Don and I haven't dined out a whole lot, during the pandemic.
But in November 2021, we had a dining adventure or two, in New Orleans. On the day before Thanksgiving, we joined my brother and sister-in-law for a fun mini-adventure at Stein's Market and Deli.
We walked from our hotel to the deli, located on Magazine Street. There were lots of signs on the weathered door. The sign in the center got my attention. "No Mask No Service".
Nola doesn't seem like the safest city to visit, during a pandemic. I don't think it attracts the kind of people who like to follow rules. But we heard that restaurants and bars in the French Quarter were requiring vaccination cards. Suddenly dining out sounded safer and more appealing.
Masks and Card Requirement?
Actually no one "carded" us at the deli. Maybe they have different rules in the Lower Garden District.
But, Don, Chris, Karen and I were vaccinated and we were hungry. We headed in.
Where are we?
Once we were inside the hip little joint, I suddenly felt like I was somewhere far from New Orleans.
I didn't spot any Mardi Gras beads, so it didn't feel like Louisiana. It seemed a little friendlier than NYC. I spotted some medical scrubs and a few hipster hats... some possible students and professors... I'd say it most felt like we were in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
We stood in line and read the menu. There were no Shrimp Po-Boys on the menu. No Cajin this and Creole that. That's okay, we've sampled all that on past trips.
Stein's is a Jewish-Italian deli, so we had other options. We could order Bagels or a Meatball Sub. Or maybe Chopped Liver and Matzah Ball Soup!
After ordering we were able to grab a few stools, at the end of a long table, across from a case of meat and cheese. I heard they have 50 different kinds of cheese, from all over the world.
I studied the staff behind the counter as we waited for our order. I don't think I spotted anyone who could have been the owner, Dan Stein. He evidently moved from Philadelphia to Nola and opened this place in 2007.
Chris and Karen got their food first. They wisely split a Ruben sandwich. I was pretty sure I made the wrong choice when I saw their yummy feast on swirly bread.
I watched the masked staff bustle behind the counter, while I waited for my sandwich. Each time an order came up, there was a muffled announcement that totally confused me. Twice, I eagerly rushed up, only to be turned away. "Oops! Sorry, I thought you said..."
Finally our order was ready. Don ordered the Stein's version of a Muffuletta sandwich.
It was made with Mortadella, Molinari Sopressata, Tuscan ham, Aged Provolone, House-Made Olive Salad, on Ciabatta.
My Egg Salad was just a little lacking in flavor, but it still sort of hit the spot.
Don and I each had a half of a sandwich left. We packaged up the leftovers and meandered back to the hotel.
We took our time, studying all the beautiful homes. By the time we reached our hotel on St.Charles Street, I'd worked up an appetite!
Glad to have those leftovers! Perfect!
Pot of Gold or Port of Gold?
While traveling in Oregon last summer, I searched the internet for a good lunch stop. I spotted a cafe, at POT of Gold Beach! Hey, fun! Let's go!
Oops! I read too fast. It was PORT of Gold Beach. But that sounded fun, too. I liked the name of the cafe as well. The Port Hole Cafe (Not Pot Hole Cafe) sounded like a fun seafood place!
The Cannery and Fish Market
We followed GPS to the small town of Gold Beach. The port was just south of the Rogue River Bridge. We parked and headed over to the Cannery complex.
I had hoped to find an old wooden structure, with lots of fishermen stopping in for lunch. What we found was a a little more spiffed up. The original cannery from the 1960's had been replaced.
Fish Market, Processing Plant..
We still got to see a little activity as we walked down to the cafe. We passed the Fish Market and I got to peek in and watch a guy in a slick yellow apron, go to work on a big fish!
I'm sure things were very different in the 1960's, when ocean troll salmon fishing was at its peak. Economic and environmental issues forced change.
Port Hole Cafe
We found the cafe entrance near a serious little fisherman statue. I wish there had been a real fisherman around, so I could hear some stories.
This space opened in 1998, as a retail facility with restaurant and commercial fish processing facilities. I was hoping for an authentic seafood joint, where fishermen dined, decades ago. But we could tell the place was popular as we followed others in. That was a good sign.
At noon and cafe was hopping. We had to wait for a table, so I had some time to look around and absorb the atmosphere.
Seafood joint with knotty pine and fishing decor. Dining guests with overalls and camo hats. It all fit. And how about that Tsunami Hazard Zone sign, above the door. Decoration or real?
I wondered about our fellow diners. I didn't spot any obvious travelers like us.
Mostly the folks appeared to be locals. The Gold Beach community is only a couple thousand people, so it's not surprising that many seemed to know each other.
Where to Sit?
I wasn't in the mood to beg for a great table. But I hoped for one with a view of the harbor.
How about a table overlooking the Mighty Rogue River? I was impressed to realize this view was so very close to where the Rogue River meets the Pacific.
I was very curious about a few booths, with wooden divider walls. I've never seem that.
I watched a large family getting seated at two booths. The divider was lifted so they could dine together. Clever!
At the Bar?
We were invited to sit at the bar if we wanted to be seated faster.
We could have kept an eye on the kitchen if we'd taken at seat there.
Instead we went for a tall round table, with 2 stools. It wasn't perfect, but we were hungry.
I had been hoping to spot a port hole or two in our restaurant. We had a couple right next to our table. We could spy on our neighbors!
As we sat waiting for our menus, I took in the important messages on signs and shirts. Beside our table, I read a sign with a big red crab, "We serve CRABS... actually we'll serve anybody." Important to know.
That was some corny humor with the crab sign. Our server was pretty rushed and had no sense of humor. When I asked how old the cafe was, she didn't answer. She just spun around so I could see the back of her shirt that told me the date was 1984. That wasn't funny, but I noticed another server's shirt. "A quaint little Drinking Town with a Fishing Problem". Now that's sort of funny.
Views and Treasures
We didn't get one of the tables with a view of boats or seagulls or bridge. But we could look straight down at our table and see treasures!
We could study the sand dollar and pennies, sea glass and rope. I'm all for an interesting table top.
Our food actually came quickly and it hit the spot.
Don went for an Albacore grilled tuna melt, with coleslaw and pickle. Simple but delicious.
I couldn't resist coconut shrimp and French fries. They looked unimpressive with their skinny shape, but they were hot and crisp and tasty, with a spicy-sweet sauce.
Our quick little lunch at The Port, was hardly an adventure. But sometimes there's just a little something that makes it more memorable. I had a quick chat on the way out, with the owner. He said his mother originally owned the Port Hole Cafe, when it was located in an old house, 25 years ago.
As we talked, I noticed a photo in a crafty frame behind him. "Is that Ernest Borgnine?" Yep, that was his mom with Ernest. He used to come to Port Hole, on visits to the area. I read on the internet that he died at age 92 in 2012. He used to drive his motorhome up to the Rogue River to watch the salmon. I don't know why it pleased me to picture this old actor enjoying some shrimp or salmon at the Port Hole.
Before climbing back in the car, I had Don do a quick pose with this fine fisherman. Don was nice to go along with my photo request.
A dining adventure is always more memorable if there's a photo op with a statue. Good way to end!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.