Eddie Adams, the man who has gifted Nob Hill with the cuisine of southern Louisiana, likes to say that his vision comes from three legendary New Orleans chefs. There’s Paul Prudhomme for improvisation, Emeril Lagasse for glamorization and Miss Ella of Commander’s Palace for socialization. Chef Adams has worked with all three, soaking up culinary skills like bread soaks up the gumbo he serves at N’awlins Mardi Gras Cafe.
In a little space previously used by a litany of restaurants from New Mexican to, well, New Mexican, the interior has morphed into a kaleidoscope of traditional Mardi Gras colors: green and gold and purple living together with checkerboard tablecloths. The walls hold vibrant giclee paintings that add to the energy. Add the servers’ enthusiasm, and it makes for a great time whether lunch or dinner.
Let’s start with that previously mentioned seminal dish, Gumbo Ya Ya ($5.95 cup, $9.95 bowl). It’s as chocolatey dark as a roux can be, teetering on that delicious boundary just before burnt, studded with sausage, chicken, seafood and veggies. With any of the entrées you might want to order bread so no molecules are left behind, or just save room for desserts to come.
In a lighter vein – sort of – lies the Po’boy ($9.75, catfish or shrimp). The trick to a good po’boy is keeping the fried bits crispy even after a smear of mayo and a squashing inside the bread. Wonderfully, this sandwich delivers with a light batter, fresh fish and perfect seasoning.
But my favorite on the limited menu by far was Crawfish Étouffée ($13.95), teeming with juicy crawfish in a rich, red roux. Filling enough to share, it’s worth having at least once, even if crawfish isn’t your favorite.
Keep working through the menu to find other gems such as Shrimp Creole ($12.95) or Jambalaya ($5.75 cup, $9.95 bowl). Each are quite good, just not as memorable as other dishes.
Finish up with chicory coffee and Bananas Foster ($8.95) to get the whole package. You’ll book a ticket for Mardi Gras in no time.