Don's Seafood & Steak House
I always remind Don that it's his restaurant and we need to stop. If they had a restaurant named Beth's, I wouldn't wait 20 years to check it out.
We've also been eager to have a Don's experience, because the fine eatery is featured in our vintage cookbook.
Last March, Don and I spent a night in Lafayette, in the heart of Cajun Country. We decided to give Don's a try!
It was Ash Wednesday, when we arrived in Lafayette. The night before, the small city had celebrated with big Mardi Gras festivities.
The corner restaurant was just a 2-minute drive from our inn, so we drove over to check it out in the afternoon. It was quiet and deserted, with a few barricades, left over from the parades. I cracked open the cookbook to compare the illustration of Don's. I could see the corner entrance and some of the old glass block. Lots had been covered with shutters. Funny... the watercolor image showed a Mardi Gras parade!
Lamps and Neon
The old building looked a little weary in the bright sunshine, but I could see that things would be glowing in a few hours.
There were lots of "gas lights" and a few unlit neon messages. One said "Since 1934". I believe the French-Acadian restaurant opened as Don's Beer Parlor, in 1934
I spotted a few beads, left over from the Mardi Gras festivities. I spotted a sign, that mentioned the Landry brothers, Don, Ashby and Willie. At one time all 3 had a part in this business, which was combined with Willie's grocery store.
Don and I arrived for dinner at about 7. It was actually fairly busy at that time, so I waited till later to snap some photos.
I was a little unclear, which part was original in 1934. There had obviously been some expansion and a bit of remodeling.
The main dining area, was filling up steadily.
But the bar had a loud TV and the wrong ambience. We headed back towards the arched entrance, into the oddly bright and quiet, dining room.
Brick and Photos
The dining room had a retro Super Club feel to it, with white table cloths and black napkins. There had been a little updating, with enlarged photos, mounted on the brick walls.
I love a restaurant that spotlights their history. I'm sure all the photos had good stories, but I just guessed at them. Our server was very busy. I only asked about the man in the suit and glasses.
Frenchy was a well-loved employee of Don's for over 45 years. Her rode his bike to work, into his late seventies.
One of the restaurant's refurbished rooms is named for Frenchy. I love stories like that!
Don and I were seated beneath a few fishing photos, then we dug into our menus.
The menu cover had black and white photo, of Don's. I'm guessing in the 1960's.
We opened to a colorful page, with cocktail suggestions. Our Cajun fiddler, at the B & B had recommended the very powerful, Don's Old Fashion. The drinks that came in Don's glasses, looked mighty inviting!
Don with Don's Old Fashion
I of course had to get a photo of Don with his glass. I'm afraid I failed to capture his cocktail very well. There was a lot going on in that drink! I enjoyed the sugar-stick-stir-er!
I usually only like a Bloody Mary at a brunch, but I went all out. It came with pickled okra, a green bean and olives on a pink sword! That was a meal in itself. Both drinks were powerful and packed with flavor. I couldn't finish... but that's just me.
I went for the Cajun Casserole, which was a combo of shrimp and crabmeat dressing and eggplant. My baked potato was the size of small animal! All good!
Don worked on his Crawfish Half & Half, with fried and Etouffee. Both meals were huge and filling and tasty.
We watched the tables empty and finally we were the only ones left.
Gina and the Cookbook
Things were finally relaxed enough to chat with Gina, our super upbeat server.
I pulled out the book, with the Crawfish Etouffee recipe. She leaned in and gave the page a good look, before she reared back with a laugh. "Where did you get this?"
Sharing and Posing
Gina rewarded us with the perfect reaction. She asked if she could borrow the book to show others in the kitchen. That's always a good sign.
She disappeared for a bit, then returned, grinning with the book. We chatted a while, before Gina and Don did a little posing for my camera.
A Good Night at Don's
The staff couldn't have been sweeter. We had slowed things down with our cookbook and a couple of purchases... Don's cocktail glasses were for sale, at $5. each.
As we headed towards the doors, some lingering staff wished us well and thanked us for coming. I'm pretty sure we were the only non-locals on Ash Wednesday. We certainly were the only diners who brought a show-and-tell item.
A fun little Dining and Cookbook Adventure, for sure!
Christmas Eve Brunch in Nola
We wandered from our hotel in the French Quarter and arrived at the iconic restaurant on Royal Street, at 10:30.
I was excited to finally visit the Royal Street restaurant. The building has been here for 132 years, but it wasn't always a restaurant.
The French, townhouse-style building was first home to the Cavalier family. In 1886 the house and street level store was purchased and two sisters from an aristocratic Creole family, opened up a fine notions shop.
When we entered the restaurant on Christmas Eve morning, it was hard to picture the space, back in the day.
Emma and Bertha would have displayed imported gowns and perfumes in their shop.
I wonder where the arched doorway would have led, before it was turned into bar seating?
I'm sure the brick fireplace kept the shop cozy on cold mornings. On pleasant days, the sisters would have escorted their special guests, back to the courtyard for cakes and tea.
It was nice to arrive before the things got too busy. The staff was cheery and relaxed, inviting us to take a look around and decide if we wanted to eat in, or out.
The famous courtyard is the largest in New Orleans. It looked inviting with its wishing well and fountains. But it was a tiny bit chilly on that December morning.
Royal Court and Grand Marquis
I found more dining areas upstairs and in the front of the building.
They weren't serving in the formal spaces, but it was fun to see all the chandeliers and white tablecloths. The Fein Family has owned and run the restaurant since 1963.
I'm how these spaces were used before then. The Sisters closed shop in the early 1900's. I believe the building has been serving food and drink since the 1920's.
Back downstairs, we peeked in the Terrace Dining Room. It looked inviting, with a jazz trio and large windows, overlooking the courtyard.
The dining room was bright and airy, but the green garden colors lured us outside.
Table by the Fountain
The air was cool, but we warmed up with coffee. Chicory! We knew we were in New Orleans.
Our waiter Mario, kept the coffee coming. He said he'd only been at The Court for 2 years, but he had worked at another famous nearby restaurant for 42 years. "You were hired as a baby?" I asked. He laughed and said he started working at Brennan's, at age 12.
It was nice to be some of the first guests to hit the buffet. What a wonderful spread!
First I took a good look at all the options in the inviting, black and white serving area. There was an Eggs Benedict station and a meat carving station.
There were Creole favorites, like turtle soup and crawfish pasta.
Best of all, there were lots of Christmas sweets and pieces of Christmas King Cake!
Feasting in the Courtyard
While Don and I feasted, I waited for the right moment to share a little something with Mario.
When there seemed to be a lull in activity, I pulled the old Ford Motor Cookbook from my bag.
"Does this recipe look familiar?" I asked. Mario took a long look at the old book from 1959. He laughed at the courtyard image, that accompanied the recipe for Shrimp Au Gratin. "Where is this from!"
Yay! I love adding a cookbook adventure to an already fun meal. It almost always gets a good reaction, but I had been a little concerned about sharing on a busy holiday. Mario showed the book to a couple other waiters, then he happily agreed to pose with us. So fun!
We finished up and wished Mario a Merry Christmas.
Instead of heading out through the old house, we exited through the back of the courtyard. We passed through a gate, that seemed to match the wrought iron in the cookbook illustration.
How have these separate buildings been used over the years? Did many buildings share the courtyard equally? I left with so many questions about this old place.
Cheers to three generations of Feins, for keeping this restaurant running on Royal Street for so many years. Cheers to Emma and Bertha! It was a fun dining adventure!
Lunch Near the Great River Road
It's been 4 years since we stopped for lunch at the Creole House. But the memories linger and it's time for a quick recall.
Road Side Dining
A few Octobers ago, Don and I were headed with "the kids" to tour the Whitney Plantation. Before crossing the Mississippi River, we drove through the small town of Paulina. Pop. 1,178. The Creole House, with porch and swing, looked like our best bet for lunch.
Dark Wood and Dark Doors
There was a tavern feel to the cozy building. There were Saints flags and banners and an area where live music happened, in the later hours. I was especially curious about the thick, rounded doors, on one wall.
Surrounded in Wood
Victoria brought our menus and I struggled to understand her Cajun accent. I wanted to ask more questions about the building, which looked old, with pine walls and ceiling. But I was having a hard enough time, just communicating about food.
While our orders cooked, I explored. I loved the red windows that peeked into the kitchen. I should have counted the fleur de lis decor, since I spotted the first, on the roof.
Fire Place and Christmas Tree
The far end of the dining room looked very festive with a cozy fireplace and a Christmas tree... even though it was October. It looked like the inside of an old house and I wanted to know more.
The Rounded Doors
We chatted while awaiting our food and Victoria refilled waters. I asked about the wonderful doors, that looked like they should have been in a castle somewhere. She just said they separated the dining room and the bar.
I wimped out and ordered a cheeseburger and salad, which was fine. But Scott and Chali played it right and ordered the big platter of fried shrimp, fish and oysters with onion rings, biscuit and a bowl of seafood gumbo. That's the way to do it!
At the Counter
While checking out at the counter, I managed to have a quick chat with Victoria. I didn't learn anything more about the curious building or the restaurant's history, but I learned about the wooden, pyramid decoration near the bubble gum machines. Victoria lit up, when I inquired!
Bonfires on the Levee Tradition
I believe this is pretty much what Victoria said... Every Christmas Eve, wooden structures line the levee. Locals gather to celebrate with friends, family and food, as the structures are lit. She said she'd grown up with the tradition and had fond memories. "The kids love it!" She smiled and added shyly, that she'd been a part of the pageant last year. I'm guessing that would be the Miss Festival of the Bonfires Pageant... but I'm not sure.
So I learned a little something fun. We'll have to return some evening and enjoy some live music in the cozy Creole House. Better yet, we'll come on Christmas Eve and sneak a peek at the glowing levee!
Tiki, Nola Style!
I'm having a throwback spotlight on a tiki-evening we enjoyed in the French Quarter.
Up We Go!
A year ago in May, we were in New Orleans for our son's graduation from Tulane Law. This was one of the places he wanted us to experience.
You just have to do what your son wants, so we entered the white door and headed up the stairs. Two wicker chairs welcomed us, with some coconut art!
Tiki bars are almost always dark. It takes some nerve to flash your camera, when the locals are gathered at the bamboo-canopy-bar.
Art on a Brick Wall
But the island masks and ship decor were all worthy of my camera's sudden spotlight.
Luckily it was early and there was ample seating available. We found the best corner.
Moai and Flames!
Sitting beneath the Moai tiki god, we felt the need to order something equally bold. The flaming bowl of booze lit up the corner!
Heidi and Jamie
Our daughter and her fiancee were happy to demonstrate, how to share a rum-filled cocktail.
Plus Boozy Bears
To balance out the dangerous adult drink, we added a playful order of gummy bears on ice. Of course the bears were filled with alcohol, so it wasn't exactly balancing anything.
It's kind of scary how many photos we have with our kids enjoying cocktail adventures. Oh well.
With the Parents
This guy graduated from law school the next day, so I guess all our parenting wasn't bad. Cheers to Scott and cheers to tiki bars!
It's hard to believe this sweet old thing sitting on the corner, was already 100 years old on the day I was born!
This is how an artist depicted the restaurant in 1963. The retro image shows Tujague's at a time when tourists were beginning to flock. 100 years earlier, farmers, butchers and other workmen from the French Market across the street, were the only customers.
Family Gathering in May
We gathered outside Tujague's a couple weeks ago, to begin a celebratory weekend. Our son's law school graduation gave us lots to celebrate, but we'd already been celebrating for 3 years. Nola is a great place to visit and we've come often, to celebrate anything we can think of!
I showed my vintage cookbook to our waiter, but he was a little too young to be impressed. Luckily, they did serve the specialty from the book. The menu's entree title, Boiled Brisket of Beef with Creole Horseradish Sauce, sounded much better than the book's name, Boiled Beef. The appetizer portion had a good zing with the sauce. The Creole Turtle soup was a yummy start as well.
Smiles and Bread
You can see beneath the smiles, there's and empty soup bowl. That's a good sign. The fact that there are still loaves of fresh bread only means I was holding back. I could have eaten all the yummy bread myself!
The Famous Stand Up Bar
A few framed photos of Tujague's old cypress bar, made me curious. My 10 pm photo shows only ghosts at the bar. The antique print, did make me wonder about all the men who drank beer or Sazeracs in the past 161 years. What kinds of deals were made? What were the jokes they told?
Foot on the Railing
I wonder who was the first woman to put her foot on the brass foot rail? I put my foot down in a most noncommittal way. The men in the photo look like they're staring at a woman (much braver than me) who dared to put her foot on the rail.
Sharing the Book
There was one gentleman at the end of the bar, who was curious enough to take a peek at the book before I hurried back to the table. He seemed a bit amused by the book's simple recipe.
Dinner is Served
I didn't bother our waiter with picture taking, but I snapped a pic of the rest of the group, ready to dig in.
My Vegetarian Gnocchi was creamy and rich and delicious. I could only eat half. Don's Speckled Trout Almandine was a healthier and even yummier choice.
By the time a few bread puddings were devoured, the group was fairly relaxed. Maybe those Grasshoppers or Whiskey Punches added to the relaxed state. Those are 2 of the drinks made famous at Tujague's Bar, many years ago.
Our party was last to depart. The front room was getting prepped for the next day's lunch. As we passed through the empty bar, we noticed the throne-like Crown Royal chair. Scott tried it out, sitting beneath photos of Tujague's previous owner, Steven Latter. Evidently Mr. Latter also enjoyed that throne, back in the day. It was a good and proper way to end the evening!
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.