Court of Two Sisters
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Although depictions of the French Quarter seem to allude otherwise, few restaurants offer courtyard dining in New Orleans. Of them, by far the most famous is the the Court of Two Sisters. Except when the weather is truly unbearable, they serve in their lushly-planted, expansive, brick-surrounded courtyard year round. The distinctly French Quarter environment and Creole food provide a unique taste of the city, and the service staff is welcoming and entertaining.
WHY IT'S GOOD
The Court of Two Sisters has never served the best food in town, but it's much better than is widely rumored among locals. The menu advanced two or three decades forward after the hurricane, and now is more like that of a Creole bistro than the grand Creole-French cuisine it used to purvey. The move made all the food better--at least at dinner. The jazz brunch buffet--offered seven days a week--is not bad, but nowhere near as good as the dinner offerings.
The building is as historic as it claims to be, dating back to the early 1830s. The story of the Two Sisters (there's a brochure) is charming. But the restaurant as we know it only dates back to the 1960s, when Joe Fein put it together. His sons and grandchildren operate it now.
Unless the weather is intolerable, service takes place in a large, brick-floored, wisteria-covered courtyard surrounded by four buildings dating back to the early 1800s. It is a lovely place, day or night. The interior rooms are less appealing but pleasant enough. Most have large windows opening into the courtyard.
ESSENTIAL MENU [*=Recommended]
Two Sisters Three (chilled crawfish, shrimp, and crabmeat assortment)
Seafood en brochette (shrimp and oysters)
Escargots in mushrooms bordelaise
Duck and napa cabbage spring rolls
Tableside Caesar salad
Fried catfish with crabmeat and cayenne tartar sauce
Shrimp and grits
Trout meuniere or amandine
Gulf fish of the day (varies, but always interesting)
Crabmeat au gratin
Chicken or veal Oscar (with crabmeat, tasso hollandaise, and asparagus)
Penne pasta with crabmeat, shrimp, and crawfish, green onion parmesan cream sauce
Duck a l'orange
Pork tenderloin marchand de vin, with bacon and sweet pea risotto
Beef tenderloin bearnaise or marchand de vin
Eggplant napoleon with mozzarella and spinach
FOR BEST RESULTS
The daily brunch buffet beckons, and so does the $40 three-course dinner, but better food comes from the a la carte menu at dinner. Feel free to dress down on warm days. Have a Sazerac at the bar before going to the table; it's the city's best.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The quality of the raw materials--especially among the seafood dishes--could be better. An air-conditioned dining room would be a nice option on hot days.
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 +2
- Service +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar +1
- Local Color +3
- Live music at brunch
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Good view
- Good for business meetings
- Small private room
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Good for children
- Reservations recommended
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Local diners who consign this finest of all patio dining restaurants to tourists are making a mistake. It is touristy and full of cliches, both in the dining room and the kitchen. Still, the Court at dinner is much better than it's reputed to be. If you dine in that lovely courtyard when the weather is right and you're in the mood for some Tennessee Williams-style New Orleans atmosphere, the evening will be unforgettable, and the chances of off-notes are slim. The service staff is accommodating, but make sure they know you’re a local both when you make the reservation and meet the waiter.
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