I realize that I’m a bit of a broken record at times. After all, when you’re trying to blog nearly every day – about your favorite topics, interests, and destinations – you’re bound to repeat yourself every now and again. But I simply can’t resist mentioning my favorite French Quarter restaurant for “Monday Munchies” – especially given that it’s my first week back in New Orleans, a gourmand’s veritable paradise.
As I mentioned on this blog over two months ago, Cafe Maspero is indeed my favorite eatery in the Vieux Carré – it has been ever since I was a child, when Mom and I would eat here almost every time we visited the Quarter. I even devoted part of an American Nomad post to this casual corner joint at Decatur and Toulouse. Surrounded by shuttered French windows that are often wide open during business hours (especially during pleasant weather), this popular eatery frequently sports a lengthy line of hungry tourists and locals on the front sidewalk... and it’s no shock as to why.
For decades, Cafe Maspero has welcomed tons of eager folks through its narrow doors. With weathered brick walls and scuffed wooden floors, it definitely looks as though it’s been here a while. Upon entering the restaurant, you’ll spy a long bar on the right, where locals especially love to sip cheap daiquiris and beers and munch some of the best fried seafood in the city. At the end of the bar sits the open kitchen, where extremely efficient cooks prepare a range of classic dishes, from jambalaya and hot roast beef sandwiches to fried oyster plates and toasted muffulettas. To the left is a sea of old tables and chairs, crowded so close together that it’s often necessary to befriend one’s neighbors before maneuvering into a seat.
But that’s part of what makes Cafe Maspero so darn special. While you’ll spot plenty of empty seats during the off-hours, prime meal times (especially on the weekends) are a different story altogether. At such times, the tables are teeming with diners, the air is rife with munching, clinking, and conversation, and the busy waiters and waitresses are ever on the move. “Lively” doesn’t even begin to describe the joint, especially on a Saturday night, when a delay is not uncommon. Although Dan and I didn’t have long to wait this past Saturday, we definitely got an eyeful while our table was being prepared – many of the tables were filled with well-dressed captains and wenches. Apparently, a pirate convention was in town (ah, New Orleans, how I love thee).
Of course, despite the old-world décor, fresh air, and ever-present vitality, the real reason to come is the food. Believe me when I tell you – you’ll be hard-pressed to find a place in the Quarter that offers such large portions for such low prices. A seafood plate, for instance, boasts a heaping pile of fried shrimp, oysters, catfish, and calamari (plus steak fries and a yummy salad) for about six bucks less than the average (much smaller) seafood plate throughout the rest of the Quarter. One of my favorite dishes, though, is the muffuletta – a warm Italian sandwich filled with ham, salami, pastrami, provolone, and olive salad and served with steak fries. On Saturday night, Dan and I naturally shared a “muff” and a seafood plate. Hey, what’s the fun in being married if you can’t share your meals?
(In the interest of full disclosure, though, I should warn you that people aren’t the only happy diners at Maspero’s. Pigeons, mice, and cockroaches appreciate the place, too – which is not uncommon in the dingy Quarter, I’m afraid.)
So, now that you’ve tolerated my food-related ramblings, what's your favorite hometown restaurant?
5 hours ago