At some point the friendly and efficient staff will offer your table rounds of French bread dripping with melted butter. These are to be avoided. Not because they aren't delicious, but more because you have likely over-ordered. If you gorge on the bread there likely won't be room for the bread pudding. Onion rings are fat sliced and coated in a cakey, crumbly batter. They are devoid of the snappy crispness of a great fried food. There are quite a few hallmark onion rings around town, these are not in that number.
Of the soups, go for the seafood gumbo which is robust and thick with a seafood stock that jumps with a splash of Crystal hot sauce. The turtle soup was a huge disappointment. As the sherry poured on top, it sat and pooled above the potage which was was thick and jiggly with a bland khaki brown color. Had this soup been a custard, it would have been spot on. The meat in the soup was grainy and mealy, perhaps chicken livers were used.
Entrees fared a bit better. An open faced roast beef sandwich was a gut buster with a Colossus of thin sliced meat and debris strewn gravy covering sliced (but untoasted) bread. An Indian mound of crispy fries completed the ensemble. Of course, putting all of this into a po boy would have made more sense. But there is a certain perverse joy about attempting to tackle a mound of beef. "Only seen one person finish the whole thing," our waiter mentioned.
Stuffed peppers here come stuffed with shrimp, meat, and eggplant dressing and covered in creole sauce. They are flavorful, moist and purely indulgent. A choice of sides is offered, Lindsay asked for peas and got peas and mashed potatoes, not that anyone was complaining. Although Lindsay was slightly pouty that the macaroni and cheese this special is usually served with was kaput. A few beers rounded out the meal. We didn't have room for bread pudding (see above for why).
Is Mandina's worth it? That is a tough call. The food is far from ideal and there are countless things that could or should be done better. But restaurants like Mandina's thrive in every city imaginable. They are where you take grandma for her birthday. Or swing by when that afternoon wedding around the corner leaves you slightly buzzed and very hungry. Mandina's is well-loved and seemingly thriving. But in making my judgment, I keep coming back to the food. And while there are some highlights at Mandina's, I am not sure they are better than the same dishes elsewhere.
Mandina's - Worth it? Feel free to skip.
3800 Canal St.