National Shrimp Day… Celebrate New Orleans Style!
Is food an important part of your vacation? The flavors, scents, textures, atmosphere and service can take you from just “feeding your belly” to experiencing the culture and life of a destination.
Today is National Shrimp Day!
Seriously. That put me in mind of New Orleans, probably the best city in the country for shrimp…. for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After all, according to the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission, the Gulf Coast produces 69% of the domestic shrimp for our country. They must know how to cook it well around there, right?!
New Orleans’ location makes it a departure port for riverboats sailing the Mississippi River as well as cruise ships sailing into the Caribbean. Queen of the Mississippi and the new America are two paddlewheelers along with steamship American Queen which sail the river. Whether you are cruising the river or the sea, I suggest taking advantage of your opportunity to get a “taste” of this enticing city. Don’t regret, once it’s too late, that you didn’t plan a few days there.
I reached out to someone in New Orleans who well knows the city’s restaurants. Giving her a bit of criteria, I asked for three recommendations in the French Quarter vicinity for restaurants to interview and research.
Arnaud’s Restaurant (813 Bienville St.)
The first words she said after the restaurant name were, “shrimp remoulade.” Those two words somehow seemed to be a complete sentence and were said with a sigh that told me she could taste it as we spoke. I was intrigued, reached out to Arnaud’s with questions and they were quick to share. Well, they shared a lot except for the “top secret” remoulade sauce recipe that’s used in their Shrimp Arnaud which has been popular throughout their nearly 100-year-old history. Can’t blame them. I don’t think even Emeril Lagasse could have pried it out of them. Their Shrimp Arnaud is considered a “must try” while there.
They suggested that a good pairing for this shrimp dish is their Souffle Potatoes and their French 75 Cocktail. This drink was originally created in 1915 in New York, but Arnaud’s has been a James Beard finalist with their version. They did share that secret with me… they use cognac instead of gin. Well, maybe it’s not really a secret, but not everyone knows it. Just you, me and probably a couple of thousand other people.
Arnaud’s has a fascinating history, some of which is housed in their Mardi Gras Museum that’s open to the public and is free. It’s said that the founder’s daughter holds the distinction of having been queen of the most Mardi Gras balls and it’s in this museum that you will have the opportunity to see her gowns.
Arnaud’s has their Remoulade Sauce available for purchase. With a bottle of it, you can easily follow their recipe to make their popular dish at home. Whether you want to bring home a taste of New Orleans as a souvenir from the restaurant or if you wish to order it to create a bit of “New Orleans” to celebrate shrimp at home, you’ll be set to impress your family and friends.
Deanie’s Seafood (841 Iberville St. location)
Deanie’s has been serving food for 55 years, has been consistently ranked as one of the Best Seafood Restaurants in New Orleans and was the first restaurant there to be certified by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries as serving “Authentic Wild Louisiana Seafood.” They also have a gluten-free menu.
Deanie’s has a more casual atmosphere. It’s where a lot of the locals go and one of the places the locals tell the tourists to go. There are quite a few entrees if you are feeling dainty, but there are three items on their menu that require a tad more “clean-up” when you’re done that I want to share.
They have a Shrimp Boil made special by their seasoning (which is available to purchase.) For me, a shrimp or crab boil is something fun to be shared over conversation, laughter and beer with friends. But however you like to have it, this is the dish for serious finger-licking (literally!) shrimp eating.
Deanie’s makes the popular New Orleans dish, BBQ Shrimp. I think most of us around the country think of a tomato-based sweet, tangy BBQ sauce. I was happy to get a quick lesson in what “BBQ Shrimp” means in Louisiana. It starts with butter/margarine, garlic, spices and herbs. My mouth was watering just hearing about it so I’m looking forward to trying the recipe for their dish.
Less messy (no peeling required), but looking delicious is their pizza. Not any old boring peperoni pizza. I’m talking about the Bucktown Boil Pizza. It’s a white pizza with a blend of shrimp, crawfish and crab, covered with mozzarella. They say it “combines the flavors of a backyard boil into one dish.”
Mother’s Restaurant (401 Poydras)
Mother’s sounds like a place with heart, soul and good comfort food. A sense of coming home. Their start in 1938 was geared toward making Po’Boys for the longshoremen and other workers in the city. I’m not surprised that their warmth and good food made them a popular “hang-out” for Marines during WWII. This is the kind of place that gets a crazy-good mix of locals, tourists, white and blue-collar workers along with celebrities. They have a gluten-free and vegetarian menu. After all, aren’t mothers supposed to care and nurture all who are in their care?
Mother’s is the only one of these three restaurants which is open for breakfast as well as lunch and dinner. When asked what their most popular shrimp dishes are, I was gold the Shrimp Creole Omelet and the Shrimp Po’Boy. It was with a fierce pride that included a love of sharing about the sandwich that really caught my attention when I spoke to a representative from this eatery.
Po’Boys have definitive roots in New Orleans that are part of the thread of the city’s history. But what makes Shrimp Po’Boys taste best in this area? I was told, “Freshness” of the shrimp just having been harvested, the “sweetness” he feels exists in the shrimp from the Gulf Coast and “the roll.” Not quite a French baguette. Something more unique. Crusty on the outside, light and airy and with holes like swiss cheese on the inside was the description.
And what makes them feel Mother’s Po’Boys are the best? “The custom blend seasoning.” I thoroughly enjoyed a conversation about a sandwich because of the excitement and pride displayed. Perhaps they are two of the ingredients making Mother’s Po’Boys so special.
Mother’s offered to share their Mother’s Shrimp Creole recipe with our readers. Don’t be surprised if, once you make it, you feel a connection to their family.
Three very different restaurants in the French Quarter section of probably the country’s seafood capital. Each with a different style “flavor.” But all three proudly delivering good food and their own uniqueness to the city, serving the community and tourists for 55 to nearly 100 years.
I’d be remiss if I add one more “shrimp lovers’ specialty” that’s tugging at me to include in this article.
Fun is practically mandatory in New Orleans. Drinking, though popular, is not.
But if you do drink and you wake up the next morning with a need for some breakfast along with a bit of “the hair of the dog that bit you,” head over to Café Fleur de Lis (91 French Market Place & 307 Chartres St. locations). Along with your choice of a shrimp or non-shrimp breakfast, you can have one of their popular Bloody Marys… garnished with shrimp!
Four suggestions worthy of “National Shrimp Day” and worth considering when you stay in New Orleans.
P.S. If you are organizing a group with at least five cabins and would like to add group activities such as sightseeing or meals, we can arrange the details that will customize your group and make you, the group leader, look like a rock star. Or perhaps, in this case, a jazz star!