There are so many world-class and world-famous restaurants in New Orleans, Louisiana. Some are priced WAY out of my price range. Probably MOST of the famous ones fall into that category. Emeril Lagasse has made a fortune in that city. There are certainly times when you are in the Big Easy to celebrate a significant birthday or anniversary. By all means, GO to one of those ritzy places and enjoy every bite.
However, if you want to have some great food at reasonable prices along with the other normal people in town, then may I suggest Gumbo Shop on Saint Peter Street in the French Quarter?
The building has been around for awhile. A restaurant has been in that spot since the 1940’s. It has something of a warehouse feel and look to it. The furnishings aren’t plush. They are serviceable. In other words, they “get the job done.” There were only a couple of unisex bathrooms with a long line of ladies waiting, but that’s not all that unusual, now is it?
You can’t make a reservation, so expect to stand in line for awhile if you don’t go early for lunch or dinner. Gumbo Shop is open daily starting at 11:00 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays it closes at 10:00 p.m., but on Fridays and Saturdays it stays open until 11:00 p.m.
I did some research on creole vs. cajun cuisine before our recent trip to Louisiana. I found that cajun is considered “country food” while creole is “city food.” Cajun cooks generally don’t use fancy ingredients, tomatoes or dairy products. Their ingredients come from the land. The “Holy Trinity” of cajun cuisine consists of onion, celery and bell pepper, and a cajun roux is made with oil and flour. On the other hand, creole cooks use many spices, prepare creamy soups and sauces, and their roux is made with butter and flour. Mark Falgoust, Executive Chef at Grand Isle Restaurant, said, “Cajun folks used 1 chicken to feed 3 families. Creoles used 3 chickens to feed 1 family.” Chef Isaac Toops at Mid-City Restaurant summed it all up by saying, “We have incredible ingredients here in Louisiana. Farm to table, gulf to table, swamp to table. We have it all.” Suffice it to say, that visitors to south Louisiana are in for some mighty good food.
But, back to Gumbo Shop. Under their name, they proudly say “Creole Cuisine.” Items you will find on their menu that you’ll rarely find in North Alabama: boudin (a type of sausage made with pork and rice), andouille (a sausage), crawfish (it might be in remoulade, in etouffee or over pasta), po-boys (big sandwiches made on French bread), and bread pudding. Oh my, the bread pudding.
Steve and I both ordered Complete Creole Dinners and got 3 courses for just $26.99 each. Actually a bargain in the French quarter, we thought. Perfect loaves of French bread are brought to the table to start the meal, and the rest was equally delicious. Besides the chicken and bread pudding pictured above, we had red beans and rice, 2 kinds of gumbo, macque choux corn, smothered turnip greens, shrimp creole and jambalaya. If you are a frequent visitor to New Orleans or if you are about to make your first trip, I believe you’ll be glad if you fit Gumbo Shop into your itinerary.