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Restaurant Ratings

The ratings are based mostly on the degree to which the food excites us, and a little on environment, service, and other considerations. I rate restaurants relative to all other restaurants in the New Orleans area. Here's what the stars mean to me:

starstarstarstarstar
Among the best locally.

starstarstarstar
Excellent and ambitious.

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Worth crossing town for.

starstar
Recommended.

*
Acceptable.

No star
Unacceptable.

Cost Ratings
Each dollar sign indicates a ten-dollar range, including a normal meal for the restaurant (dinner, if they serve other meals), not including drinks, or tips. So, for example. . .

1$--$5-15
2$--$15-25
3$--$25-35

. . . and so on, with no upper limit. While this scheme may suggest mathematical precision, know that perception of price varies from diner to diner as much as the star ratings do. So consider this an estimate.

All reviews are based entirely on meals I have personally taken at the restaurant and paid for from my own pocket. I don't take free review meals, nor am I reimbursed by anybody for my restaurant expenditures.

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Ernst Cafe

Seafood. Neighborhood Cafe. Bar Food.
Warehouse District: 600 S Peters. 504-525-8544. Map.
Lunch Tuesday-Sunday. Dinner seven nights.
Very Casual
AE DC DS MC V
Website

WHY IT'S NOTEWORTHY
A fixture in the Warehouse District for over a century, the Ernst Cafe has people spilling out onto its sidewalks from late afternoon until very deep into the night. Almost all of them are drinking. Many are also munching on sandwiches, salads, fried seafood, and other casual local eats. The crowd is on the young side, celebrating the end of the day either in the nearby offices where they work, or the end of the meeting schedule in the Morial Convention Center down the street. All this goes on into the wee hours of the morning, making Ernst a rare resource for late-night dining--but the quality declines as the hour gets later.

WHY IT'S GOOD
The menu is basically bar food. The best part of it is seafood, most of it fried, made into either platters or sandwiches. The goodness of all this varies wildly from hot and crisp to just okay. Much of the menu--particularly in the appetizer department--suggests the kind of pre-fab food you'd find in a chain restaurant anywhere. The menu is more limited than it needs to be. Oysters, please?

BACKSTORY
The Ernst Cafe opened in 1902 as a slightly upscale lunchroom and bar for people working in that formerly industrial part of town. Almost exactly on the day when the World's Fair of 1984 opened right next door, the place began its evolution into a hangout for tourists. By then, most of the factories were gone. In the 1990s, an increasing number of people who live and work in the district joined the crowd, and now party every night. Late at night, it's popular among people working in other restaurants and the nearby casino.

DINING ROOM
Much of the old place's battered surroundings have been preserved, and what hasn't been is reconstructed in an antique style. Dining tables and bars are scattered throughout the long, brick-walled spaces on both floors. The upper floor has a long, classic New Orleans balcony overlooking the newly-restored pedestrian passageways on Lafayette and Fulton Streets. An oddity of the decor is the presence of swastikas in the design of the old tile floor. These turn in the opposite direction of the infamous Nazi insignia, however, and were here decades before those dastards arose.

ESSENTIAL DISHES
Spinach ravioli.
Quesadilla rolls.
Spinach artichoke dip.
Southwest-style egg rolls.
Fried chicken tenders.
Salads, with grilled chicken or tuna, or fried shrimp or chicken wings.
Boiled shrimp or crawfish in season.
Shrimp or catfish poor boy.
Grilled tuna sandwich.
Grilled chicken sandwich.
Hamburgers.
Fried shrimp or catfish platter.
Daily specials.

FOR BEST RESULTS
If the weather's nice, get a table on the sidewalk, and forget about what time it is. The drinks will be out quickly, but the food might offer the chance to have a second drink before it gets in the way.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The menu could do with a great deal more range and more attentive service. The appetizers are really routine.

FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.

SPECIAL ATTRIBUTES

This review was updated with new information on 3/15/2010.


A list of over 320 full, current reviews is here.