New Orleans Take-Out
In a word: Darned good Mo' Bettah.
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JM ate Jim's crabcakes with a root beer.
John ate the crawfish with cream sauce.
Nichole ate the BBQ beef po'boy.
We had a slice of fudge pie and took a praline to go.
The bill was $40, or $13.33/person, plus tip.
JM gave New Orleans Take-Out an A; Nichole gave New Orleans Take-Out an A-; John gave New Orleans Take-Out a B (see our grading rubric).
We figure we could have benefited from repeat visits to New Orleans Take Out. The menu is broad, and our three choices were each underwhelming in either quantity or quality. This was surprising, given the great reputation NOTO has. (Maybe it just takes practice to find the best parts of the menu - comments and recommendations welcome below). NOTO is very Madison, in that it somehow pulls off being simultaneously snooty and yet just a little sloppy.
The counter staff was aloof yet helpful in explaining the menu. For example, once they characterized the "New Orleans Gold" section as "fried dinners" the idea got a little tarnished. (The fried cod dinner, however, is popular.) Each night's specials look good, most notably the Saturday shrimp etouffee that's offered "too hot to eat or just too hot."
But we got what we got, and JM did best. His full order of crabcakes seemed, frankly, a little petite for $12 and made us wonder what a half order of three cakes would be. At first bite, however, they revealed themselves to be a near-religious experience. Each mouth was an explosion of sharp spice splashed against tender crab and hot oil. He only regrets missing the fresh-squeezed lemonade because he was distracted by the root beer.
John found his crawfish in cream sauce good. The cornbread was good enough, but it took him too long to figure out that the dish developed a real spicy kick once he ran out of rice. "Oh well," he opined.
The BBQ beef po'boy was huge, but Nichole ate the whole thing. It was basically cubed beef and sauce on a toothsome roll. The beef was chewy, and the sauce was sticky/tacky and dense. It had a heat that as barely noticeable at first, but gradually built to a comfortable warmth. The sweet potato fries were A+, thin and crispy.
The slice of fudge pie was pretty much a brownie. The praline we gifted to a praline fan, who said it was great - creamy, not at all grainy as sometimes a praline can be. It had great flavor and was a perfect size - large.
NOTO is a place you can say "no" to, but it can be a go-to place for some good NOLA nosh to go because the food is better than so-so.