Thursday, May 10, 2012


In the present era of classically-trained chefs opening gourmet burger stands and casual eateries where the sausage is made in house from Mangalista pigs and the salad greens are grown on inner-city hydroponic farms, the neighborhood restaurant has fallen off the radar. In the immediate months after Katrina, the re-opening of the long-running family friendly eatery was met with fervor from those in search of a return to normalcy. But their popularity has waned to the point that most of those intent on surviving have been forced to embrace change and rejuvenation.

Stuffed mushrooms from Katie's in Mid-City.
Katie's has always been looked upon as an inferior sibling to Mandina's, the apotheosis of New Orleans neighborhood cuisine located just 2 blocks away. But after the storm, the two restaurants took decidedly different paths for rebuilding. While Mandina's went back to it's tried and true menu of Creole-Italian, po-boys, an old fashions, Katie's held onto the past but also innovated with the addition of pizzas, Sunday brunch, and a few original dishes which caught the attention of one infamous, blonde, spiky-haired, pinky-ringed food TV host.

But don't hold that against them.

Odds are good that your table will start with an order of chargrilled oysters, which were overcooked to major shrinkage on my first visit, but on the third they were near perfect - just barely heated underneath a buttery breadcrumb and parmesan topping. The crunchy onion rings of medium thickness are preferred over the fried eggplace sticks and  french fries overly seasoned with Cajun spice. Chicken and andouille gumbo has a charcoal colored roux a good level of spice, but the best soup on my three visits was a special that had a rich and creamy base of brie cheese with crabmeat and roasted portabello mushrooms.

Every item on the gargantuan fried seafood platter had different batters, an attention to detail often not practiced. Crawfish were blonde and flavorless, shrimp were Saints gold, the small oysters a dark brown, and a huge filet of moist fish fell somewhere in the middle of the color wheel. The tartar and cocktails sauces were strange enough to remember, the former being very sweet with pickles and the latter tasting as if it was made with oyster liquor. The much touted CNN Blackberry and Jalapeno Ribs are tender from slow cooking (not smoking) and coated in a sticky sweet sauce. Pass.

The Boudreaux Pizza.
The pizzas are unconventional and far from the authentic Roman and Neopolitan styles that we all have accepted as the apex of pizza nirvana. The crust has a slightly sweetened taste and is not too thick or too thin, somewhat chewy and usually yields under an overload of ingredients. The cheese is a strange mixture of mozzarella and provel, a St. Louis processed blend which Rene still has nightmares over. But if Hogs for the Cause has taught us all anything, it's the power of pork. Witness the Boudreaux: a garlic cream base topped with shreds of succulent cochon de lait, whole cloves of sweet roasted garlic, wilted leaves of fresh spinach and red onion. I have tasted a few other pizzas at Katie's, and they are fine (especially the Terranova featuring sausage made at the Faubourg St. John grocery store). But none come even close to comparing to the Boudreaux.

And you can taste the Boudreaux (and all of the pizzas) for $10 every Thursday, when Katie's packs them in for the weekly pizza special. The restaurant does not take reservations, so don't be surprised if you find yourself waiting in the small bar area or outside on the patio furniture where you can still here the cacophony from the dining room. It's the sound of the reliable neighborhood restaurant, and at Katie's it's as loud as ever.

Katie's - Par
3701 Iberville Street
(504) 488-6582
Sun: 9am - 3pm; Mon-Wed: 11am - 3pm; Thur-Sat: 11am - 10pm

All photos by The Folk Singer.


Jane said...

Aw, I like Katie's. That Boudreaux pizza is real good, the vibe is real friendly, and the staff is pleasant and responsive.

frog said...

I like Katie's, but I do not understand their love of that crappy St Louis processed chefs, Provel. It is god awful, and they put it on their muffalettas!

Wilson said...

I always thought of it as the superior cousin to the even closer Liuzza's.

Anonymous said...

hailing from Wisconsin and a fan Vermont, I am no fan of processed cheese...however provel is good in one circumstance -- Imo's Pizza, epitome of St Louis style flat pizza. goey, with razor thin slices of tomato and works.