Revisiting Oceana Grill

After Latoya Cantrell’s historic inauguration ceremony, my friends Lisa and Vincenzo and I followed Madam Mayor’s second line out of the Mahalia Jackson theater into Armstrong Park.

Madam Mayor in the light blue dress and white umbrella, stage left

Afterwards, we went seeking sustanence. It was Monday and our first two options weren’t open. We went with number three – Oceana Grill on Conti @ Bourbon. The last time I was here was 8 years ago and it stands the test of time as a casual dining establishment. It was as filled with local workers as tourists and we were served quickly with large portions of good food.

I went with the fried shrimp platter. Lots of them on the plate, plus hushpuppies and french fries. Nice bite to the jalapeno hush puppies and a nice fry on everything else.

Lisa had the Black and Bleu burger with blackening seasoning and blue cheese. Nice and beefy burger with a tangy sauce.

Vincenzo had the seafood platter, pilled high with oysters, catfish, shrimp. Lovely cornmeal batter on the thin and crispy catfish.

The server was friendly and quick with refills. For French Quarter dining, the prices are reasonable. I’d definitely stop by here again.

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Charlie’s Steakhouse

For my birthday dinner, my folks came into town and we went to Charlie’s Steakhouse. Located on Dryades in Uptown, it is only open for dinner, Tuesday through Saturday. This is an old school steakhouse with no menus because there not much else on the menu but steak and sides. Exactly what I was looking for in a birthday dinner.

We started with onion rings. Thinly cut and deep fried, they were quite delicious. We all ate more than we should have based on how big the steaks were going to be.

Dad had half a wedge salad with bleu cheese dressing. He used some of the left over onion rings as a crouton.

We all went for 14 ounce ribeyes. Simply prepared with just salt and pepper, they came to the table still sizzling. All were cooked perfectly to order (from blue to rare to medium rare to medium) and were very succulent.

The sides were choose potatoes au gratin and sauteed button mushrooms. The potatoes were a little over salted but quite good with hunks of potato and lots and lots of cheddar cheese. They paired well with the lightly salted steak. The mushrooms and onions went very well with the steaks with their buttery flavor.

As it was my birthday, they brought out spumoni, a very rich ice cream. And, yes, I did share.

We finished every last  bite of dessert (although, we each had some steak left over for sandwiches the next day – and the day after that).

The atmosphere is relaxed and casual. The server was polite and very attentive. Everyone we came in contact with was friendly and personable. We even got a history lesson from the manager/owner about the original family, the restaurants they opened and were related to– so basically a success story of immigration to America. Oh, and a couple fun ones about bootlegging during Prohibition.

I would definitely recommend Charlie’s steaks. I know I’m not going to wait for another major milestone to go back again.

Main Street Cafe – Collins, MS

If you’re ever near Collins, Mississippi at lunchtime consider stopping in at the Main Street Café. It is smack dab between I-49 and US-84 on Main Street (Highway 184) in Collins. They have an all you can eat buffet for $10 that includes your drink, and a wide selection of down home, Southern classics (a mess of peas, a pot of beans, fried okra, greens, gumbo, cornbread, a large variety of desserts and a salad bar). For the meat selection, they offer ribs, chicken and sometimes catfish. You need to get there by 2pm, though, as they are only open from 9:30am to 2pm on weekdays.

As you can see from my plate, I didn’t waste much stomach space on veggies. Their fried chicken is excellent. Very tasty and juicy, with crisp skin and a good seasoning. I got my money’s worth on fried chicken alone!

The tea is fresh, the servers are friendly and the food is quite good. I definitely recommend it.

Shady Acres – Seminary, Mississippi

As you travel on US Highway 49 between Hattiesburg and Seminary, there is a farm stand/restaurant over three buildings and a fenced in outside area called Shady Acres Village.

While the outside area has plants, metal chicken sculptures and other yard art, the inside is a tight packed general store with local seasonal produce, a bakery with pies and cakes and an entire wall of jams and jellies. Attached is also a restaurant with hot plates (ribs, chicken, fried fish, etc) and darn tasty hamburgers.

While everything looks good, we usually get the burgers. They are nice and thick with pickles, tomatoes and lettuce on a soft bun. One of us gets one with a side of onion rings:

And, the other with fries and we share our sides. The drinks are refillable.

There is plenty of seating including an outside seating area that is covered (and has fans), so we usually stop there when we are traveling with the dog, as she is welcome there.

The staff are all super friendly and the bathrooms are clean. It is a great place to stop when you’re road tripping along US 49.

Gracious To Go

If you’re looking for good desserts (as well as other bakery items), Gracious bakery is the place to go. In fact, if I’m out and about in the morning around Earhart Blvd, I try to stop in a Gracious to Go. They are only open until 11am during the week here but, you are in and out fast, with fresh goodies to go.

Today, Michelle and I picket up a selection. We loved the deep, rich flavor of Valrhona chocolate in the chocolate croissant and chocolate pecan hand pie. The croissant was large, flakey and buttery and the hand pie almost had a cookie crust to go with the decadent interior.

We also some savory items, including a seasonal tart with sweet potato, Brussel sprouts and gruyere cheese and a spinach and goat cheese croissant.

The folks are super friendly and ready to make recommendations as well as encourage indulgences. Prices are reasonable and everything is fresh and creatively made. Try their two other locations for sandwiches and other items (one in Mid-city on Jeff Davis Pkwy and the other in the Garden District on St. Charles Avenue).

Rose’s BBQ – Hattiesburg, MS

South of Hattiesburg, in a gas station on Highway 49 is Rose’s Bar-B-Q (here is the link to their Facebook page, as it looks like their domain has expired). We had heard about it from friends and it was on the way back to New Orleans. The parking lot was packed with pick up trucks and sheriff vehicles. There was a heavy scent of hickory smoke in the air, so we pulled up on the curb and went inside.

We bought a pound of the smoked brisket, some chicken on a stick and potato logs. The chicken on a stick was a first for me – chicken, dill pickles, potatoes and onion speared on a stick, covered in batter and deep fried. Not sure I’m a fan but I can now say I’ve eaten this unique Mississippi delicacy.

The potato logs were like wedges on steroids. While the batter could have used a little more seasoning, the potatoes were incredibly fluffy.

The brisket was very tender, with a lovely bark. While it comes with their house made, very good barbecue sauce, the meat was so flavorful, it didn’t need it. We just ate it with our fingers, forgoing the bread.

The prices were reasonable and they got the food to us fast, so we were back on the road in no time. They have even more on the menu than we were able to try (ribs, chicken – bbq and fried, pulled pork, etc), so we’ll be swinging back by soon.

*****

Swung back by for more brisket on September 29th. Also got the pork sandwich (a little too much sauce but piled high with meat) and more potato logs. Still worth the trip!

I think I’ll be trying the ribs next!

 

Dining Out for Life 2017

Every year, AIDS service organizations join with restaurants for Dining Out for Life. The restaurants donate a portion of the day’s proceeds so diners get a great meal and the organizations get financial support. Crescent Care (formerly NO/AIDS Task Force) is my local beneficiary and I whole heartedly support their mission, so I make an effort to take in as many meals as I can for the event.

For lunch, I went to Cafe at the Square (reviewed here in 2010) with my friend Ryan and we interviewed Seth Bloom, a candidate for New Orleans City Council for possible endorsement by the Forum for Equality. I had the Fried Green Tomato BLT and the sandwich was just as good as I remembered – thick bacon slices, tangy green tomatoes and spicy arugula on a ciabatta bun.

For dinner, I went with my friends Charlotte and Thomas to the New Feelings Cafe and Bar (previously reviewed here in 2011) in the Marigny. We had been excited to learn that Chef Scott Maki had recently won Chopped and wanted to see how the menu and space had changed since we had last been there.

The space is light and airy, with lots of quirky and nostalgic artwork on the walls. The menu had a lot of the things that made them such a great place before plus a number of new items. They still have the beautiful courtyard but, we opted for air conditioning, so we ate inside.

We started with cocktails. Charlotte went for the one with mezcal and enjoyed it enough to order a second. I really liked the coconut rum in my Hemingway.

For appetizers, we had the mushroom sopapilla with black beans and avocado – nice combo of flavors and also the smoked trout dip (pictured) with house made kettle chips. Very tasty, especially with a couple shakes of hot sauce.


I had the fried chicken sandwich. Piled high with chicken, crisp dill pickle slices, lettuce and tomato and their special sauce, it was an explosion of flavor.

Charlotte went for the curry spiced fish with yams and a lovely peanut sauce. She thought it was very tasty, even the kale.

Thomas had Shrimp and Grits – the grits were made extra decadent with gouda cheese. It was so gooda, I wanted to steal another bite but Thomas was keeping a close eye on me. The BBQ shrimp were also very good with a deep, rich sauce.

Dessert was the Vietnamese coffee flan and chocolate hand pie. Delicate flavor on the flan and the pie was reminiscent of the Hubig pies. Served hot, it was very delicious.

Attentive and friendly waitstaff. Creative chef. Romantic courtyard. Lots of feels for the New Feelings Cafe. Worth going to, even without the excuse of your dollars doing good.