastes great with fresh fruit or sugar cookies. If you’re also hesitant to try some of the odder hummus flavors, this stand is a great place to check out because they let you try the hummus before you buy!
Another stand I’m a fan of is the Cranberry Creek Farm table which has a number of goat cheeses to try and buy. My two favorites are the 1903 and the St. Juni. No matter your preference, there’s bound to be a cheese here that you will love. They even throw in some seasonal specialties like a soft Pumpkin Chevre. I haven’t tried this one yet, but I’m sure the next time I stop by I’ll pick some up since I have yet to try a cheese I dislike.
For anyone with a sweet-tooth, the John and Kira’s stand should definitely be visited. The people that run this stand make some quality chocolate, and many of the assortments they put out during the Farmers’ Market make great gifts. This company doesn’t just know what makes up great chocolate, but they also create some beautiful pieces.
Last week was the first time I indulged myself in their offerings, so I picked up a random assortment of six that included everything from dark chocolate to salty caramel pieces. I didn’t come across one combination I didn’t like, so I will probably be stopping by again to pick up some Christmas gifts.
While I love the food aspects of the Farmers’ Market, I also love the Blue Mountain Vineyards table. This stand is great for anyone who loves wine to check out. I stopped by for the first time after I turned 21 this past weekend, and I’m glad I did. They offer a wide array of wines which include everything from a 2008 Chardonnay Reserve to a 2011 Shiraz.
The best part of this company having a table is that they provide samples of almost all of their wines. Personally, I was a fan of the 2008 Merlot, but I’m sure that any wine lover could find a blend they like here. My one recommendation would be that this stand tends to generate a lot of activity, so if you notice a lull while you’re walking around, I would pounce of this table first. Even if you are vying for the attention of the man behind the table, it’s worth wading through the crowd to try it out.
If you enjoy going to a nice Farmers’ Market, the one in Rittenhouse every Saturday is definitely a great one to check out. There is a great range of various stands that each offer different products for potential buyers. In addition to having a lot of options, almost all of the stands provide samples, so you don’t have to tie yourself down to something you might not like. I would recommend this market to fellow Philadelphians, especially ones who love pretty views while they shop for their groceries for the week.
It seems as though new diners to FARMiCiA fall into one of two categories: they either love this Old City restaurant and want to come back every week, or they hate it and don’t understand what the buzz is about. I happen to fall into the former category, and I’m thrilled that my most recent Thurs-date happened here.
When we first arrived, we were immediately seated by one of the front windows, which gave us an opportunity to spend some of our time people-watching. It’s a good thing we had this view because our waiter was a bit too hands-off, and we quickly learned that we wouldn’t be seeing much of him throughout the evening. Since we weren’t impressed with our waiter, I thought we’d be falling into the category of people that didn’t like FARMiCiA, but I was proved wrong by the time our first courses came out.
My vegan friend started with the Capellini and SauteedTofu. Her appetizer was a hearty plate that came with roasted tomatoes, mint, pine nuts, and red chili. While she said it was incredibly spicy, she loved it and mentioned that it was some of the best vegan food she’s ever had.
I opted for the French Lentils and they were also delicious, although my favorite part of the dish was definitely the huge serving of baked goat cheese that came on top. The salad was one of the most filling ones I’ve had due to the cheese and the amount of lentils that came over the lettuce, but it was so nice and savory that I finished every last bite. I didn’t know how I was going to eat the rest of my dinner, however, I felt like I could try and power through.
After our appetizers, our entrees came out pretty quickly. I ordered the Duck Breast and my love for FARMiCiA was further cemented by my first bite of this. The duck had a nice crispy skin to it and was cooked perfectly. The sweet sun-dried cherry glaze that came with it was a perfect accompaniment to the tender meat. The simplicity of it all was something that I definitely appreciated.
The sugar snap peas on the plate were also really satisfying. In fact, throughout the whole meal, the only thing I could critique was my wild rice. As a Persian girl, I probably judge rice much more harshly than any other aspect of a meal, and this rice was just not up to par. While it wasn’t great, I was so full from all of the other things on the plate, that I hardly even cared that the rice missed the mark.
The other main course we tried was the Fresh Corn Risotto Croquettes. These two croquettes were large and were tough for my friend to finish because her first course was also filling, but she had only fantastic things to say about it. She couldn’t stop raving about the sweet potato crisps that adorned the plate and said that it was the her favorite part.
For dessert, I got the Orchard Fruit Crisp that came with apples and pears. It was a delicious, warm way to kick off the Fall season and end our meal. While FARMiCiA could use a little face lift in the waitstaff, the food outweighs the bumps they have in serving. I’m already anticipating coming back and can’t wait to try out some of the other phenomenal, farm fresh food they have on their menu.
Now that Restaurant Week is upon us, all of my friends are dying to check out some of the many restaurants in the city. While my schedule is already pretty booked up for the next week, I kicked off this past week at Zama. Since there are so many sushi places in Philly, each new one I want to try really has to stand out in order to leave an impression.
One of the first things I noticed when I walked into the restaurant was that, unlike so many of the other sushi places in Philly, Zama doesn’t have that sterile, mod feel with white walls and chairs. Although it may seem less hip than some other restaurants, the atmosphere was much more warm and inviting.
Even if I feel like I’ve been going out for sushi a lot these past few weeks, I excitedly reread the options for the Restaurant Week menu and quickly decided to opt for the Sashimi Lunch Set which included several courses for lunch.
The first thing to come out was Edamame, and was soon followed by Udon Noodle Soup. After the soup came out, I waited a few minutes before starting since I could see the steam rolling off of it. This turned out to be a bad decision, because by the time I picked up my chopsticks to attack the tempura shrimp and vegetables, they were so soggy that the breading fell right off.
I’m not quite sure what the point of putting crispy tempura into hot soup is, but I wasn’t all that impressed. That being said, not all of my shrimp was submerged in the soup, and the crispy tempura that I did try was very satisfying. It had a nice crunch to it, but I could still taste the fresh shrimp inside. Before I even had time to finish my soup, my entree came out with a side House Salad.The salad was a bit overdressed for my taste, but I tend to be a minimalist when it comes to salad dressing, and my friends thought it was fine.
What I was even more excited to try was the Mixed Sashimi and Tuna Maki Roll that I had ordered. The sashimi was fantastic, and I was especially drawn to the salmon slices as I thought they were the most flavorful. I was, however, not crazy about my maki roll. The tuna was great, and I particularly enjoyed the spicy mayo inside the roll, but the rice way too hard.
After we finished our lunch, we still had dessert left. At this point, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away, but this turned out to be my favorite course. Our table ended up ordering the Chocolate Bread Pudding and Green Tea Mochi. While it wasn’t the prettiest dessert, the bread pudding was delicious and a great, sweet end to a meal. Although I preferred that dessert, the mochi was also phenomenal and was a lighter way to satisfy my sweet tooth.
Even though I left Zama full, I don’t think that I’ll be back for the sushi. I’ve been to a number of better sushi restaurants in the city and besides dessert nothing really jumped out at me and convinced me that I should come back. While I went into my lunch hoping for something that would wow me, I ultimately left Zama unsatisfied. Next up for Restaurant Week is FARMiCia, the only restaurant I could find on the list of participating places that offers up vegan options for every course.
Since I am still relatively new to being of legal drinking age in the U.S. and most of my friends are broke college students, we usually go out to eat at bars in the city. One of my good friends and I have decided to implement Thurs-dates for the foreseeable future in order to try out some new places.
The biggest problem with our plan is that she’s a vegan, but thankfully Philly has a fairly large vegan population, so we haven’t had too much trouble finding places that both of us like. This past Thursday, we kicked off our dates at the Khyber Pass Pub, a bar with an emphasis on beer and New Orleans-style food that seems to fit right in with the Old City atmosphere that surrounds it.
For drinks, we had a large draft list to choose from, but since it was still happy hour and they had $5 Mint Juleps, my friend and I wanted to try that. Unfortunately, I should have done my research beforehand. Here I was expecting some minty, sweet cocktail, and instead, a couple of shots of whiskey on the rocks came out. The only minty part of my Mint Julep was the one mint leaf in my drink. Luckily, my friend is a whiskey girl, so she finished off mine, and I quickly switched to a much more appetizing, refreshing pint of Ballast Point Yellowtail Pale Ale.
Although I failed a bit on my first drink choice, I was excited to try my dinner. I opted for the Fried Green Tomato BLT, and I was really happy with my choice. The fried green tomatoes on this sandwich were fantastic as the breading on the tomatoes was just enough to make it crispy without being soggy or overpowering the tomato.
However, my favorite part of the sandwich was the tabasco peppers remoulade that it came with. This remoulade was full of flavor and packed a hot punch. It took the classic BLT to another, more complex level. I just wish they bottled the stuff so I could go back and buy some to add to my own sandwiches.
My friend enjoyed her Vegan BBQ Pulled Pork as well, but she wasn’t as impressed with her sandwich as I was with mine. Even though some of the finer points of veganism are lost on me, I’m pretty sure this didn’t include any pork. It did, however, come topped with a big spoonful of creamy coleslaw to balance out the smokey BBQ flavors of the sandwich. While she claimed that the sandwich wasn’t bad, she did feel that some other bars in Philly offer better vegan options.
Overall, we weren’t disappointed with the Khyber Pass Pub, although we did agree that we like it’s sister bar, Royal Tavern, better. That being said, if we’re in Old City and looking for a quick, reliable bite, I’m sure we’ll end up at this bar and we won’t be leaving disappointed. This spot is definitely not to be missed by those who enjoy bar food, especially if they are beer enthusiasts since there is a wide-range of beers on tap to choose from. I’m glad that our first Thurs-date took place here, and I hope that they will only get better as they go on!