Cat Cora’s Kitchen

Whenever I have a long layover at a multi-terminal airport, I always ask the airport personnel “Where’s the best food?”  Inevitably, it”s in the international departures terminal, and that’s no exception here.  Having had my fill of seafood on vacation, I passed on Pappadeaux, which would have been a decent choice, and headed for Cat Cora’s Kitchen.

Cat Coras Kitchen - Store Front

Its location is a bit cramped, in a storefront that could easily be selling magazines and breath mints instead of featuring a prominent bar, with a smattering of tables on the sides and in the back.  I was offered what I imagined to be the best seat of the house:  the far corner from the entrance away from all foot traffic.

The menu was just one page, which for me indicates a restaurant wants to do several things well versus trying to appeal to the masses, offering mediocrity on a large scale.  The one puzzling feature was the price point: main dishes were either cheaper than $20 or more than $30, with one $28 exception.

I settled on the Steak Tacos, which at $19 was for me a good way to have an expensive meat but a lower-priced dish. The presentation was pretty simple:  four toasted soft tacos, pineapple salsa, strips of steak, and a condiment cup of green salsa on the side. The steak was perfectly cooked to medium rare, which was offered at the time of the order.  Both salsas were satisfying, though I went easy on the green salsa since I don’t tolerate spicy foods well.

Cat Coras Kitchen - Steak Tacos

The service was a bit leisurely, which was perfect for my situation, but I’m sure I could have sped that up should I have cared or needed to do so.  The server spoke highly about Cat Cora, as a serious restaurateur who visits periodically to give tips to the chefs, while treating the entire staff cordially.  The meal was a nice finale to several days spent on vacation.

Rating 4.0/5.0 – Really liked it

Cat Cora’s Kitchen
www.catcora.com
Houston Int’l Airport, Terminal E
2800 N Terminal Rd
Houston, TX 77032

Cat Cora's Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Romacelli

Finding a special restaurant in the south is always tricky on a Sunday, since some are closed. In addition, there are several highly rated restaurants in Lafayette that serve only lunch, not dinner, making it even trickier to find Sunday dinner. I wanted to try something that was not seafood based, and I happened upon Romacelli, which is part of an upscale housing and small business planned community.

I was very excited by this beautiful restaurant, which had almost as much seating outdoors as the overly air-conditioned interior. Rarely do you find al fresco dining so beautifully lit – you could actually see your menu and other people around you. There were also quiet fans above keeping the air circulating.

If the food even came close to the décor, I was in for a real treat. The house Merlot was good, and a perfect accompaniment to my meal. I started with a cream-based mushroom soup, which was nicely seasoned, but a bit too thick and unrefined.

Romacelli - Creamy Mushroom Soup

The main dish was spaghetti and meatballs. The pasta was overcooked, though the overall dish worked. The meatballs had a bit of a chewy texture that I liked, and the red sauce bound the dish together. There was a wedge of dry pita-like bread stuck in the side of the bowl. It looks about as good it tasted. The grated cheese was served in a glass jar, which you rarely encounter today even at a chain Italian restaurant.

Romacelli - Spaghetti and Meatballs

Though I enjoyed my meal, it definitely reminded me more of a chain restaurant, on an off night, than a fine independent establishment. It’s rare that you find a restaurant in this area where the décor is the star, instead of what’s on your plate.

Rating 3.0/5.0 – Liked it

Romacelli
www.romacelli.com
115 Stonemont Rd
Lafayette, LA 70508

Romacelli Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Bon Temps Grill

For my first dinner in Lafayette, I wanted a restaurant specializing in fish, which was also highly rated. Finding a fish restaurant here is like finding a McDonald’s along the highway, but a good one is a little bit harder to find.  In these parts, there are even restaurants that are open only during crawfish season, which I sadly missed by a couple of months.  You can still order crawfish, but it’s frozen or otherwise preserved from the March to June season.

When I arrived at Steve N Pat’s Bon Temps Grill, it looked like a shack.  To be fair, I did arrive at night, and perhaps it looks nicer in the daylight.  The interior was a step up, looking more like a college pub/restaurant, with a sea of purple and gold as the servers all wore the colors of LSU.

Bon Temps Grill - Interior

The food was a few leaps up.  I ordered a side Caesar salad that hit the spot, despite being a bit heavily dressed, as most Caesar salads are for my taste.  The main dish was the star:  I ordered the Crawfish Pot Pie, which came with a pie crust composed of an almond paste reminiscent of a well-made Galette des Rois. Moving to the center of the bowl, the filling was indeed scrumptious.

Bon Temps Grill - Caesar Salad


Bon Temps Grill - Shrimp Pot Pie

The side of Sage Sweet Potato mash, which arrived late, was worth a taste, and it honestly could have been a vegetarian meal in itself, along with the salad. I had just several bites since I wanted to try dessert.

Bon Temps Grill - Sage Sweet Potato Mash

There were just two dessert choices, though the mixed berry pie with vanilla ice cream on top proved that you don’t need to offer lots of choice if you can make every dish count.

Bon Temps Grill - Mixed Berry Pie à la Mode

Outside of dessert, the variety on this menu was impressive.  You could easily dine here for a week, and have different food each time.  If I returned, I would have something completely different, confident that it would be equally good.

Rating 4.5/5.0 – Really liked it

Bon Temps Grill
bontempsgrill.com
1312 Verot School Rd
Lafayette, LA 70508

Bon Temps Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Chris’ Poboys

I was sent to Chris’ Poboys by the agent at the nearby airport rental car counter, since I wanted to find a good place to eat, but not miss out on afternoon sightseeing.  I arrived to the parking lot, where strangely almost half of the parking lot seemed to be marked off for handicapped parking.  Either Lafayette has a large handicapped population, or the restaurant is encouraging people like me, in need of more exercise, to work up an appetite for a pleasing casual dining experience.

Chris Poboys Parking Lot and Restaurant

I had the short six-inch Shrimp Poboy, which comes with a pickle and potato chips. Since I was in the mood for fries to match the battered shrimp, I saved the potato chips for a snack later. It was a good decision, since the steak fries appeared to be hand cut and home made, and cooked perfectly crisp without being greasy. The poboy itself was delicious.

Chris Poboys - Shrimp Poboy with Fries

I added a thick chocolate chip cookie to my to-go bag, which melted just enough in the trunk of my rental car to provide the perfect ooze, without the mess, when it came time to have an afternoon snack.  Searching for alligators in the bayou is hard work!

Chris’s Poboys is a local chain with several locations, which is good for the folks of Lafayette, but bad for me. I look forward to visiting again for a bite to eat that’s just right when time is of the essence.

Rating 4.0/5.0 – Really liked it

Chris’ Poboys
www.chrispoboys.com
1930 W Pinhook Rd
Lafayette, LA 70508

Chris' Poboys Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Deanie’s Seafood

Sometimes you visit a restaurant and select a dish you want, versus the one that the restaurant is screaming at you to order.  And you almost always lose! My experience at Deannie’s began at 9 p.m. on a Friday evening, and there was quite a wait even at this late hour. When I was finally seated, I was greeted with a bowl of what appeared to be small red potatoes, instead of bread. When I inquired about the weird bread, I was informed they actually were small red potatoes, and meant to be eaten by hand, with a bit of butter and salt, to taste.

Deanies Seafood - Red Potatoes

My mistake was in ordering the pasta dish, instead of one of the fried platters, which is their specialty. The shrimp was delicious, and had the added luxury of having the tails removed. The sauce, or roux as they say in French parts, was flavorful, but not pleasing. Instead, it was loaded with oil, which became less appetizing as I reached the bottom of the bowl.

Deanies Seafood - Shrimp Pasta

I wanted to try their bread pudding, as a way to tap into what they do well, and was pleasantly surprised. The nice round of pudding was topped with a delicous sauce and a copious amount of finely slivered almonds. Now if I could just take back the dumb choice I made for a main dish!

Deanies Seafood - Bread Pudding

The dining room décor is worth a mention.  The space itself is wide open, but you don’t feel overwhelmed by it.  The wall art is pleasing and the kitchen opens up smartly to the rest of the space.

Deanies Seafood - Open Interior

Deanies Seafood - Roux Mosaic

Deanies Seafood - Interior into Kitchen

Rating 3.5/5.0 – Liked it

Deanie’s Seafood
www.deanies.com
841 Iberville St
New Orleans, LA 70112

Deanie's Seafood Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Brennan’s

Eating at a Brennan’s is actually not difficult. The extended family owns many restaurants in and around New Orleans, including the famous Commander’s Palace. However, eating at the original Brennan’s, is a wonderful experience.

Brennans - Exterior with Awning

The ambiance of each of the many dining rooms is special, as is the courtyard, which though outdoors, is fully surrounded by the indoor dining spaces.  Take a look at the restaurant Web site to see the many photos that show how beautiful this space is after the recent renovation.  When discussing my experience with a friend who visited 10 years ago, it’s obviously much changed.

Brennans - My Dining Room

Brennans - Enclosed Courtyard

If you visit at lunch, you order from the combined breakfast/lunch menu.  It’s a bit egg heavy, which surprised me a bit.  I decided if that’s their focus, then it should be mine, too.

Brennans - Breakfast and Lunch Menu

Since I’d already enjoyed a seafood gumbo at Acme Oyster House, I wanted to try it at a fine dining restaurant as well. It tasted about the same, which is to say I enjoyed it very much.  In a confession, perhaps I don’t know the different degrees of excellence of gumbo, like I do foods that I eat more often.  Or, perhaps, I’ve just had the good stuff, which is fine by me.

Brennans - Seafood Gumbo

The main dish was a Croque Madame, elevated by Serrano ham, delicious artisan bread, a tiny touch of black truffle, and a duck egg on top. It was the best Croque, Madame or Monsieur, I have ever had.

Brennans - Croque Madame

The dessert was a tiny round of triple chocolate cake, served with chickory-flavored coffee. Unless you go to Starbucks, it’s hard to escape this style of coffee when in New Orleans.  Again, go with it!

Brennans - Dessert and Coffee

In a restaurant where even lunch runs around $40, you expect a fine level of service and quality of food. Brennan’s didn’t disappoint in any way. The servers spoke reverentially of “Chef”, who is Slade Rushing.  He gets my bow as well.

Rating 4.5/5.0 – Really liked it

Brennan’s
www.brennansneworleans.com
417 Royal St
New Orleans, LA 70130

Brennan's Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Acme Oyster House

Acme was the common restaurant mentioned by everyone who has visited New Orleans. It seems to be more famous for cooked oysters than raw, although I wasn’t interested in having either. It’s also famous for having long lines. I fortunately arrived between meals, and since they serve non-stop, I got seated within 5 minutes.

Acme Oyster House - Exterior

Though the menu was fairly compact, almost every dish was its own enticement. I wanted to try one of their gumbos in addition to a main dish. I had a cup of seafood gumbo, which was perfectly seasoned and delicious. The main dish was a Half and Half Poboy, with shrimp on one side and a fish filet on the other. I finally discovered what McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish was trying to be, though it fails miserably!

I was so hungry for the Poboy that I forgot to take a picture until the sandwich was already half-devoured.  Even the picture of the gumbo below had a preliminary “spoon dunk”.  Sometimes discipline goes right out the window when you are so hungry and the food is so good!

Acme Oyster House - Seafood Gumbo

The décor is pretty sparse, and the meal is served efficiently to get you fed and on your way, to allow others to do the same. I did not feel rushed by any of the staff, but it’s not the place where you would feel comfortable to linger.

Acme is famous for a reason, and any time a restaurant has been open for over 100 years, they have to be doing a lot of things right.

Rating 4.5/5.0 – Really liked it

Acme Oyster House
www.acmeoyster.com
724 Iberville St
New Orleans, LA 70130

Acme Oyster House Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato