#5 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries
Mr. B’s Bistro
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
In 1979, the Brennans revolutionized the the New Orleans dining scene around by opening Mr. B’sthis, the archetype of the casual, contemporary Creole bistro. Now restaurants like Mr. B’s dominate the scene. Its kitchen creates innovative and excellent Creole dishes from top-rung fresh ingredients, but serves them in an easy, informal way. Hickory-grilled fish, now common, was pioneered here; so was pasta as a non-Italian main course. Although a scan of the menu suggests that red meats are the main specialty, the seafood dishes are almost without exception the best versions anywhere of numerous contemporary Creole classic dishes.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Mr. B’s is the archetype of the gourmet Creole bistro as we know it. If food is almost everything to you in a restaurant, this is the place for you. It’s a comfortable, conveniently situated meeting place; even the parking is easy and cheap. The menu offers definitive versions of many essential New Orleans dishes: chicken-andouille gumbo, barbecue shrimp, wood-grilled fish, crab cakes, and bread pudding. The rest of the menu is filled with top-notch contemporary Creole cooking. The place always seems as if it will detonate into a party any minute.
First-class food without complexity or formality is the formula behind Mr. B’s. No dish will make you wonder what it is. The wood-burning grill (the first such something they pioneered in modern times here) turns out first-class fish, poultry, and steaks. The remainder of the menu has a distinctly local style, and employs first-class fresh ingredients. An almost-all-California wine list (the first such locally) is perfect for the food, and the bar makes generous drinks.
After closing restaurants for years following the 1973 family split, the Commander’s Palace side of the Brennan family opened Mr. B’s in 1979. It was the perfect restaurant for the time: the Baby Boom generation wanted good New Orleans food, but didn’t like the pomp of the grand restaurants. Mr. B’s became the most widely-copied restaurant in town, serving as the prototype for dozens of gourmet Creole bistros. It launched the restaurant careers of siblings Ralph, Cindy and Lally Brennan, who with their cousins now run the empire. Cindy Brennan Davis is the managing partner of Mr. B’s now. Deep backstory: for most of the 1900s, this was the famous Solari’s Italian food emporium, the center of what was once the New Orleans gourmet district.
The wide, long, dark-wood-paneled dining room always has a buzz. Full of local people (especially at lunch), the restaurant offers the opportunity to run into friends without trying. Live piano at night adds to the liveliness. It’s one big, somewhat dark, moderately noisy room with a semi-open kitchen. It’s so engaging a scene that the place is usually filled up to the bar, where you might well wait for a table. (The reservation system leaves lots of space for walk-ins.) The service staff and the wine list are both better than they need to be.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Crab cake, ravigote sauce
Fried oysters on the half shell, bacon-horseradish hollandaise
Panko-crusted fried shrimp, tasso, spinach, hot sauce beurre blanc
Jumbo sea scallops, pan-seared, spicy watercress, white truffle oil
Garlic truffle French fries
Gumbo ya ya (chicken, andouille sausage, strong chicken stock, dark roux)
Seafood gumbo (shrimp, oysters, crabmeat and okra)
Poached pear salad, baby greens, cranberries, blue cheese, pecans, port wine vinaigrette
Bacon-wrapped shrimp & yellow grits, red-eye gravy
Truffle-butter filet mignon, garlic potato rounds, sauteed spinach
Garlic chicken half, roasted garlic, oven-dried tomatoes, rosemary chicken reduction sauce
Barbecue shrimp (whole large Gulf shrimp, peppery butter sauce)
Wood-grilled fish, lemon butter sauce
Brandy & cider-braised rabbit, bacon, shiitake mushrooms, roasted garlic mashed potatoes
Honey & ginger-glazed, wood-grilled double pork chop, jasmine rice, julienne vegetables
Wood-grilled lamb chops, creamy hash browns, lamb and mint reduction sauce
American red snapper & crawfish tails, garlic spinach, fried green tomatoes, roasted red pepper butter sauce
Alaskan halibut, blue crab claws, lemon butter
Bread pudding, Irish whiskey sauce
Chocolate molten cup cake
Bananas Foster cake, banana-caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream
Hot buttered pecan pie, vanilla bean ice cream
FOR BEST RESULTS
Mr. B’s has a strange reservation system. They accept reservations for a limited number of tables, but for most of them it’s first-come, first served. Be sure when you call that you tell them you’re local, and don’t ask for 7:30 or 8 p.m. reservations unless they know you well.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The service staff is snappy and fun to deal with–unless the place is really busy, in which case you may need to fill gaps with conversation. People who have trouble getting around may not find Mr. B’s easy to navigate.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +2
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
- Live music every night
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Good for children
- Validated parking
- Reservations accepted