Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ye Olde College Inn: Is It Worth It?

Most of the places in this series are serving the same style and quality of food they have served since forever, be it roast beef po-boys or blackened fish. Times and tastes change. The average American has a higher food IQ in 2012, than in 1970. A restaurant opening today is required to not only have a board of house made charcuterie but also s forager and in-house pickler. How then can a restaurant stay both classic and current?

A good example of how to accomplish both can be found at Ye Olde College Inn. Part of their success is due to their proximity and relations with Rock and Bowl, which provide a steady stream of visitors with disposable income to both properties. Whereas some restaurants might take this to mail it in, Ye Olde College Inn has ratcheted up its food offerings in recent years. Credit for that belongs to the Blancher family who have turned surrounding properties into farms and to Chef Bradley McGehee, who arrived over a year ago.

The premises are dominated by dark woods and exposed beams. The religious icons scattered about may be a little strange to those of you not schooled by the Archdiocese.It seems sharing a block with the Archbishop creates the same design aesthetic as a sports bar near the Dome being filled with Saints memorabilia. Start your meal with an Old Fashioned, possibly the best in the city and served in a large, heavy glass and just enough ice to cool it down without drowning out the flavors.

Follow that up with a bowl of rustic seafood gumbo which relies on a fragrant seafood stock to carry forth plump shrimp. Whereas the greatness of Louisiana shrimp were on full display in the gumbo, they hide, to their detriment, behind an overly assertive remoulade and thin discs of fried green tomatoes. Two pucks of boudin encased in a crispy shell, gilded with pepper jelly vinaigrette and a red pepper sauce, get a welcome dose of saucy richness from the running yolk of a poached egg. Breakfast dressed up for supper.

The benefits of having your own farm showed up on the next course. A medley of corn, sweeter than a sleeping infant, peas, and cherry tomatoes was a delicious way to eat your vegetables. The whipped potatoes were smooth and luxurious. Of the two gravies, the classic was a much better flavor with the mushroom demi glace giving off a burned taste. The hamburger steak itself was a shade dense and chewy, a risk with ground grass-fed beef, outweighed by its deep, mineral taste.

Dessert was a chocolate peanut butter pie which we devoured in less than two minutes. Had Peter been dining with us, we would have had to order a second one. Chocolate and peanut butter silk pie is an absolute dinosaur of a dish and has been around since the ancient times of the Seventies (if not the Prehistoric era of the Sixties). Yet it is a classic for a reason because it is the world's best pie.

The foods on offer at Ye Olde College Inn should be familiar to anyone who has spent time in the hallowed halls of the Law Firm of Mandina, Liuzza, et al. But the raw ingredients are better, the cooking more careful, and the products well sourced. Ye Olde College Inn also does the little things better than other spots in its genre. For example, right when you are ready to ask for a second beer the waitress is ready to take your order or she may convince you to order dessert without upselling you. All of this melds into a classic restaurant which is no longer a dinosaur, but has evolved into a vibrant well run "modern" restaurant without sacrificing its soul.

If you are looking for a classic New Orleans neighborhood spot, I don't think you can do much better than Ye Olde College Inn.

Ye Olde College Inn: Is It Worth It? Absolutely.
3000 South Carrollton Ave.
Tues. - Sat. 4-11 pm


Jeff Abbott said...

Law firm of Mandina, Liuzza . . .I love it. I feel whenever I come to NOLA I need a printout of all your reviews. Thank you for this one.

Anonymous said...

This idea that house-made is better is misguided. Leave the sausage, bacon, salami, etc. to an outfit that specializes in it. It's not like cured meat doesn't travel well.

Anonymous said...

the problem w/ outfits that specialize in it is many meat companies use nitrites and nitrates for additional shelf-life. a chef in-house is less likely to do so.