We decided to rent a car for the day so that we could not only drive out to Abita Springs and tour the famous Abita Brewery, but also take a swamp tour up in Slidell, Louisiana. After seeing several alligators, turtles, and birds, it was nearly lunchtime and the group was pretty hungry.
I checked out some well-received places on Yelp and came across Southside Café, and since it was only ten minutes away from where we were at the time as well as a local hangout, it seemed like a no-brainer.
We started our meal off with an order of crawfish balls. It was basically crawfish meat blended with stuffing that was then breaded, deep-fried, and served with a side of remoulade. It proved to be an excellent starter as the homemade remoulade really complimented the flavor of the crawfish.
Learning from my past mistake at Johnny’s, I opted for a half order of the house specialty, the muffaletta, in fear of receiving too large a sandwich this time around.
Well, it turns out that I should have ordered a quarter of a sandwich had such an option existed on the menu. The supposed “half order” was monstrous! I cannot fathom someone actually ordering let alone eating a whole muffaletta. It would feed a family of four easily.
As for the sandwich itself, it was not only very good but also unique. One of New Orleans’ signature dishes, the muffaletta features ham, mortadella, salami, provolone, all of which is piled high on round Italian “muffaletta” bread.
The centerpiece, however, is the olive salad that is layered on top. The combination of the meats and cheese with the marinated olives and slightly toasted bread was divine, so much in fact that I could only eat half of it. Rest assured the remaining half would not make it the rest of the day.
Rachel ordered a half order of the seafood muffaletta and, needless to say, hers was even harder to consume given the shear height of the sandwich. She got a seafood combo of shrimp, oysters, flounder, and catfish, and while delicious, a quarter was more than enough food to last through the late evening. She decided to get the olive salad on the side, which proved rather difficult to manually place inside the sandwich, and wound up just trying some of it a la carte.
After lunch, we made our way towards the Abita Brewery to checkout the home one of our favorite brews (Purple Haze, for those inquiring).
This might have been my favorite brewery tour as we not only got to see the brewery actually in operation, but also had the opportunity to serve ourselves from nearly a dozen or so brews on tap!
And the best part? It was all free!
After we returned the car and took a nap back at the hotel, it was on to Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA for dinner.
We started things off by splitting two appetizers amongst the four of us. First we had the stuffed chicken wings with homemade Hoisin sauce. We found out from the waiter that the “wings” were stuffed with shrimp, pork, and noodles, almost like a Southern take-off of an egg roll. Seeing how the table quickly devoured them, I’d say they were a hit.
The second dish was the andouille sausage and shrimp gumbo and it was simply outstanding. Rich in flavor and perfect texture, it was arguably the best gumbo I’ve ever had. Then again, being in New Orleans while eating at one of its most famous chef’s restaurants, this should come as no surprise.
For my entrée, I ordered the grilled pork chop which was served with sweet potatoes, toasted pecans, and a caramelized onion reduction sauce. While I thought the pork chop was rather flavorful, it was a bit too dry for my liking despite asking for it to be cooked medium rare which took it down a notch or two (sorry, couldn’t resist).
Rachel got one of the most famous Southern staples, shrimp and grits. These shrimp were really large and coated with a delicious barbeque sauce. They were swimming in a pool of cheddar smoked grits topped with apple smoked bacon, crimini mushrooms and red chili-Abita butter sauce. Delish. I was actually drooling more over her dish than mine, and of course, finished it off.
At the end of the night, we decided on splitting the chocolate bread pudding for dessert. Accompanied with sweet potato ice cream (!), chocolate sauce, and caramel, it was decadent to say the least. The bread pudding itself was great, especially since it was still very warm, but mixing it with the sweet potato ice cream made it that much better.
As for those muffaletta leftovers? Let’s just say a late evening spent on Frenchman Street took care of that.
Stay tuned for Day Three of our New Orleans adventure…