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You Can Get (Almost) Anything You Want at 25 Definitive New Orleans Restaurants

Of course we all know New Orleans restaurants and New Orleans food is known and celebrated the world over. For the last hundred years or so lots of books have been written about our food culture along with numerous cookbooks. Novelist Steven Wells Hicks has done something a little different from the norm in his book 25 Definitive New Orleans Restaurants.

Get this book to learn the fascinating ins and outs of New Orleans restaurants

Get this book to learn the fascinating ins and outs of New Orleans restaurants

You Can Get (Almost) Anything You Want at 25 Definitive New Orleans Restaurants

To be honest when I was sent this book to review I put it off for the longest time, it just did not seem that interesting to me. I thought, why write a book that’s about just a handful of New Orleans restaurants and bars? Some of the them I’d never even heard of before. Well, as the saying goes, you can’t always tell a book by its cover.

I have nothing against the cover, looks nice and clean and informs the reader of the gist of the book. But one evening I put my trepidations aside, cracked the book open, and was pleasantly surprised from the first page.

Hicks, a transplant to the city, has chosen several of the most famous and popular New Orleans restaurants, along with several I didn’t even know existed! Ha, and me supposedly being this big expert about all things New Orleans. Well, I guess I’ve now been shown a thing or two.

The author writes in a fun, engaging tone about his experiences in each one. He adds to that the history of the place, its fascinating personality and the cast of characters that make up the owners and its patrons thus providing a microcosm of just what makes the city of New Orleans unique in all the world.

Author Steven Wells Hicks brings his novelist skills to writing about his favorite New Orleans restaurants and bars.

Author Steven Wells Hicks brings his novelist skills to writing about his favorite New Orleans restaurants and bars.

Being a novelist he is able to write vividly with wit and humor with a novelist’s flair. This makes the book enjoyable to read. And to be honest, I’ve been reading it very slowly, sometimes only doing a chapter or two a night.

And he does not sugarcoat things either. When he talks of Antoine’s, yes that venerable place, he provides a brief fascinating history but in giving his overall review does not pull any punches. He acknowledges that local patrons have been pretty much aware for several years now that the food is not what it used to be, so he recommends eating there for lunch simply because prices are a lot better than in the evening.

Besides giving reviews on some of the famous places like Mandina’s, Galatoire’s, Willie Mae’s, and Mosca’s he also gives his take on neighborhood favorites like Clancy’s, Rocky and Carlo’s, and others.

Some I’ve never heard of like Cafe 615 (“Da Wabbit”), Sal’s, and Seither’s out in Harahan. And for the last restaurant he reviews Tujaque’s which, sadly, has seen a lot better times and, as he indicates, is in need of a complete overhaul.

I remember when we had a small family reunion of sorts years ago we all ate upstairs in this historic old joint, a place original intended to provide cheap meals for dock workers back in the 1800s. We sat at a big round table in this small room where the floor tilted to one side. Some of the young people with us were kind of freaked out by it, but the adults thought it was cool because it was just the character of the place and added to its quirkiness and sense of history. It was a four or five course meal as I remember and was okay.

He finishes the book with reviews of twelve bars around the city, and I must confess that most of them I had never heard of and now reading about them am tempted to make a pilgrimage to each one.

He does mention two of my favorites: Napoleon House, in my opinion the best all around bar in the city with the added bonus that it also serves good food, and Arnaud’s French 75, a classic, cozy, elegant place, an oasis from all the hubbub in the Quarter. To me it’s the kind of place that’s best enjoyed by dressing up a bit, sipping on a Sazerac (one of the best in the city) and engaging in quiet conversation.

He points up other bars like Cosimo’s (did Oswald plot the assassination of JFK here?), Marky’s Bar, The Blind Pelican that are not on my list of bars I knew about or even heard of. But he writes about them engagingly enough to make me want to try them out at my next opportunity.

The back cover says this book is “required reading for serious food fanciers planning their first or fifty-first pilgrimage to the undisputed Food Mecca of the Mighty Mississippi.” I would also have to add that it should be required reading for locals too.

For a New Orleanian it provides a fresh insight into our favorite places, for visitors it provides layers of wonderful history and tidbits that makes being a customer at these places that much more fascinating.

25 Definitive New Orleans Restaurants is a great guide book for Crescent City restaurants and bars and would make a great gift for visitors and local alike. Click this link to get it here.

Posted in New Orleans Books, New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Food, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Restaurants.

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