In Search of Praline Bacon
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On my previous trip to New Orleans a few years back I was introduced to Elizabeth’s Restaurant and the most amazing boudin balls (hush puppy like balls filled with sausage served with spicy Dijon mustard) and praline bacon!
So accordingly, the one place I wanted to go when I was back in town was Elizabeth’s. Sunday can be incredibly busy so we headed out on the early side for brunch and at 10AM jumped into a cab for the 2 miles from downtown. Only to discover that I should have called, because they were out of power and closed. NOooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
So we had the cab take us back to the French quarter (the neighborhood was safe enough for walking but it was already getting hot and we were starving at this point). I was busy searching for “praline bacon in new Orleans” without turning up any good options so we stopped at Café Du Monde since trying their beignets was on our list.
There was a live band on the sidewalk and the place was packed, but tables tend to turn over pretty quickly. The menu is limited – beignets and various beverages – and it’s cash only. (No double chase sapphire points for me)
After about 10-15 minutes our waitress returned with my café au lait and3 hot beignets apiece, so coated in powdered sugar that the lightest breath sent up a fine mist that coated everything in the vicinity.
They were good (not to die for) and definitely worth the $2.42. The café au lait was not quite as good, towards the bottom of the cup I hit some milk skin which turned me off.
During our meal we’d been busily searching and turned up Cochon Butcher in the Warehouse District which apparently offered bacon praline and boudin balls, so we turned our steps for a leisurely mile and a half walk in that direction hoping we’d be hungry again by the time we got there.
The route took us along Tchoup itoulas Street which, while not exactly scenic, was pretty interesting. We passed a lot of other tempting looking restaurants including Emerils and Tommy’s Wine Bar.
We arrived at Cochon Butcher around noon to find it closed, but right around the corner was Butcher which appeared to be a smaller, hipper version/meat shop. There was only one couple there when we arrived and while it filled up a little bit during the course of our meal, I’d assumed it would be packed for Sunday brunch.
Ordering was interesting. The menu is up on chalkboards and offers an array of small plates, sandwiches, and breakfast items. I zeroed in on the $6 mac & cheese, the $5 hot boudin, and WOOHOO! boiled peanuts for $3. In the course of ordering, the monosyllabic guy manning the counter corrected my pronunciation of boudin. I had been saying it like bu-din, and after staring at me blankly as I tried various other southern pronunciations and finally just pointed at the menu, he condescended to “oh, bu-DAN?” And they did have bacon praline but that wound up being what the name would suggest, a dessert cookie-like praline with bacon chunks in it. Not quite what I was going for.
They also had a small bar, with a decent array of wines, beer, and liquor but it felt too early for a glass of tempranillo and our selections didn’t exactly go with mimosas.
The open kitchen is crammed behind the meat counter and within a few minutes the food started arriving.
The hot boudin arrived first and was not quite what I had expected – it was just the sausage sans any hush puppy coating and served with hot mustard and pickles. I’ll admit I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to the texture of real sausage and other fatty or organ-based things, I prefer mine a little more processed or combined with other foods and thus less indicative of what it’s made of even though I know l lose a lot of flavor. However, it did have an amazing flavor and I managed to make an impressive dent in my serving.
Next up were the boiled peanuts (one of my favorite foods growing up). It’s been hard for me to find good boiled peanuts the last couple of years and these were great! Flavorful (I like ‘em with a little Cajun seasoning), cooked through, but not soggy.
It was hard to pull myself away from the peanuts to try the Pancetta Mac & Cheese. It was really good too, although we had the pleasant problem of finding it almost too cheesy.
My friend had ordered the $6 Sweet + Spicy Brisket sliders which were outstanding – the spice was subtle and integrated with a smoky flavor. Her side of potato salad ($3) was massive. It had just the right amount of mayonnaise too, but wasn’t one of my favorites.
I definitely recommend a trip to Butcher if you’re in town, although have some back up locations in mind in case it’s busy. It wasn’t crowded for Sunday lunch, but when we went back on Monday (Labor day) at 2PM to grab a glass of wine and let me get more peanuts, it was packed out with 30+ people crammed into the tiny space. We wound up going across the street to the Ugly Dog Bar & Saloon which had a very local feel , basic bar food options, and inexpensive mixed drinks. My large bloody mary was only $4.
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