Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mandina's: Is It Worth It?

Mandina's is an easy trek for most conventioneers. Hop on the Canal street car line and jump off when you see a Pepto Bismol pink building on your left. Katrina induced renovations robbed the dining room of its charm, but that charm revolved around a place which looked like it had been ridden hard and hung up wet. The new Mandina's is more expansive with rich woods and earth tones accented by the ubiquitous Jazz Fest placards.

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. 
(504) 482-9179


Wilson said...

Sadly, I agree. Each time I go I keep expecting there to be more menu choices that intrigue me and the food to be better. The daube on Wednesdays is tasty, the fried oysters not bad, and the atmosphere and cocktails always enjoyable. The staff and patrons are always accomodating and helpful when we bring the baby, thus it's a good option for us to eat out when we want a step up from Mona's or Juan's. But the food keeps it out of the regular rotation. If Katie's were more spacious we might just keep walking past there every time.

thomas cook said...

Finally, the truth about Mandina's. Everytime my future father in law's birthday rolls around I start to think of ways I can get out of going to Mandina's, and I dont feel bad about saying that. Best Old Fashioned my ass...the place angers me.

Rene said...


Make sure you bring that up at Day of the Engaged and again at the Rehearsal Dinner. Deep seated resentment at something your future family does is basically a prerequisite to getting married.


PS Nice humble brag.