Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Game On at Manning's

Rumors of the first family of football opening a sports bar in New Orleans had been swirling around the city long before Manning's opened on the Fulton Streetscape earlier this year. The concept seemed like such a no-brainer that it's a wonder why it took so long to come to fruition. After several false starts in construction and one ejection from the back of the house, the 210 seat man cave has finally settled into a groove and earns the spot as the default answer to one of the most common questions that I get from out of towners staying in the French Quarter:

"Where is a good place to go to watch the ___________ game?"

Cochon de lait fries and sweet potato skins from Manning's.
The restaurant is huge, with tons of tables and multiples TVs in view of every seat in the house. Pictures and memorabilia of Archie, Peyton, and Eli cover the walls, and even Cooper makes an appearance here and there. The prime seating inside is in "The End Zone" - a special section of leather reclining chairs tiered in stadium-style seating in front of a 13 x 7 foot flat screen. An expansive courtyard (complete with its own projection screen) beckons on cool fall afternoons.

Even though Manning's labels itself as a "restaurant", most would consider it first and foremost a place for game watching. But as we all know from our own gameday parties, the activity on the field is only half the entertainment. In order to show special emphasis on the food, Manning's brought in Anthony Spizale, a chef who has had more relationships with restaurants over the past few years than Heidi Montag has had surgical procedures. Chef Spizale's menu (which largely remains in place today) was curiously heavy on knife and fork fare, which seemed out of place for a sports bar. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy grilled fish meuniere with seasonal vegetables every now and then, but not while I am yelling at Les Miles for calling a fake field goal pass behind the line of scrimmage on 4th and 12 from our opponent's 30 yard line.

Duck "Wings" glazed with pepper jelly from Manning's.
A few months ago, Jared Tees took over the kitchen and introduced a special gameday menu of shared appetizers which makes for a better fit with the overall concept. The highlights include cochon de lait frites, which proves that the combination of pork, french fries, and cheese curds is a fool proof recipe for deliciousness. The reconfigured sweet potato skins with goat cheese and bacon marmalade were stellar as well and worthy of a second round.

Unfortunately, several of the dishes fail to reach the end zone. Cheddar and Abita beer bisque was surprisingly thin, and the accompanying bacon popcorn terribly stale. Duck "wings" covered in a sticky sweet pepper jelly glaze would have better with a classic buffalo wing approach, and the Archie burger was thin, dry and flavorless. Looking back, the food reminds me a lot of a Mike Leach coached football team - lots of razzle dazzle which puts points on the scoreboard but weak fundamentals can cost them the game.

But while Manning's may not earn top honors as a restaurant, it excels as a sports bar, albeit a refined one. The beer is served ice cold and at a reasonable price. The servers are happy to accommodate most requests for turning the channel to a particular game, which is great news for those of you who have action on the Central Michigan vs. Eastern Michigan game. And even on busy weekends, a table is usually easy to come by after a minimal wait.

Manning's - Birdie for Atmosphere; Par for Food
519 Fulton Street
(504) 593-8118
Sun-Thur 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11am-11pm


Anonymous said...

fails as a sports bar -- no draught beers, bottles only. not even cold mugs or glasses provided on our visit. just...bottles.

paired w/ meh food, and too much lighting. wont be back.

mrmike said...

I remain amazed that so many reviews of bars say "The beer is served ice cold" as if that was a good thing. You'all are wine folk, you should know better.