Lagniappe at Mulate’s

Why is it so hard to get vegetables when you are eating out in restaurant. We have been in New Orleans for 6 days and veggies have been hard to come by. We went to Cooter Browns to watch football on Sunday and while the food was good it was all raw oysters, fried fish, crawfish pies and a thing called Broccoli Bites – Oooh, broccoli. We ordered some up and it turned out to be old broccoli cheese soup that had been spread out on a sheet pan, allowed to harden, cut into McNuggets, breaded and deep fried. The previous evening we had a grumpy salad at a sad establishment called the Trolley Stop and some lettuce, tomato and pickles on a Po Boy at Mothers on Tuesday was the extent of our vegetable intake. So here we were looking for cajun music and vegetables on Wednesday night and the intertubes revealed Mulate’s restaurant. It certainly fit the description and the menu on the website listed some entree salads as well as veggies served with the meals so we went.

Mulates is a large place across the street from the convention center. It is clean, well lit and inviting and we got a table close to the stage. Our waiter, John Ernst came and the first thing he asked us was where we were from. When I asked him if we were that obvious he said that all the patrons are tourists and that natives seldom if ever ate there. Kim ordered the Zydeco Salad which was a nice assortment of crisp lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, pickled green beans and other roughage topped with grilled shrimp, fish and sausage medallions. I had the Cajun Seafood platter which was a nice assortment of fried shrimp, oysters, catfish and a reasonable crab dressing, all fried. The star of the seafood platter was the Jambalaya which was expertly prepared, full of sausage and other ground up goodness and the rice was perfectly cooked. The food was pretty good and the band, Lee Benoit and the Bayou Stompers was authentic if not spectacular. The star of the evening for me was our waiter John.

John went out of his way to make us feel at home and as we chatted about what we had been up to it came out that John plays guitar. He has been in several local bands but the stories he shared helped me realize what this city is all about. He grew up a few blocks from Art Neville and as a brash teenager who though he knew a few things about music he heard the Neville Brothers practicing and knocked on the door. They invited him in and he wound up getting guitar lessons from Leo Nocentelli. We spoke about other New Orleans musical luminaries such as George Porter, and Russel Batiste and some of the really great local clubs like the Maple Leaf, where we had been the previous evening for The Rebirth Brass Band. He lamented the loss of Robert Palmer, who had made 2 wonderful records here before he sold his ass to MTV. Being a musician in New Orleans John has worked in the service industry for years and chose to work at Mulate’s because management was good, the food consistent and with the convention center traffic and tourist trade it was a decent living. He had just returned to The Big Easy in the past year after a post Katrina hiatus. Like many natives we spoke to his love for the city, it’s culture, music, food and most of all people drew him back.

As we were getting ready to leave I scribbled my blog address on a card and gave it to him and asked him to drop by and leave me his e-mail address. When he came back with our credit card receipt he asked us to hang around for a few minutes. He came back with a little lagniappe of bread pudding which was excellent. Bread pudding can tend to be dense, over spiced and dry and the bourbon sauce that most places serve with it cloyingly sweet. The bread pudding at Mulate’s was moist, light and delicious with plump raisins that added a welcome tang and matched perfectly with the velvety bourbon sauce. Although we were quite full from our meal and not planning on desert I almost finished the large portion. This was my first instance of a someone finding out I was doing a food blog and throwing me a freebie, even though this blog is a tiny backwater that is nary a week old.

If you had one meal to eat in New Orleans I could not recommend Mulate’s but if you are going to be here for a while drop by and have some Jambalaya and a bowl of Gumbo and ask for John, he will treat you right!

For John’s top notch service, the nice atmosphere and the exceptional bread pudding I have to give Mulate’s a Wicked Good.

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