Dallas has few diversions other than eating, drinking and shopping.....and shopping does not interest us.
So we spend our time hopping from restaurant to restaurant and to every pub that we can find in search of the perfect meal and the perfect beer.

We randomly review restaurants and bars, dishes and beers at whim and give our brutally honest opinions of our findings. And while we concentrate on Dallas, we travel far and wide to sample cuisine from all regions of the country and beyond.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Road Trip Dining - The Search for the Perfect Gumbo, Part 1

Market Cafe - New Orleans

It is hard to get a bad meal in New Orleans.  The odds of you gettng a crappy meal is directly related to whether or not you go to a chain or family restaurant.  Restaurants, specifically the family owned joints, that you brush off as mediocre here would be near the top of your list in your home town.  You want to choose the best restaurants while visiting, but there are only so many days to visit and only so many meals in a day.  So how do you choose?  It was a bit easier for me because I am a Gumbo whore. 
That's right, I will sell myself out for a steaming bowl of thick, rich roux with whatever meat they happen to add.  Chicken?  Yes sire.  Andouille?  But of course.  Shrimp?  Toss it in and you can put rice in it or not, I care not.  But man does not live by Gumbo alone, even though I tried, so you just must add the other traditional sides, jamalaya, red beans and rice, dirty rice, a po' boy here, a muffaletta there. Yummy. 
So I will endevour to rate several restaurants, from least favorite to favorite, for you based soley on the quality of their Gumbo.  There will be slight variations in the ingredients because darn it, they don't all make it the same.  And please don't think that any of these experiences were bad, because they were all fantastic in their own way.  An amazing array of dining choices I must say.

The Market Cafe is a family owned (you are going to see the trend here) and operated dining establishment since 1982 and occupies the second oldest building in the French Market dating back to 1823.  Think of the tourist base restaurants that you have tried in Dallas (or wherever you are) and you don't usually remember it as a fine dining experience.  Think Spagetti Warehouse, erk, or Dick's Last Resort, gaaaak, then compare these with the Market Cafe on Decatur Street and there is no comparison, it was terrific.  We chose this restaurant purely because of the inviting feeling of it's rather large patio and light, bright interior spaces and even though they were inundated with the sweat pants wearing masses piling out of the Carnival Cruise Line's seaborn trailer house in port, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of their offerings.

The Gumbo had the thick rich sauce that you demand of a good Gumbo.  The chicken was a bit scarce but there was plenty of andouille sausage to make up for it.  Unfortunately the sausage was a bit tough and had a bit more gristle and scraps that I usually care for.  This version also contained shrimp as an added bonus, but the poor little buggers were tiny, about the size of my pinky fingernail.  It was also a bit dissappointing that there was more rice than roux.  Very good though and quite hearty.

To round out the 'New Orleans' experience, we decided to add the cliche' list of traditional Cajun dishes, Red Beans and Rice, Jambalaya (another rice dish) and french bread.  Can't get too much rice, eh?  The Jambalaya was pretty good, but frankly you can get almost as good from a box of Zatarain's mix.  There is really nothing all that special about Red Beans and Rice, but done correctly it is an especially satisfying dish that can leave you with the warm fuzzies.  This version was terrific and we left with full bellies and silly smiles.

Don't worry that the cafe is located in the second most touristy area of a touristy area, sit on the patio and enjoy some nice jazz and some really, really decent food and make fun of the day trippers rolling off the cruise ships.

Market Cafe
1000 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA
Phone: (504) 527-5000

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