The Praline Connection
542 Frenchmen Street
New Orleans, LA 70116-2024
The Praline Connection is a soul-food joint in the Faubourg Marigny, on the eternally-hip Frenchman street. The restaurant has been around for a healthy length of time now, even expanding into the usually cuisine-bereft confines of the New Orleans airport, god bless them. So how's the food?
The menu covers all the soul food bases, with a healthy dose of Creole and Cajun foodstuffs: think fried chicken with mac and cheese, lima beans with various meats, fried chicken livers, stuffed crabs, meatloaf, BBQ ribs, jamabalaya, and other usual suspects. Concerns about fat and calories are checked decsively at the door, as they damned well should be. (You can buy some pralines - no kiddin' - at the candy counter next to the dining room).
My friend chose the fried chicken with macaroni and cheese and collards, a big-ass portion at $12.95. Pretty darn good fried bird here: not too much batter, flavorful and juicy in the center, the whole nine-yards. He reported the macaroni and cheese had egg in it, which was mildly unusual, but was otherwise tasty.
I was tempted by the turkey wings, but ordered the file gumbo - I'm out to try every damn gumbo I can get my paws on in this city, and I'd heard the Praline Connection had a pretty worthy entrant. I ended up loving this: it's a thin, soup-style gumbo with a ton of earthy, funky flavor. This occurs because the kitchen seems to dump in as many left-over variety meats as they can into the gumbo pot, producing rich flavor and a profusion of interesting stuff in the bowl. Sausage, gumbo crabs, bone-in chicken pieces, shrimp, you name it, it's probably in there. This is just the way I like my gumbo. Pickier types may want to leave well enough alone, but you shouldn't be encouraged to be a big fat wuss either. Wuss.
I also had a side of collards, and was very pleased with em'. These are obviously traditional Southern style greens, chopped fine and cooked until the nutrients are sucked out of them - this is why you drink the pot likker. These are, needless to say, nothing even approaching vegetarian food as evidenced by their richly porky flavor. The free corn-bread block that came with the meal proved perfect for crumbling into the greens.