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Down Home Cookin' in the French Quarter

This entry is part of a series, New Orleans Scene»

Café Pontalba

Our first night in New Orleans, and we chose to see the French Quarter right away. Can you believe it? (I don’t count the previous evening, as we’d just arrived and were too tired to pub crawl explore properly.) It was a cool, dry night, not at all like New Orleans normally finds; a blue Northern cold front had come through a couple days before. We walked briskly from our hotel on Camp Street, just north of Lafayette Square, to the area around Jackson Square in the heart of the Quarter. We walked, talked and gawked like hicks from the sticks looked around for an hour or so.

Then our dinner alarms all went off, pretty much simultaneously.

There’s no dearth of great food in the Quarter, of course. Doesn’t matter that it’s only six blocks by twelve blocks in size! So we simply looked around nearby and voila! There it was: Our dinner location. Cafe Pontalba.

She’s not a fancy place, the Pontalba. And not new, either. That’s a good thing, though; means she’s got staying power. She can dress up with fancy settings and white tablecloths; she wasn’t, on Wednesday night. Table and chairs, a full bar, and at the time we arrived, almost no diners in sight. Perfect.

We were more than hungry enough to get the kitchen rolling. Nine diners, and I swore it would take a full safari train of bearers to get our order out to the table. Lots of goodies from their menu: Blackened Alligator Caesar Salad, Cajun Combination (Red Beans and Rice, Jambalaya, Gumbo), three orders of the Ragin Cajun Pasta (fettucine in a spicy cream sauce, with Gulf shrimp, Andouille and crawdad tails), and Po’Boys. Dr. T had the Crawfish one, and I had the Hot Roast Beef.

Pontalba Buildings

That sandwich was awesome! Lots of thinly sliced beef, smothered in a pepper-spicy gravy. On a massive loaf of French bread. With enough fries on the side to tide your usual fast food restaurant over for a week. I didn’t need to add any pepper to the meat, either. The zing from the gravy was intense; about like what the pepper crust on a quality blackened steak would be, but all through the entrée, not just on the outside.

We might have had seven starving college students in our crowd, but the quantity of food that hit the table was more than enough to stuff them full. Several carry-home boxes were loaded with goodies for our walk (or waddle, take your pick) back to the rooms. Along the way the troop stopped for a cheap cooler and some ice, so the food would keep until the next day. No sense in letting any of that great flavor go to waste!

Should you find yourself anywhere near the Pontalba, with even the least hint of appetite, give it a try. You’ll likely be glad you did…

Cafe Pontalba on Urbanspoon

Cafe Pontalba, 546 St. Peter, New Orleans, LA 70130 Open 7 days a week; Monday-Friday at 10:30 AM, Saturday and Sunday at 9:30 AM; they don’t close until, until…

Enjoy the (Real Cajun & Creole) Heat!

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