Friday, February 17, 2012

Restaurant Review: Le Bayou (French Quarter)

Say you’re in the Quarter, looking for a good meal for under $20 a plate.  You want a variety of choices with plenty of local flair. You want atmosphere, ambience, & perhaps a pint of something local.

Say you’re also on Bourbon Street near Canal.  You hear the raucous noise of 50 circuses, all ongoing at the same time, the sidewalk barkers trying to coersce everyone and anyone into their doors.  You hesitate—do I REALLY want to venture down that path?  Of course you do.  Because you need to get to Le Bayou Restaurant.

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It’s just a couple blocks off Canal Street, at 208 Bourbon.  Is this fine dining?  No.  For that you’d have to go across the street to the famous Galatoire’s or GW Fins.  (Both of which are AMAZING, FYI.)  But you’d also have to shell out $20-35 per entree.  At Le Bayou, you can get a nice variety of local fare in the $10-20 dollar range.


The restaurant is set up a bit like your favorite sports bar; plenty of small tables, a few TVs broadcasting whatever game is on, and plenty of local kitsch on the walls and ceiling.  But it feels comfortable and homey, and you know they won’t judge you for wearing jeans (and perhaps a couple beads around your neck).  The service staff is top-notch—cheery, jovial, full of stories (true or not) and helpful advice for navigating the menu.  Our server Doc gave us his “60-second dissertation” discussing the ‘biggest sellers’ vs. his personal faves.  We decided to go with his recommendations; I got the shrimp & grits, & my husband ordered the Blackened Redfish.  We also sampled a variety of regional brews & settled on Tin Roof’s Brown Ale to accompany our meals.

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Neither of us were disappointed.  The redfish came with crab-boiled vegetables (carrots, zucchini, onions, and ever-so-amazing new potatoes) and the fish was grilled/seasoned to perfection.  The shrimp were perfectly cooked and the grits…well…I usually am not a huge fan of grits (I know, I know, my Yankee is shining through—it’s a texture thing. I don’t like Cream of Wheat either), but these were fantastic.  Very creamy and flavorful and not gritty at all.  The grits were portioned in a stack between oh-so-delicious fried green tomatoes…it really is a heavenly & beautiful dish.  SUPER rich though—I couldn’t finish it.  I’d recommend boxing half of it to savor the next day or sharing with a friend.

The meal is served with soft, fresh French bread and delicious unsalted butter.  As every good meal should be.

As we enjoyed our meal, we chatted with relative ease—the clamor and barrage of music from the rest of Bourbon Street is partially filtered out by some miracle of acoustics and muted to a respectful level where one can sit back & watch the passersby, or completely tune them out, at his or her own discretion.

Food is served with what Doc referred to as a “Level 2” amount of spice (aka relatively mild) which can be dialed up or down based on the diner’s preference.

They also have a raw oyster bar (and offer some really tasty chargrilled options for those who prefer their mollusks cooked) and about seven different regional beers on tap, from brewers like Abita, Covington, Tin Roof, Lazy Magnolia, and NOLA.

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