Overlooking St. Charles Avenue, Mia's Balcony offers Mardi Gras revelers a central view of grand, glittering floats and shimmering beads. But the restaurant isn’t content to host a party once a year; on the other 364 days, visitors cheer on the college, professional, and sock-puppet football games broadcast over the patio's outdoor televisions, and a banquet room is available for private soirees. While watching a Saints or LSU game or just chatting, guests can share small plates of seared scallops on the half-shell or fish croquettes or dig into substantial entrees such as pepper-jelly lamb chops. On weekend mornings, the chefs prepare brunch dishes including creole omelets and veal grillades over grits.
Local artwork, exposed-brick walls, and fireplaces set an inviting scene indoors. Bartenders fill glasses with craft beers, wine, and potent cocktails such as the French 75, a champagne- and gin-based drink based on a vintage recipe.
With the amount of fresh and boiled seafood required to meet the needs of their catering requests, dine in and carryout orders, and deli shoppers, it would take two Randy Montalbanos to properly run Randy Montalbano's Seafood & Catering. Luckily, that's exactly what they've got. The restaurant was built on the collaboration between Randy Montalbano, Sr. and his son, Randy Montalbano, Jr., as the crown jewel of the family's three generations in the food-service industry. Above the checkerboard floors of the eatery, display cases show off fresh shrimp, crab, and fish. Patrons can snag live seafood to cook at home, order boiled crab and shrimp to dine in or tote in tidy to-go lunch boxes, or order large platters to cater a football tailgate or a Little Mermaid-watching party.
Creole and Mexican culinary traditions are a natural fit for one another. Both rely on a healthy dose of spice, and both elevate comfort food. At The Oyster Bar and Grille, chefs draw on the region’s bounty of seafood as well as a range of Mexican recipes. They fill homemade tacos with hot crawfish and batter farm-raised catfish in homemade corn-meal mix. Splashes of champagne make mesquite-grilled oysters sparkle at tables in the dining room, where surfboards and lifebuoys adorn the wall. Murals of beach scenes seem to admit warming sunshine, and an aquarium lets amateur scuba divers practice looking a fish in the eye. High-top tables and stools around the full bar comfortably situate diners, who can also carry po’ boys and oysters on the half shell to the outdoor patio.
At the tender age of 7, Andrea Apuzzo began honing his culinary skills at a bakery in his Italian hometown. "I was spoiled as a kid. We made our own olive oil and wine,” he says in a Gambit article. His breadth of knowledge expanded greatly when, at 14 years old, he embarked on a culinary adventure across Europe and South America. Now at the helm of his own restaurant, Chef Andrea applies the knowledge he learned amid the cream-hued rising loaves and on the chattering South American streets.
The dishes that fill tables at the eatery have been enjoyed by the likes of Queen Elizabeth, President Carter, Sophia Loren, Clint Eastwood, and one dog that figured out how to use a credit card. To share his abilities and experiments, the chef also publishes cookbooks, which detail formulas for the award-winning pastas, fresh seafood, and steaks. Chef Andrea's bistecca pizzaiola earned a place on Esquire's 2008 list of the 20 Best Steaks in America. "Like the best Italian dishes," the article says, "its simple parts add up to an unexpectedly powerful whole."
X-treme Burger's menu lets burger connoisseurs architect towering creations from the bun up. Adorn a half-pound beef, turkey, or veggie burger with a Carmen Miranda hat of pineapple, avocado, and onion rings, or take a less-traveled road with bacon, chipotle, and peanut butter. Beside the flock of possible toppings, the sandwiches are customizable with sesame buns, whole wheat, or texas toast, and can be drizzled with sauces such as barbecue, honey mustard, or the house X-treme sauce and served with sides such as sweet potato fries and baked macaroni. Shakes or malts provide a sweet finish for dining duets, who can also opt to feed each other spoonfuls of a classic banana split in a recreation of the Nixon-Kennedy presidential debate. Meal-seekers can also opt to apply the $12 value toward breakfast eats ($2.49–$5.49 for entrees) including short stacks of fluffy pancakes or a country breakfast of grits and eggs.
In 1983, Al Copeland decided to open a restaurant centered around two New Orleans traditions: homestyle Cajun cooking and southern hospitality. His concept, Copeland’s of New Orleans, served a menu of made-from-scratch dishes such as crawfish po’ boys and red beans and rice with andouille sausage in a colorful and festive atmosphere. Nearly 30 years later, the restaurant has grown to encompass franchised locations in six states. But they still serve some of the original dishes that put them on the map.
A sister property to Al’s original restaurant, Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro also serves Cajun cuisine, but the menu has a more upscale feel to it with aged steaks and fusion dishes such as crawfish or crab ravioli and dinner rolls baked in a hadron collider. The bistro’s signature dessert—homemade cheesecake with a buttery pecan crust—comes in more than 10 flavors including bananas foster, turtle, and white chocolate raspberry.