2015 Road Trip Photos #23: Southern Cooking Showdown, Round 2

Redfish Beignets!

Redfish beignets at the Royal House in New Orleans.

Day Three of our seven-day road trip was our first full day in the city of New Orleans. We already covered our musical breakfast at Cafe Beignet. As noted previously, “Going into this year’s vacation, we hoped the cuisine would be a highlight at our various stops — be it good ol’ Southern kitchen cookin’, Gulf-sourced fresh seafood, or, really, anything outside of international franchisees.” In that vein, lunch and dinner each had their own approach.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

This year’s trip began as a simple idea: visit ostensibly scenic New Orleans. Indianapolis to New Orleans is a fourteen-hour drive. Between our workplace demands and other assorted personal needs, we negotiated a narrow seven-day time frame to travel there and back again. We researched numerous possible routes, cities, and towns to visit along the way in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. We came up with a long, deep list of potential stops, but tried to leave room for improvisation…

After our showing of Beyond all Boundaries, we took a break from the National World War II Museum and walked back a couple blocks up Magazine Street to a nondescript place we’d passed on the way there called the Warehouse Grille. We had to get closer to it just to confirm it wasn’t an abandoned building.

Warehouse Grille!

Architecturally speaking, not too different from the average neighborhood bar. You can imagine Daredevil storming the place and demanding someone tell him where to find the Kingpin.

Modern American cuisine awaited anyone who bypassed the plain brick and ventured inside. My wife’s lunch: lamb sliders, topped with spinach, feta and a plum glaze.

Lamb Sliders!

Simple. Elegant. Sliders!

My sandwich of choice was called “Da” Duck — shredded duck with a balsamic reduction, cheddar cheese, bleu cheese, sautéed onions, apples, and a currant chutney on toasted sourdough.

Da Duck!

I brake hard for inexpensive duck dishes.

Neither platter screamed “New Orleans” necessarily, but we were pretty satisfied. Both brought the varied flavors without weighing us down during our next several hours’ worth of walking and walking and walking.

Later on, dinner was across the corner from our hotel at a posher-looking place called the Royal House. It began life as a longtime establishment called Tortorici’s, touted as the fourth oldest restaurant in the city. It survived Katrina in 2005; after a transfer of ownership and an overhaul, it reopened as the Royal House in 2008.

Royal House!

Seating took a few extra minutes because the hostess was really into her conversation with the young lady in front of us. She was there first, so…no harm done, I suppose, though we didn’t merit the same attention level.

The balcony seating looked like an interesting option, but it wasn’t offered to us. Perhaps those had to be reserved, or maybe those spaces were really cramped and seating us out there would’ve been a form of punishment. We were escorted upstairs, but seated inside by the bar. We had no view of the cityscape outside, but the bar was pretty in its own way, for those who like such things.

Royal House Bar!

I don’t recall if the bar was staffed during our visit, but we don’t drink, so for all we cared they could’ve used it as an extra veggie pantry.

You saw our appetizer in the lead photo — redfish beignets, fried in tempura batter and topped with a Crystal beurre blanc sauce and cane syrup. A quick search for “Crystal beurre blanc” tells me Crystal is a local hot sauce, so ostensibly these should’ve had a spicy kick to them. Mostly I remember how weird it was to have fish topped with sugar. Basically, think donut holes stuffed with meat. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, mind you.

For my dinner, I went back to the seafood direction that I figured would dominate most of my New Orleans meals, but I don’t think I pushed myself hard enough to seek something capital-D Different. Hence: fried oysters on linguini, tossed with spinach and mushrooms in a scampi sauce. Pasta is rarely a Plan A for me (my 2004-2005 diet broke that habit, among others), so in that sense it was a departure. For the rest of you, I’m sure this is an average Monday.

Oyster Pasta!

At the very least, it’s not something I can go grab at Fazoli’s.

No contest: Anne’s dinner of baked shrimp tortellini was prettier than mine. Jumbo Gulf shrimp in “seafood cream sauce” and topped with standard bread crumbs.

Baked Shrimp Tortellini!

Your move, Olive Garden.

Our general impression of the Royal House was that, as nice restaurants go, it was…y’know, nice. Our waiter was nice. The decor was nice. The nice food in the nice restaurant was nice in its niceness. But I wasn’t convinced this was the ultimate transcendental New Orleans dining experience. Our quest was far from over.

To be continued!

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Thanks for reading!]

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