A Taste of New Orleans
New Orleans is a city with a bold and vibrant culture, where the spices of life are celebrated with a unique liveliness that can hardly be matched by any other city in America. There is perhaps no better reflection of this spirit, than in the full-bodied, flavorful cajun cuisine that New Orleans is so famous for. I was in Louisiana last week for my mom’s wedding, and the many different restaurants we were lucky enough to dine in left us more than satisfied. Even though you might not want to get a calorie count after eating one of its many renowned dishes, it is almost impossible not to enjoy the rich food that Louisiana has to offer.
However, If you are looking to experience some delicious cajun food without taking a trip down south, I’d recommend a night at NOLA’s (New Orleans, Louisiana) in Palo Alto. Owned by Greg St. Claire, the restaurant is a little piece of New Orleans located right off University Avenue, on 535 Ramona Street. Some particular favorites of mine are the spicy jambalaya, made with andouille sausage, tasso ham, chicken, shrimp, salmon cajun spices, and topped off with a spicy piquant, as well as the firecracker cajun penne, served with roma tomatoes, spinach, sweet red onions, mushrooms, cotija, in spicy chipotle-cream sauce.
So how does NOLA’s in Palo Alto stack up against the real deal down on the bayou? On our second night in the city, my family had the pleasure of eating at Commander’s Palace, arguably the finest restaurant in New Orleans. One of their signature dishes, turtle soup, absolutely blew me away with its incredibly deep, rich, salty yet savory flavor. After the appetizers, my main course consisted of a delicious tuna fish filet, cooked to perfection, in a delicious spicy pepper sauce. Just when I thought the meal could not get any better, they brought out their famous bread pudding, with its light texture and succulent sweetness. It was the perfect way to cap off a beautiful meal that had such a perfect mixture of different flavors.
We were lucky enough to go from one of New Orleans’ best restaurants to another. The next morning we ate brunch at the one place whose name may outweigh Commander’s Palace: Galatoire’s. Friday morning at Galatoire’s is an experience unlike any other restaurant that I’ve ever been to. Though a button down shirt and sport coat are required, most customers are also wearing some sort of accessory, whether that be bunny ears, ridiculous hats, beads, or feather boas. Half the fun is the unbeatable atmosphere of the main dining room, and then there is the food. To start with, they served us a smorgasbord of various classic cajun dishes, like shrimp and grits, jumbalaya, and fried oysters. From there, I moved on to an unbelievably tender steak served with a creamy bearnaise sauce. Needless to say, I was more than happy when we left the restaurant.
Now, I’m not sure if NOLA’s, even with its many different delicious dishes, is quite on par with the authentic cajun food at Commander’s Palace and Galatoire’s, but it is still one of the best restaurants in Palo Alto without a doubt. Just thinking about some of its many dishes is enough to make my mouth water, so if you are up for a good time, and some great southern food, head into downtown Palo Alto and check it out.
Update (5/13/13): Nola has recently created a website that allows customers to order food online, through their computer and their smartphone! Order here.
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