Thursday, March 15, 2012

We Took a Seat, Looked Around,…

and I said to Chuck: “I’ll bet it can get rowdy in here at night.” No evidence to back up this statement. Just a general impression.

We’re at the Rivershack Tavern for lunch after our trip to Rivertown (Kenner, LA). This is a Guy Fieri-visited spot that we didn’t visit during our Christmas stay in New Orleans. Why? Because it wasn’t convenient to anywhere we were going to be. While we are never hesitant to drive for food, with all of the other options available we didn’t see the need for a special trip. But Rivershack is just a short drive up the road from Rivertown and this was the ideal opportunity.

“Located on historic River Road adjacent to the Mississippi River in Old Jefferson right outside New Orleans, the Rivershack has been described as a cross between a neighborhood tavern, a honky-tonk, a live music club or music venue, a sports bar and a small town restaurant. We have live New Orleans music almost every night.... Have a meal, have a drink! Play pool, darts, video poker or video golf…” (therivershacktavern. com)

“This idiosyncratic neighborhood hangout screams ‘working class hero,’ with its egalitarian jukebox, pool tables and dark, comfortable atmosphere. The Rivershack bills itself as ‘the home of the tacky ashtrays,’ and said ashtrays do vie with the barstools for humorous kitsch value. But that doesn't detract from the borderline-roughneck vibe of this favored watering hole.

You'll find a surprisingly diverse cross-section of local types here. Medical types from nearby Ochsner Hospital knock them back with Harley-riding bikers and cigar-smoking yuppie women, as well as the college students, drifters and other types who come to shoot pool, play video poker, enjoy a decent selection of draught beers and do some serious carbo-loading on the tasty, high-calorie bar food…” (contributor at Somehow, amidst the clutter, we missed the tacky ash tray collection, but there was no way to miss the bar stools.

But one item in particular attracted my attention and that was the bumper sticker plastered to the chalkboard’s wooden frame (lower left corner, photo below and next photo). This refers to a famous—or perhaps infamous—incident in Louisiana political history. After enduring three grueling rounds of voting in the 1971–1972 campaign, (Governor Edwin) Edwards pushed a bill through the legislature that limited state elections to two rounds by having Democratic, Republican, and independent candidates run together on the same ballot in an nonpartisan blanket primary” (

So how did this work out, Edwin? In 1991, Edwards, after numerous accusations of ethical lapses and perhaps illegalities, found himself running against David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. “Faced with the alternative of Duke, many who were otherwise lukewarm for Edwards found him looking ever better.... A very popular bumper sticker urging support for Edwards (although clearly not produced by his campaign) read ‘Vote For the Crook. It's Important’" (wikipedia. com).

I can remember reading about these bumper stickers in one of the national newsweeklies (Time or Newsweek), but now I had visual confirmation.

One of my cardinal rules is to be skeptical of restaurants that use “cute” language on the menu. Here we had Shack-A-Tizers for appetizers, Shwimps for shrimps, boigers for burgers, See-Food for seafood, or Leaf Me Alone Salad, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Chuck decided to play it safe with the half-pound burger with fries. Again, our server was amazed that he wanted raw onion only and not the full panoply of dressings—mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles. Despite my misgivings, this hamburger was perfectly cooked. The kitchen managed what many can’t. It set forth a medium-rare hamburger that was both nicely red in the center while having the delectable charred crust that we both love. I don’t know if the fries were house cut or not but they were appropriately crisp on the outside and moist and fluffy on the inside.

We shared an order of onion rings that were thicker (or wider) cut than we like, but were made with the remarkable translucently thin beer batter that we have come to expect in Southern Louisiana. I’ll say it again. Any restaurant that thinks about serving onion rings should be compelled by force of law to send its chef to Louisiana to learn to make a proper onion ring.

Despite my qualms about menu cuteness, I decided to order the Buffalo Shwimps Shack-A-Tizer. Since I wasn’t sure if one appetizer would be enough lunch or whether to order an additional appetizer, I asked our server about the portion size. “Six or eight shrimp,” she responded. “You know, appetizer portion.” But knowing that I would be eating onion rings and a few of Chuck’s fries, I decided to just go with the shrimp. Wise choice.

I received a heaping bowl of shrimp—probably at least a dozen and a half—that were fried with the buffalo seasoning in the batter rather than having a buffalo sauce poured over the dish after cooking. I read somewhere that the hot sauce may have been Crystal which I found interesting. In the “Land of Tabasco” where many tables will be set with a bottle or two of Tabasco’s products, many chefs prefer to cook with either Crystal or Louisiana brand. One chef told me that is because Tabasco has too much of a pronounced vinegar taste. Anyway, these were quite good, although for a dipping sauce, I substituted the spicy mayo from a squirt bottle on the table for the—in my opinion—nasty ranch sauce that came with the shrimp.

Guy Fieri frequently uses the phrase “If it’s funky, we’ll find it.” and this place is certainly funky. Still, our selections were definitely 4.0 Addie food and would be worth a special drive.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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