Dick and Jenny's
4501 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA
What is it with double named restaurants in New and Orleans? They're everywhere. Dick and Jenny's, located on Tchop near Tipitinas, functions as a well-loved neighborhood restaurant, catering more to a local set then to out of towners in desperate need of oyster po-boys and drinks in neon colors. The restaurant has been in flux in the past couple of years and has seen a succession of chefs go in - and out - of its doors, prompting criticisms of its highly creative but occasionally over-ambitious menu. But in 2010, ex-Flying Burrito chef Daniel Smith came on board and retooled (and simplified) the highly seasonal menu offerings, retaining the joint's slightly nutty flavor aesthetic in the process.
We arrived at 8:30 PM on a week-night and were suprised to find a crowd waiting to be seated. No reservations are taken, so be prepared to settle in at the lounge for a bit - booze and fried oysters are mercifully available in Purgatory.
Fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce, the eternal appetizer. This dish was supposedly invented at the doughty Upperline Restaurant, and the combo of crispy fried tomatoes with creamy and spicy shrimp remoulaude has become a first-course juggernaut in the area. Dick and Jenny's serves theirs with both a not-too-spicy shrimp remoulade and a sort of creamy, mushroom-red pepper saute. Both sauces are pretty good in tandem with the crispy tomatoes, and it's certainly, well, local.
Meals at Dick and Jenny's are served with some good, if cakey, cornbread.
I went with one of the spring specials, the Gulf Seafood BBQ stew. This mess of sea creature is prepared with bronzed flounder, pan roasted shellfish (mostly shrimps), and stone ground grits, served in an Abita Amber-rosemary sauce. This dish was trying to riff on shrimp and grits and managed to suceed, avoiding D&J's occasional bouts of culinary ADHD. The smoky and thick sauce and the rich grits provided a nice foil to the fresh and gently cooked seafood. This was a fine Spring dish, and yet another rationale for demanding the severed heads of the BP board of executives. You know how it goes.
My dad ordered the special "crawfish boil" dish, which combined crawfish tails, sausage, baby corn, and rice in a crawfish-boil spiced tomato sauce. The idea of the dish is an interesting one, but the execution proved that crawfish boils may best be left un-desconstructed: the mundane, obviously Cajun Seasoned flavor of the sauce overwhelmed the delicate, fatty flavor of good mudbug. And the baby corn additions? Just plain weird. Folks, baby corn don't taste nothing like corn. (
Speaking of. Crawfish freaks need to make a bee-line for the Maple Leaf when it does its free Thursday night crawfish boils. Dudes out back drinking beer dump a bunch of stuff in the crawfish pot, including pork chops, boudin, whole cloves of garlic and Hebrew National hot-dogs, then spread it all out on a bunch of greasy folding tables for the music loving public to dive head-first into. Everyone stands around the trough and shucks crawfish with their spiritual brothers, squirreling away particularly tasty tidbits in the spirit of honest competition. Everyone ends the evening smelling of crap cigarettes, crawfish boil and pervasive body odor with just a little bit of Jager tossed in (somewhere in the air) to keep em' honest. What an Authentic New Orleans Life Experience!)
My mom chose the fried soft shell crab in a seafood green curry broth served over a sort of savory bread pudding. Sounds tasty and it certainly was, but the dish was devastatingly rich- even I couldn't finish it, and I am the family's designated Cleaner of Plates. The freakishly huge crab wasn't overfried, and the green curry sauce had a rich, dense coconut flavor. A few lightening touches and a less mammoth serving size could turn this selection into a real winner.
Atmosphere? Yeah, they've got it here. Dick and Jenny's was built out of the shell of an old grocery and has a quirky, slightly run-down ambiance, accompanied by some overly moody lighting. (Seriously, would it kill y'all to toss in an extra lamp or two? Sometimes I do like seeing my food).
Seek out Dick and Jenny's if you're hunting a unique NOLA neighborhood restaurant with a never-boring take on Cajun and Creole classics. The menu is by no means infallible, but its interesting choices will certainly prevent the sudden narcolepsy brought on by yet another place specializing in goddamn shrimp po-boys and seafood gumbo and red-beans-and-rice on days not Monday, jesus god in heaven. Order a drink, have a loud conversation, and pretend you're cool enough to know the "real" New Orleans. Though of course none of us do, can never really know. But that is philosophy, and for another time.