Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 November 2010 17:39
WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
Mr. Ed's is a fine example of the latter-day New Orleans neighborhood restaurant. The original neighborhood cafes were nearly extinct when the first Mr. Ed's opened. The local love for such places was easy to revive, with the right, all-encompassing menu. Ed McIntyre put that out there, and his restaurant became hugely popular right away. Part of the program: it's amenable to family dining, from little kids to their great-grandparents.
WHY IT'S GOOD
If there's any part of the menu in which Mr. Ed's stumbles badly, I haven't found it. The poor boy sandwiches are as good as the seafood platters, which are as fine as the spaghetti and Italian sausage and the fried chicken. The complaints I might be able to work up involve little things, like the heating of muffulettas and the sometimes grossly oversize portions. The restaurant defeats such matters with its very appealing prices and routine cooking of everything to order.
Ed McIntyre opened the first, modest version of Mr. Ed's in Bucktown in 1989. It grew from there, both in that location and others. Some Mr. Ed's opened and were later sold off. Currently, in addition to the Bucktown original, there's a much smaller edition in Kenner (where Calas Bistro used to be). Mr. Ed's Creole Grill on Veterans Blvd. is owned by a relative and has a rather different menu. McIntyre also owns the more upscale Austin's on Chastant Street, also in Metairie.
In Bucktown, there are two big dining rooms with a bar between them, a pleasant but spartan environment. They can get noisy when full. The Mr. Ed's in Kenner is a much smaller restaurant with an almost too elegant dining room.
Shrimp cocktail or remoulade
Grilled chicken salad
Fried shrimp salad
»Crabmeat au gratin
»Eggplant casserole with crabmeat and shrimp
Bell peppers stuffed with shrimp, crabmeat and crawfish
»Fried seafood platters (shrimp, oysters, catfish, stuffed crab or combination)
»Grilled red snapper
»Fried, grilled, baked, barbecued or stewed chicken
Panneed veal with fettuccine
»Veal, chicken or eggplant parmesan
Breaded or grilled pork chops
Red beans and rice with sausage or pork chop
Meatballs or Italian sausage with spaghetti
»Poor boy sandwiches (roast beef, ham, meatball, Italian sausage, hot sausage, fried seafood, or panneed veal)
Lemon ice box pie
FOR BEST RESULTS
Because it attracts so many families and older customers, Mr. Ed's is busier in the early evening than later.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The red sauce on the Italian dishes could be better. When the place is busiest, there's no comfortable place to wait.
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 +1
- Consistency +1
- Service +1
- Value +2
- Attitude +1
- Wine and Bar
- Local Color +1
- Good for business meetings
- Small private room
- Open all afternoon
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
Most Orleanians of my generation (the Baby Boom) were introduced to the pleasures of dining out in neighborhood restaurants. You could get almost anything in these places, from a poor boy sandwich to a seafood platter, a plate of spaghetti to a steak, with bread pudding the universal dessert. After a long decline starting in the 1970s, neighborhood restaurant made a comeback in the 1990s. Mr. Ed’s is one of the best of the renaissance. Baby Boomer Ed McIntyre opened it in a real neighborhood (Live Oak is a minor thoroughfare at most). The menu has everything you might feel like eating in a New Orleans cafe. The big difference is that Mr. Ed's has come a long way since the days when canned spinach and Jell-O were considered acceptable fare in places like this. It’s not on the cutting edge, but it’s right up with contemporary tastes and standards. This is a good place to have a table of six or eight people, and to start with an assortment of appetizers. Most of them are fried (crawfish, catfish fingers, eggplant sticks, calamari, onion rings, etc.), and you'll eat them like popcorn. Baked oysters Italian style with bread crumbs, garlic, olive oil, and herbs are bubbly and smell great. The best of the soups is the oyster and artichoke, in a light, herbal style, well-riddled with firm chunks of the title ingredients. Gumbo and turtle soup are sufficient unto the day. Since Mr. Ed’s claims Bucktown as its neighborhood (a stretch), all the standard fried seafood platters are here. They’re not bad, but don’t judge Mr. Ed's by these. Grilled fish and shrimp are prepared by hands that sprinkle the seasoning on more generously. Even when they cook the fish beyond the best temperature (a problem shared by all restaurants with a sizeable number of older customers), it winds up tasting good. Seafood specials are also good. For example, trout amandine came one day with two medium-size fillets topped with a drift of almonds. A bargain, and a good taste. Fried chicken is nicely seasoned, prepared to order, and the kind of fried chicken that made fried chicken famous. They also make a very good, tender stewed chicken with rice, gravy, and baked macaroni. Mr. Ed's also does New Orleans Italian dishes with sweet, smooth red sauce, layers of melted cheese, and portions too big to finish comfortably. Some dishes are original: veal caponata is panneed, topped with fried eggplant, ham, and melted mozzarella. Veal Orleans with crabmeat and green onions is also tasty. Poor boy sandwiches are well-stuffed with thinly-sliced meats and freshly-fried seafoods. The bread is the seeded Italian variety of the long, thin poor boy loaf, and toasting the bread brings out the crispness of the crust and the aroma of the seeds. But tell them not to heat the muffuletta, so as not to ruin the flavors if its fillings. The service staff is cooperative but always seems to be short at least one waitress.
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