Some restaurants here just say “New Orleans.” Mandina’s screams it. It reopened in February 2007 and the regulars still line up along Canal Street for its take on New Orleans cuisine.
Every good restaurant needs a great bar, particularly at Mandina’s. While some pass the time with a cold beer, the barkeep mixes an impeccable Sazerac and an Old Fashioned the way that Miss Hilda would have made it.
Our favorite part of a Mandina’s meal is likely the simplest. The round slices of French bread, lightly toasted and dripping with butter make a perfect snack while you wait on your second or third cocktail or a bowl of oyster and artichoke soup, which is particularly fine—full of briny oysters, creamy artichokes, and herbaceous spinach. It may just be the best in town. The turtle soup is more redolent of a turtle salsa, chunky with a nice twang from the tomato base and a shot of sherry.
Fried onion rings serve as a nice bridge between the soups and your main course. But on occasion they have arrived lukewarm and with a batter more akin to cake than the shatteringly crisp onion rings served elsewhere.
The list of entrées covers the gamut from fried seafood to po-boys to Italian favorites. The veal parmesan is enough for two. A mammoth cut of tender veal fried to the point of being crunchy on the perimeter and crispy in the middle topped with Mandina’s red gravy and placed on top of pasta. Personally, we would rather see the pasta on a separate plate as this arrangement makes it difficult to eat without getting red gravy all over your shirt.
Other choices include grilled shrimp with pasta bordelaise, which suffers from a lack of consistency. At times, the explosion of garlic, parsley and oil is just right while at other times the dish falls flat, with the grilled shrimp laying on top disappointed. A better choice is the classic trout almandine served with a mountain of french fries.
Mandina’s is among a dying breed of neighborhood restaurants which once littered the streets of New Orleans. While many of its brethren like Katie’s and Uglesich’s have closed their doors, Mandina’s has remained. Its perseverance is its legend. 3800 Canal St. 482-9179 Mon.-Thurs. 11-9:30; Fri.-Sat. 11-10:30; Sun. 12-9.