When I got to the Intercontinental Hotel, the Cutting Edged NOLA Keynote Speech was going on, followed by a legal panel about sports and entertainment law. At the end of that, I headed out to the lakefront and ate dinner at Landry’s Seafood House. Even though Landry’s is a chain, it is the restaurant nearest to Lake Pontchartrain and has the best view of the lake, and the food was very good, at least on this particular day.
I had been invited by my friend Darren Towns, the bass drummer for TBC Brass Band, to go around with the band to their gigs on the Saturday of Satchmo Fest, and for the better part of the afternoon I had. But when I found out that there was an hour and a half interregnum between gigs, I decided to head out to Lake Pontchartrain and try a restaurant that I had been seeing for about a year but had never tried called The Blue Crab.
Elsewhere in this blog, I have discussed the odd fact that the seafood cuisine of New Orleans and of the Mississippi Gulf Coast are rather different, despite close proximity, and that while it has been fairly easy to find fried seafood in New Orleans, it has not been nearly as easy to find the kind of gourmet seafood that is fairly common in Biloxi, Gulfport or Bay St. Louis. That now seems to be changing, and while Hurricane Katrina decimated the old seafood restaurants on the West End, a couple of new restaurants have appeared along what New Orleanians call the Lakefront, and the Blue Crab is one of them.
All of the new restaurants along Lakeshore Drive have certain things in common, chief of which is beautiful views of the lake, the marina and the yacht club, and the Blue Crab is no exception. The view from its outdoor dining deck is truly amazing, and the resort ambiance is far more akin to something from Florida than something from Louisiana. As for the menu, there is little unusual for a New Orleans seafood place, and the prices are fairly reasonable. I opted for the fish of the day, which was pompano, and had it prepared in an almondine style, where the fish was breaded and fried, then topped with a butter-based almond sauce. As one might imagine, it was amazingly good, and accompanied by french fries that were golden brown and delicious. I chose to end my meal with a slice of key lime pie, which I enjoyed while watching the sun go down in the west over the marina. All in all, I was pleased with the Blue Crab, and will likely return.
THE BLUE CRAB RESTAURANT & OYSTER BAR
7900 Lakeshore Drive
New Orleans, La 70124
As I was driving into New Orleans on Saturday night, I noticed a restaurant on Lakeshore Drive that I had not noticed before, a place called Brisbi’s on the Lake that clearly has a waterfront view. There really have been few dining options on Lake Pontchartrain since Hurricane Katrina, which wiped out all of the classic seafood restaurants at West End Park. Part of it was due to delays in the issuing of new flood maps to see where building would be permitted, and part of it was also due to a considerable amount of red tape in building on the waterfront. Fortunately, both Brisbi’s and the Blue Crab opened late last summer, joining the Landry’s franchise in the former Joe’s Crab Shack location. Brisbi’s proved to be a delightful experience. Downstairs is a covered yet outdoor bar, with a deck alongside the water and brightly-colored picnic tables, and a band playing on an outdoor stage. Upstairs is a restaurant with a beautiful view of the harbor from both indoors and from the outdoor deck. While New Orleans is known for seafood, it’s almost always the fried variety, which I have always found surprising. By contrast, Brisbi’s has a menu that more resembles the restaurants in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport and Biloxi that I grew up eating at, with Redfish Meuniere or Almondine, and Fish Pontchartrain. I had the almondine redfish, and was amazed at how good it was. Of course there are po-boys and burgers for those who want something a little less formal, but Brisbi’s seems to have the best (non-fried) seafood in New Orleans. It’s definitely worth a visit, and for the food as well as the view.
Brisbi’s on the Lake
7400 Lakeshore Dr
New Orleans, LA 70124
After crossing the twin spans on I-10 into New Orleans East, I decided to leave the interstate and head north to the lakeshore, since the sun was setting. Unfortunately, much of the lake view has been eclipsed by the Corps of Engineers’ new ugly but needful seawall installation, but after I got past the University of New Orleans campus, I got some beautiful views of the sun going down over the lake, while some people were out enjoying an early evening of fishing. Nearby, I saw that a new restaurant called Brisbi’s on the Lake had opened, and made a note that I needed to try it.
New Orleans really is an island, and approaching it from any direction, you must cross water, or at least swamps, so from Ponchatoula south to LaPlace, I-55 is strictly bridges, threaded between Lake Maurepas to the west and the much larger Lake Pontchartrain to the east. The area is beautiful, but very remote, with only one community to speak of, a place called Manchac, named for the Choctaw Indian word that means a pass, because the town is on the pass between the two lakes. Manchac consists of a church, a sheriff’s substation, a couple of fishing camps, a waterfront bar accessible only by boat, about 50 or so houses, and a world-famous restaurant called Middendorf’s.
Middendorf’s Seafood Restaurant has been around since 1934, and the name of the game there is catfish. They have many other options, and they offer both thick and thin catfish, but it is the unique, paper-thin fried catfish which has made Middendorf’s famous, and justifiably so. It is light, flaky and delicious, without even a trace of greasiness, accompanied by equally-good french fries. There is a full bar as well, and an outdoor deck and bar that is quite popular in good weather, since it has a beautiful view of Pass Manchac.
Unfortunately, at one time the future of Middendorf’s was in doubt. The historic restaurant has been buffeted by fires and floods, including a particularly destructive flood caused by Hurricane Ike, but the owners have rebuilt from each setback, and remain a favorite with people around Lake Pontchartrain as well as tourists on their way to or from the Big Easy. Middendorf’s is open for lunch and dinner on Wednesday through Sunday.
Middendorf’s Seafood Restaurant
30160 Hwy 51 S Manchac
Akers, LA 70421