|Shrimp & Grits at La Petite Grocery.|
Such read the text message from a friend whose wife was in town for a convention a few weeks back. I initially considered replying with: "You know that shrimp and grits is a South Carolina thing, right? How do you feel about grillades?" But the culinary geography lesson probably would have just spurned him into hounding me for an answer.
Still, I drew a blank. Where does one find shrimp and grits in the French Quarter and in New Orleans on the whole? Even though some of us may toss aside this imported dish as something far too inferior to be included in the list of iconic New Orleans breakfast dishes (if it ain't got hollandaise, why bother?), for quite a few years shrimp and grits has been an unstoppable rebel force like an LSU defense led by the Honey Badger. The popularity is unsurprising. We love our grits, and Lord knows we have fantastic local shrimp. Putting the two together seems as obvious a marriage as any.
Personally, I am not big on seafood at breakfast time, which is why I did not have much first hand experience to draw upon in answering my friend's question. According to my notes, the last time I ordered shrimp and grits was at La Petite Grocery, whose version I recall was studded with bits of porky goodness. I don't recall any pork products in the shrimp and grits that I tasted in Charleston a few years back, but has there ever been a time when the addition of bacon has not improved a dish? Still, I harken back to my first ever experience with shrimp and grits, which was the work of former Galatoire's chef Brian Landry (who spent a few years in Charleston), who cooked the "authentic" version for one Sunday breakfast at his mother's house.
My friend's wife ended up at Mr. B's as the closest option to her hotel, and she reported back that the shrimp and grits were delicious. But ever since this question came up, I have had a hankering for the dish. So where should I go? Dante's Kitchen and EAT are often mentioned in the discussion as two of the top choices. Luke, Surrey's, and Upperline all have shrimp and grits on their menu. How about the shrimp over grit cake at Muriel's? Or will I head back to LPG? Let us know which local restaurant serves your favorite version of shrimp and grits in the comments.