Mandina's (see their website) is the quintessential New Orleans neighborhood restaurant, and that, my friends, is a very good thing. The waiters (and nowadays there are also waitresses) are efficient and knowledgeable about the menu items. They bring you plates of delicious, recognizable food. (None of that trendy, nouvelle “queasine.”)
On a recent trip to the Crescent City, my family and I ate dinner twice at Mandina's in a period of less than five days. You know that the Canal Street restaurant has to be outstanding for us to chose it twice, what with all the other excellent eateries in New Orleans!
When we walked in the first night, a lady at a table near the door was eating a magnificent-looking shrimp po' boy. That was the first food Henry and I saw there, and as in the case of impressionable baby ducks, our brains were imprinted. We couldn't imagine ordering anything besides that yummy sandwich. It tasted as good as it looked. Crisp-crusted French bread, lettuce, tomato, and mayo (if desired), plus nicely fried medium-size shrimp added up to a very enjoyable sandwich. Henry and I each ordered a half, and my goodness, I'd be amazed to see anybody other than a stevedore devour a whole one! A half costs $7.50. With it Henry had Abita Wheat Beer, the select seasonal brew on tap from nearby Abita Springs brewery. I had a bottle of their wonderful Abita Amber.
Our teenage son Jonathan ordered a Muffaletta on French, AKA Frenchaletta ($7.25). Not having grown up on New Orleans food (unfortunately), he did not know that an Italian salad containing olives is part of a muffaletta, and he is not a fan of olives. And we did not think to warn him about the presence of olives on the sandwich. (Moreover, elsewhere two days earlier, he had ordered a Pasta Salad, containing, you guessed it, black olives.) Well, he ate half the muffaletta. (Like the po'boys, it was large.) Maybe he'll become an olive lover yet! The sandwich did look scrumptious, but I was too happily busy with my own food to ask to sample his…
Our daughter Sarah ordered the Homemade Turtle Soup au Sherry ($4.50 for a cup; $7.00 for a bowl). It is actually, we understand, a mock turtle soup — no “race winners” involved. Sarah detected small chunks of ground beef and veal, tomatoes, chopped boiled egg, and seasonings in beef broth. She said it was excellent. If you desire it, sherry is added by your waitress or waiter when the soup is set before you. Sarah liked the soup so much that when we returned to Mandina's three days later, she ordered it again.
A child's Meatball & Spaghetti.
She also ordered the child's Meatball & Spaghetti ($5.75), which was actually a larger serving than most children would eat. There was one “bigga” meatball and a generous portion of red sauce atop a mound of spaghetti noodles. (In fact, Sarah only got through half the serving and had the rest, cold, for breakfast the next morning.) The sauce was nicely seasoned, though not too “specy spicey” for a child's palate.
Child-size portions of Roast Beef with Potatoes and Fried Shrimp with Potatoes are also available. The Mandina menu is extensive, with daily specials — not necessarily lower-priced choices, but rather specific dishes, many not available every day. For example, on Tuesdays one of the specials is Corned Beef and Cabbage, Boiled Potatoes. This plate is not offered on other days of the week. Each day there are from 8 to 10 specials. There are plenty of other menu choices besides the specials — several spaghetti dishes, meats, chicken, lots of seafood, sandwiches, etc.
If you can't find something you like at Mandina's you must not be hungry. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner every day except holidays, and we were delighted to find that July 4th was not considered a holiday, at least in 2005. (See my article, “Enjoying an Independently Owned and Operated Eatery on Independence Day.”)
Mandina's Shrimp Po' Boy.
Mandina's Turtle Soup.
Copyright © 2005–2006 Patricia B. Mitchell.