New Orleans Eats: Remoulade

Turtle soup at Remoulade, New Orleans

My first meal in New Orleans was quite well-deserved.  I was exhausted and hadn’t eaten in over twenty-four hours, having spent the night before up way too late dreading my early morning flight (and, ok, maybe having a few drinks to deal with the dread) and then all of the morning and part of the afternoon traveling.  Of course, I chose to kick off my visit to Nola not by resting or finding food, but by walking around.  I just couldn’t wait to explore a new-to-me city on my own, and so contrary to everything my body was telling me, I dropped my bag off at the hotel and hit the pavement.

I lasted about an hour.

Sixty minutes or so later, disturbed by the harsh reality of Bourbon Street by the light of day and blinking in the late afternoon sun, I plodded back in the general direction of my hotel, hoping for a brief rest before my scheduled cocktail tour that evening.  Fortunately, before I arrived at my still-not-ready-for-me room, I realized that I probably should eat something before embarking upon an hours-long bar tour.  And so I did something I so rarely do when traveling–I picked the nearest restaurant that looked interesting and, knowing absolutely nothing about it, walked in and asked for a table for one.

That restaurant turned out to be Remoulade, a fairly well-known and well-liked outpost of the much more famous Arnaud’s.  The fact that I staggered into this little cafe having absolutely know knowledge of its reputation further supports my theory that New Orleans is one of the best places in the world to enjoy a meal.  It’s almost like you can’t go wrong.

The rest of Taste of Louisiana platter--meat pie and crawfish etouffee. Mmmm.

Having just arrived in town, I went the full tourist route and ordered one of the sampler plates–the Taste of Louisiana platter.  This clearly-I’m-not-from-around-here combo meal included a bowl of turtle soup, a Natchioches meat pie, and half an order of crawfish ettouffee.  I was kind of kicking myself for not ordering a po boy or something involving fried oysters for my first meal.  But I shouldn’t have worried–both of those things would make an appearance on my plate eventually.

I’m not going to lie, I was a little freaked out by the turtle soup.  I thought it best to not think about turtles as I ate it, and honestly that helped a lot.  It was a thicker soup–likely thickened with flour–and just spicy enough.  More like a cross between a stew and a beanless chili, this soup was definitely a filling start to the meal.  And for the record, the meat was more like ground pork than anything.  Poor turtle.

The other two dishes came out together.  The meat pie–named, I later learned, for a city in western Louisiana–was a mixture of ground beef and pork that really reminded me a lot of the turtle soup.  But the crust was flaky and flavorful, made even better by dipping it in the sauce part of the crawfish etouffee.  On its own, the etouffee was a bit too saucy to be eaten with a fork (and for some reason I wasn’t given a spoon), but the flavor was too good to muddle it with the white rice it was served with.  In fact, I avoided the rice entirely.  I found it an odd texture–plump but not sticky.  I don’t know what kind of rice it was, but I was not a fan.  It wasn’t poorly cooked–it just wasn’t my style.  I’m a bit of a rice snob.  However, the dish itself was excellent. Spicy and a bit sweet, the etouffee was almost the highlight of the meal.

I say almost because two things about my first meal in New Orleans managed to outshine the food itself.  First, the service.  The waitress was one of the most friendly, laid-back, and welcoming waitresses I’d yet encountered.  Being a solo diner, I always appreciate non-pushy, non-judgmental service, and this lovely lady didn’t make me feel uncomfortable at all–even though I was dining alone in a mostly empty restaurant at a very off meal time on a week day afternoon.

But the best part–the very best part–of the meal was not the meal itself.  It was the smallest gesture that I’d find repeated again and again in New Orleans.  It was something that slowly but surely caused me to fall in love with Nola more and more with each passing meal.  It’s right there, in the photo above.  See it–to the left of my soda?

A bottle of hot sauce, brought without having to ask for it.  New Orleans, you’re the best.

Remoulade is located at 309 Bourbon Street, between Bienville and Conti.  Reservations are not required.  For a pre-meal drink, stumble into…any bar.  There are dozens in the area–possibly hundreds.  Please note:  I dined here of my own free will and paid for my own meal.  

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