so much more than the Quarter.
Philadelphia likes to describe itself and a “City of Neighborhoods.” And, yes, Philadelphia has its Frankford, East and West Oak Lane, Olney, Nicetown, South Philadelphia, and--not to be forgotten--Great Northeast sections. But New Orleans is no less a “City of Neighborhoods.” We have visited Bayou St. John (Parkway Bakery & Tavern), Faubourg Marigny (Snug Harbor), and Treme (St. Augustine Church), and today we return to Mid-City (Angelo Brocato’s) for lunch at Katie’s Restaurant.
Why Katie’s? Because it was visited by Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. Because it was named New Orleans Magazine’s 2011 Neighborhood Restaurant of the Year. Because it is another striking example of New Orlean’s post-Katrina rebirth.
“Katie’s opened as a corner lunch restaurant in October 1984…Founded by Mr. Leo Leininger…In December 1993, the Leininger family sold Katie’s to the Craig family…With over 20 years in the restaurant and service industry…Scot Craig took the helm. The hard work and dedication of his brother David and mother, Mary, enabled Scot to expand the operation into a full-service restaurant and bar. With ‘the boys’ in the kitchen, Mary became known as ‘The Hostess with the Mostess.’ She kept the dining room organized and kept the customers happy, full, and returning time and again.
“…The flood of business Katie’s enjoyed gave way to a destructive torrent in August 2005 when Hurricane Katrina washed seven feet of water through the restaurant and devastated everything (Ed Note: See the high water mark on the entrance door frame; standing here I would have been under water.)…With barely enough insurance proceeds to repair his home, which is above the restaurant, Scot feared Katie’s might be doomed.
Unrelenting, in the four and a half years to follow, Scot Craig worked to rebuild his life and Katie’s…On March 1, 2010 Katie’s opened its doors once more…Although bright, shiny, and new inside and out, the heart and soul of Katie’s as an old-school, family operated neighborhood restaurant, still echoes the vision of Mr. Leo Leininger. You’ll be greeted and seated by the Hostess with the Mostess and Scot is still in the kitchen…” (katiesinmidcity.com).
Proving that you can never count a New Orleans restaurant out for good…when the place opened again many regulars filed right back in. Katie's looks a bit different now. The bar is lined with beautiful bare cypress and now the kitchen is open to the dining room. There are some different flavors at Katie's now, too. In addition to the familiar mix of local seafood and red-sauce Italian dishes, there are now deli sandwiches…offbeat poor boys…and specialty pizzas…Everyone had to make some changes when they rebuilt after the levee failures—from restaurants to homeowners—and this new Katie's is another example of how a place can be better off because of those changes” (restaurants.wwltv.com).
Each table contains a full militia of Tabasco sauces. Occupying the front row are the Sweet and Spicy, Green Pepper, Garlic Pepper, and Chipotle. In the second row are the Habanero, Buffalo-Style, and two bottles of the original.
Katie’s menu is large—almost too large—and so after a brief flirtation with their Crawfish Beignet (specifically singled out by many on-line com-mentators) made with Louisiana crawfish, jalapeno peppers, onions, and three kinds of cheese then wrapped in dough, fried, and then topped with jalapeno aioli, we both looked to the sandwich and poor boy offerings.
There was no way we could consume The Barge—an entire Gendusa French loaf stuffed with shrimp, catfish, and oysters. But one was served—with the clanging of bells—to one brave table of diners. Among the other choices were: The St. Louie with fried Louisiana oysters topped with melted Provel cheese and bacon; Crab Cake Poor Boy (fried or grilled shrimp at additional charge); and Cochon De Lait Poor Boy stuffed with smoked cochon de lait and topped with home-made Creole slaw.
After much thought, I finally chose the Fried Green Tomato and Shrimp Rémoulade Poor Boy made with breaded slices of fresh green tomatoes then topped with grilled gulf shrimp and the restaurant’s homemade rémoulade sauce. This was a far superior version of the fried green tomato poor boy than the one I ordered at Liuzza’s (another Mid-City eatery) last February. First, the fried tomatoes hadn’t turned to mush under their coating. Second, the flavor of the rémoulade sauce didn’t overpower everything else. And, third, the boiled medium-size shrimp were delicious. Still, and this is the case with most poor boys that contain a fried product, by the time I reached the second half of the sandwich, the crust on the tomatoes had softened. I wish there was a way—without sacrificing the “dressing”—that this could be avoided.
Chuck chose Katherine’s Cajun Cuban filled with smoked cochon de lait, grilled ham, Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles. “Cochon de Lait literally translates from French to English as ‘pig in milk,’ or it is called a ‘suckling pig.’ A Cochon de Lait is basically a Cajun pig roast of a whole young pig. The pig is slow roasted for 6 to 12 hours (generalhorticulture.tamu.edu). The sandwich was served on the same Gendusa’s French bread which was brushed with butter and then pressed. The pork was shredded, not sliced, and can only be described as succulently juicy.
Special mention must be made of the bread which rivaled Leiden-heimer’s for poor boy perfection. As described at bestofneworleans. com: “Another well-known baking family was the Gendusas. Like many others, the Gendusa family emigrated from Sicily in 1896. Emanuel Gendusa became proprietor of the City Park Bakery, and two of his sons, Angelo and John, worked with him in the early days. In 1934, Angelo opened his own bakery, called Gendusa's. Seventy years later, in 2004, Leidenheimer's purchased this company…During its heyday, Gendusa's bakery on Rampart Street supplied some of the best-known restaurants in the city....
“(Angelo) Gendusa and his brother John were partners in the bakery for a while, but they separated and John opened his own bread-making business. Today, John Gendusa's bakery is still in business…and has a particular claim to distinction. Back in 1929, New Orleans restauran-teurs/ brothers Bennie and Clovis Martin created the beloved poor boy sandwich during a streetcar strike… At the time, John Gendusa was supplying the bread for the Martin Brothers' restaurant, and at their request he changed the shape of the loaf. To accommodate the filling for the poor boy sandwiches, he made the loaf wider and without pointed tips. Traditional French bread had narrow ends, which meant much of the bread was wasted. Gendusa created a 40-inch loaf that stayed rectangular from end to end.”
It’s time to leave after our 4.5 Addie lunch and time for Mary (The Hostess with the Mostess) to take a quick break.
Here come some more customers. Time for Mary to get back to work.
To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.