Casual Eats

February 11, 2014
It's Carnival time and you know what that means"... Chasing floats for a coveted Zulu coconut, tossing beads from a Bourbon Street balcony, jamming to high stepping marching bands are all in a day's work. Not to mention the endless, float-sized "to go" cocktails, late night Mardi Gras balls and lack of nutritionally sound food. Let's face it, man can not survive on Lucky Dogs and King Cake alone! Fortunately, there is no shortage of tasty, casual dining options on virtually every corner of the Vieux Carre that won't set you back by too many doubloons and are sure satisfy your hungry krewe.

Cafe Beignet 334 Royal St.
Need a jolt of java to get you rolling? Located on renowned Royal Street, this quaint cafe is just what the doctor ordered. Sip a delicious cup of cafe au lait and indulge in yummy beignets - the famous powder sugar covered, doughy pockets of bliss. They also serve up a pretty darn good breakfast with standard pick me up items like French toast, breakfast sandwiches, Belgian waffles and omelettes, as well as spicy Cajun hash browns with andouille sausage, bell peppers and red onions. And, with all menu items selling for under $10, you'll have plenty of dough leftover to party the day away!

Counter by Kingfish 335 Chartres St.
Though the atmosphere is casual, there is nothing casual about the flavor combinations you'll find at this "baby brother" of Kingfish. Start with a bowl of smoked rabbit gumbo (one of the best in town!) or the heavenly blue crab soup. On the lighter side, enjoy the courtyard boil shrimp remoulade with quinoa and honey roasted pistachio dressing or the veggie wrap filled with squash, roasted peppers, and mushrooms in sun-dried tomato wrap with ceblita cheese spread. But, the smoky aromas make it hard to resist the real stars: D.A.T. Sandwich (a delectable combo of coffee cured duck bacon, arugula, tomato and aioli on spiral rye bread) or Croque Gagnet (a wildly delicious panini with Andouille, gouda, and honey lavender mustard.) And, for a little hair of the dog, they offer a super cool DYI Bloody Mary bar that has everything except the kitchen sink.

Bayou Burger 503 Bourbon St.
After a night of imbibing, nothing beats a big, juicy burger to set you straight. This new sports bar/burger joint boasts a fine selection of creative burgers (or design your own) including the over-the-top beast aptly named "The Ultimate Cure" - Two patties surround a grilled cheese bacon sandwich with Tabasco mayo. Another winner is "The Gator," a toothsome alligator burger dressed with slaw, pickled onions and Tabasco mayo on brioche bun. There's also a tempting lineup of starters such as Cajun derby pies, crawfish beignets and debris fries, fresh salads and classic NOLA dishes like BBQ shrimp, stuffed mirlitons and red beans and rice - All great stick to your ribs dishes to get you back in the game.

Camellia Grill 540 Chartres St.
After a rough night of Mardi Gras madness (or to satisfy your late night munchies,) grab a seat at the counter of this iconic diner and chow down on heaping servings of comfort food. The heart warming potato and onion omelette and the belly bursting Chef Special loaded with turkey, bacon, ham, potato, onions, American and Swiss cheese and topped with chili, served with fries, grits or hash browns, are sure to please your palate. You'll also find virtually every kind of sandwich imaginable from crispy fried catfish to juicy roast beef, as well as signature selections such as the Mardi Gras (turkey, corned beef, bacon, lettuce and thousand island dressing on rye), the Word Special (double hot sausage dressed on a special roll), and Doc Brinkers Special (double meat cheeseburger with melted American and Swiss, grilled onions, coleslaw and chili on toasted rye.) Indulge in an irresistible slice of pecan pie, which is heated right on the grill for an extra tasty touch or a mouthwatering chocolate freeze.

Desire Oyster Bar 300 Bourbon St.
Located in the Royal Sonesta Hotel right in the thick of things, this popular eatery boasts traditional local favorites like Creole gumbo, turtle soup, BBQ shrimp, crab cakes, red beans and rice, jambalya and of course, it's namesake oysters. Dine like a king on the savory BBQ oysters, fried and served with special house-made BBQ sauce and blue cheese dressing or the divine Rockefeller Po-Boy (fried oysters topped with spinach and herbsaint cream.) Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this ideal people watching spot also stirs up enticing signature cocktails like the Big Easy Lemonade, a refreshing concoction of lemonade and citrus vodka, a tangy Cajun Bloody Mary made with Absolut Peppar and the Desire Cooler, an original mixture of rum, banana liqueur and fruit juices.

EAT 900 Dumanie St.
Just off the beaten path sits this charming eatery that serves up a wide variety of Creole, Cajun and New Orleans dishes. For starters, the blue cheese and fig torte, a sweet and savory blend of bliss, is not to be missed. Lunch and dinner are certainly worth seeking out, but brunch is where EAT truly shines. The menu offers scrumptious selections like fluffy omelets (vegetarians will swoon over the mustard green, mozzarella and artichoke), Eggs Cochon (pulled pork cake over mustard greens, poached eggs and Creole hollandaise) and the "Big Breakfast" (chicken fried chicken with country gravy, eggs, grits and homemade biscuit.) Satisfying sandwiches and delectable plate lunches round out the menu.

French Market Dining 1100 N Peters St.
Alberto's Gourmet Wine & Cheese; Cajun Cafe at the Market ; J's Seafood Dock; Organic Banana Mardi Gras mask shopping in the French Market is sure to work up an appetite. Fear not, as there are several quick, tasty and affordable options within your reach. Grab a fresh organic salad with tangy house-made vinaigrette, a gourmet cheese plate or hot and zesty muffuletta from Alberto's Gourmet Wine & Cheese. Craving Louisiana seafood? You'll find some of the finest at J's Seafood Dock including the lip smacking good boiled crawfish, delicately fried oysters and shrimp and rich seafood gumbo. Chow down on flavorsome favorites like a succulent pulled pork po-boy, creamy crawfish etouffee or the tempting catfish tacos at Cajun Cafe at the Market. Top it all off with a refreshing fresh fruit smoothie or kick it up a notch with a signature Pina Colada made with vanilla bean ice cream and New Orleans Rum (warning these are highly addictive!), or a decadent Dirty Banana (banana, Amaretto, coffee liqueur, vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate syrup.)

Little Vic's 719 Toulouse St.
Need a respite from the Carnival chaos? Just a hop, skip and jump from all the mayhem, discover this inviting trattoria where you'll get your fill of Italian delights. From freshly made salads (the Semplicita with prosciutto and parmesan on arugula is particularly delish) to gratifying Sicilian-style pan pizza (don't miss the Little Vic's with succulent pulled pork ragu and mozzarella) and the appetizing daily pasta specials, you're sure to find something to satisfy your Italian craving. Grilled paninis like the Etna (grilled chicken, feta and sun dried tomato) or the Melanzane (grilled eggplant, mozzarella and roasted red pepper) served with salad or risotto of the day, come out hot, crisp and cheesy. Or enjoy a quick small plate snack of Arancini (filled and fried risotto balls), Sfoglia (Sicilian puff pastry) and Pitoni (filled and folded pizza). Indulge your sweet tooth with their amazing selection of house-made gelatos.

Royal House 441 Royal St.
If oysters are the gem in your treasure box, then Royal House is sure to be your pearl! These bodacious bivalves are shucked to order and can be sucked down in a myriad of ways from raw on the half shell, to succulent Chargrilled bathed in a delectable bubbly parmesan butter, classic Oysters Rockefeller topped with spinach, bacon and sambuca, to Macque Choux, an original creation topped with corn, peppers and onions. Other tasty treats include tempting starters like oyster tacos, crawfish cakes and redfish beignets, dreamy seafood pastas, fried seafood platters and po-boys. Breakfast is offered as well.

The Praline Connection 542 Frenchman St.
Need some soul food to feed your soul? The Praline Connection will have you screaming "Hallelujah" ! Here you'll praise the down-home, Cajun-Creole cuisine specialties like the zesty gumbo file, perfectly crisped fried chicken livers with sweet hot pepper jelly, tender and juicy slow cooked bbq ribs topped with a piquant house-made barbecue sauce, and classic shrimp etouffee in a rich tomato based gravy. Portions are generous with all entrees accompanied by your choice of mustard greens, collard greens or cabbage, red beans, white beans, lima beans or crowder peas. And, be sure to save room for the irresistible bread pudding with praline sauce! Take home a slice of Praline Connection heaven with their truly divine, one-of-a-kind King Cake made with a glorious praline and cream cheese filling that's pure bliss! They come in three sizes and can be shipped.