It's no small feat to whip up one of The Olive Branch Café's gourmet pizzas. The painstaking process begins long before lunchtime, with chefs preparing dough fresh for the day each morning. There's barely a moment to rest before orders begin flying in and the pizza makers spring into action, showering crusts with housemade sauces and high-quality cheeses. Their brows furrowed in concentration, their hands blurs, they layer pizzas with fresh garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and fine spanish olives. Once the pies arrive triumphantly to the dining room, the chefs turn their attention to thick muffuletta subs, plump meatball calzones, and the jambalaya pastas that caught the attention of Gambit’s Best of New Orleans guide.
Out in the casual dining room, beneath warm red walls peppered with abstract art, guests clink glasses, feeling more content than a robot in a microchip factory. There, owner Russell "Rusty" Autry often strolls around the room, greeting newcomers and exchanging jokes with regulars.
Armed with just a single, generations-old cookie recipe, Great American Cookies opened its first store in 1977, and the rest is history. Today, the franchise boasts locations in malls across the country and nabbed a coveted spot on Entrepreneur magazine?s 2012 list of Top 500 Franchises in the baked-goods category. The shop?s reputation grew, and so did its menu as chefs churned out a mouthwatering roster of gourmet-cookie recipes, each created and carefully tested in Atlanta. The tempting options now include snickerdoodle, peanut butter with M&M?s, and chewy pecan supreme, as well as freshly baked fudge and cheesecake brownies and cookie sandwiches stuffed with frosting. The real showstoppers, however, are the giant chocolate-chip cookie cakes, which can be customized with sweet, celebratory messages or shopping lists penned in colorful icing.
The chefs at Gattuso's steep their menu of salads, sandwiches, and seafood platters in the New Orleans culinary tradition. Using ingredients such as farm-raised Louisiana catfish, oysters, and fried green tomatoes, they craft creole classics such as jambalaya, red beans and rice, muffaletta sandwiches, and po boys. The roast-beef version of the juicy, baguette-encased sandwich placed first in its category at the 2009 Oak Street Po-Boy Festival.
In the café, servers field guests' requests gargled through mouthfuls of bottled local beer such as Abita Strawberry and imported draft beer such as Stella Artois. Live music plays on Fridays and Saturdays. Catering crews convey platters of sandwiches, cheeses, and spiced seafood to guests at business lunches and birthday parties.
From the foggy confines of their functioning smokehouse, The Pitt BBQ's meat magicians puff through traditional techniques to create platters of sauce-slathered meats. Quiet rumbling stomachs with a special plate, piled to the edges and beyond with a choice of savory pulled pork, brisket, pterodactyl, and more ($7.99). Two sides flank each plate's meaty main-eventers, with picnic classics such as baked beans, potato salad, and mac 'n' cheese quelling appetites alongside their barbecued brethren ($1.49–$1.99 for a small side, if ordered separately). Diners can share barbecued bounty with famished cohorts with an order of pork or brisket by the pound ($9.99) or a raft of individual sandwiches ($5.99).
After 27 years of continued business, Cucos is now under enthusiastic new ownership eager to dish up heaping platters of Louisiana-Mexican cuisine. Order up something savory from the teeming variety of menu options. Spinach or chicken flautas ($7.95) with sweet-chili dipping sauce snuff burgeoning grumbles, and entrees of carne-asada fajitas ($13.95) and, at the opposite end of the meat spectrum, the vegetarian burrito ($7.95), come flanked with your choice of two sides, including Mexican corn, rice, black beans, or fries. If you prefer to mold your own bowls from old records instead of using bourgeois china patterns, Cucos accommodates your bohemian creativity with build-your-own combo platters that include two items for $8.95 or three items for $9.95, similarly sided and brimming over with your choice of enchiladas, hard- or soft-shell tacos, tostadas, tamales, quesadillas, and flautas. With two convenient locations and a family-friendly atmosphere, the taqueria is an ideal gathering spot for friends, family, or caravans of hungry Victorian street urchins to enjoy a generously portioned Mexican meal.
Taste of the Caribbean treats diners searching for tropical flavors to a menu brimming with entrees from countries such as Haiti, Honduras, and more. Kick-start a morning fiesta with the latin breakfast, a piquant amalgamation of eggs, plantains, skirt steak, beans, avocado, and tortilla ($7.50). For maritime eats, diners can select fresh fish entrees of grilled snapper ($20) and fried fish ($16) to populate their internal tanks, and spice savorers can introduce taste buds to a plate of curry oxtail ($16).