#17 Among The 33 Best Seafood Eateries
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Old Metairie is old, affluent, and unique. Restaurants there operate under different rules. They find a healthy lunch crowd, a preference for earlier dining than elsewhere, and a desire for retro food and service. One more oddity: people from other parts of town are reluctant to go to Old Metairie to dine, fearing that they’ll get caught at the railroad crossing for a long time–even if their destination doesn’t require crossing the tracks.
Ralph Brennan–the most business-savvy member of his famous restaurant family–saw an opportunity in Old Metairie. Even in a restaurant space where four previous eateries had failed. As usual, his hunch–and his keen ability to match a restaurant with a clientele–was on target. Cafe B was the nicest surprise from Ralph until Brennan’s on Royal Street opened a few months ago.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Old Metairie has a preference for at least the trappings of culinary sophistication. Ralph Brennan’s early promise that Cafe B would be a casual neighborhood spot didn’t play out as expected. His customers wanted him to run an upscale bistro, not a blue-place-special neighborhood cafe. He wasted no time turning that around, and now Cafe B’s kitchen here is as ambitious as any of his others. That’s is apparent both on the plate and on the check. The hamburger is just an illusion.
This is a good restaurant for eating light, with many house specialties among the salads, seafood, and salads with seafood. The style of cooking is unambiguously New Orleans, although the gumbos and remoulades are outnumbered four-to-one by more original dishes. Fish is the most impressive specialty and imaginatively turned out. Also here is a scattering of retro dishes like macaroni and cheese (great) and panneed veal (not so great).
Cafe B is where a plantation road intersected with New Orleans’s oldest highway in the 1700s. The area underwent redevelopment about fifteen years ago, from which emerged an overpriced sushi restaurant called the Noble Bistro. It was replaced in 2006 by the New City Grille, a slightly upscale neighborhood bistro that did well until the owner’s personal problems shut the place down. Ralph Brennan–of Red Fish Grill, Ralph’s on the Park, and three other restaurants–renovated the space in 2010 and opened in April 2011. Chris Montero, from Ralph’s now-closed Bacco, became Cafe B’s chef.
Although Cafe B is dressed down (no tablecloths) and set up a little densely, it’s a comfortable restaurant. The well-designed, V-shaped space breaks the dining areas into three, keeping the noise down without obviating the possibility of seeing friends. An attractive bar (where you may eat as well as drink) is at the apex. The service staff is casual and chatty. The parking lot looks bigger than it is; you will probably need to use the free valet service.
More ruminations appear in our Dining Diary. Click on any of the dates below for those reports, each written a few days after a meal at Café B.
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Crispy parmesan eggplant sticks
Crab beignet, ravigote dipping sauce
Oyster artichoke soup
Chicken & andouille gumbo
Chilled wedge salad
Fresh Gulf fish, crabmeat, brabant potatoes
Coriander scallops, satsuma-chili gastrique, shaved fennel
Grilled black drum, aged balsamic
Fried oyster linguine, housemade bacon, garlic, leeks
Hanger steak, demi-glace, garlic frites, brussels sprouts, bearnaise
Apple praline cake
Warm whiskey bread pudding
Meyer lemon cheesecake
Satsuma dreamsicle pie
FOR BEST RESULTS
Ralph is promotion-minded, starting with the early-evening menu (three courses, $18.50) and an all-evening happy hour (with 50-cent raw oysters). On Tuesday evenings, they give free wine samples. The desserts are better and much prettier than one expects.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The prices are a shade high, and the entree portions are sometimes a little short. On chilly nights, the single front door allows uncomfortable drafts to pass through the dining room.
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 +1
- Value -1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +1
- Local Color +1
- Good for business meetings
- Early-evening specials
- Open Sunday lunch
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Good for children
- Free valet parking
- Reservations recommended