Last Updated on Thursday, 08 December 2011 10:12
Dick & Jenny's
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Dick and Jenny's is packed almost every night because it uses a magic formula: terrific, unpretentious food with a hint of the extraordinary, sold at prices noticeably below those of comparable restaurants, in premises with an honest New Orleans-style well-worn look. The fact that people wait for tables encourages others to wait, too, and discuss how good the place is.
While most of the hip restaurants around town do most of their work on the ingredients front, Dick and Jenny's has always put most of the emphasis on brilliant Creole cooking. Few of the raw materials have intrinsic superstar status, but what's done with them in the kitchen creates lusty delicious. The imagination of the kitchen embraces enough exotic ideas that the eating is always exciting.
Dick is Richard Benz, whose tour of duty before he opened this place with his wife Jenny included Gautreau's and the Upperline. Benz had his eye on a low-down, ramshackle bar on Tchoupitoulas Street. When it closed, he swooped in and bought it, opening for business in 1998. The couple remained there until Katrina. They moved to Buffalo after the storm, selling the restaurant to former managers.
The main dining room includes the big old bar, a high ceiling, and walls covered with plates decorated by customers and friends of the restaurant. The back rooms feel like little more than walled-in carports, but through the overall funkiness of the place somehow manage to feel thoroughly comfortable. The service staff is happy and always on the run.
Seasonal menus are endemic here, with deep changes three or four times a year. Here is the summer 2010 menu:
»Corn fried calamari, chili marinated peppers, chilpotle remoulade
Eggplant fries, shaved provolone, Marsala marinara
»Shrimp and black bean cheesecake, corn salsa, poblano aioli
Herbed mussels, bacon, tomato, thyme broth, smashed potatoes
»Salmon poke salad, avocado puree, pita chips
Pain perdu of duck confit, apples, Brie, peach chutney
»Jenny’s salad (greens, blue cheese, apple, pecans)
Leigh’s salad (greens, hearts of palm, cherry tomatoes, chèvre)
Gumbo du jour
Soup du jour
Surf and turf trio (beef tournedos with three seafood-based sauces)
Flounder spring roll, napa cabbage, red peppers, shiitakes
»Seared diver scallops and Gulf shrimp, melon salsa
Stuffed quail (alligator sausage-cornbread dressing)
»Plank-roasted salmon, spinach, shiitakes, cucumber-dill cream
»Barbecue buffalo short ribs, mac and cheese
Chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich
»Crème brulee du jour
Port poached pear, honey mascarpone, candied almonds
Lemon icebox pie
»Fresh fruit crisp
FOR BEST RESULTS
Reservations are accepted only for parties of five or more. To avoid waiting for a table, show up before or soon after the restaurant opens. The restaurant is well-known to younger travelers; and when any kind of festival is in town, the business here goes up. On the other hand, hanging on the back porch with friends and wine is not unpleasant.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The rear rooms are a shade too casual for me. They ought to run the venison they cook in the winter more often. Reservations would really be nice, even though they'd mess up part of the program.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Consistency +1
- Service +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine and Bar +1
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +3
- Small private room
- Open Monday dinner
- Unusually large servings
- Reservations accepted
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