The first thought that poofed into my head upon hearing the name High Hat Cafe was “So, it’s snobbish Southern food?’ Was I being hastily judgemental? Did I “get out my conclusions mat” as my loving boyfriend loved to quote from that cult classic film, Office Space?
Last week, my friend Dani and I went to give High Hat a try. Street construction on Freret right in front of the restaurant made me wonder if they were open, but owner Chip Apperson was ready to greet us right as we walked up to the door. Tile floors, diner tables and high wooden booth seats made it feel like a classic neighborhood seafood joint, only before long use by adoring customers stickied the counter-tops and unstabilized tables.
Don’t ask why, but while I was dutifully sucking down the city’s water supply to avoid unnecessary sugar, Dani got to try some of the house made ginger ale which she deemed delicious. I will definitely need to return under more normal circumstances so I can taste their fresh lemonades and Abita Root Beer Floats.
Dani and I wanted the same entrees, but I had to pick out a couple of appetizers as well. We started with a rich and meaty Chicken Gumbo Ya-Ya that hid chunks of sausage and a small pile of rice. We gobbled most of it, but were also distracted by a plate of fat, juicy BBQ Shrimp swimming in a buttery sauce, my only complaint being that there wasn’t nearly enough bread to enjoy it all.
Our catfish platters arrived while trying to keep Posie from eating the remaining shrimp heads. I found it strange that the difference between a “large” catfish plate and a “small” catfish plate was only one piece of catfish…don’t you? I mean, shouldn’t it at least be two or heck, even three more pieces? Go ahead and charge more, but if I’m going to order a large…
Regardless of my picky pet-peeves, the catfish plates, both large and small, were delicious. Thick fingers of catfish were fried perfectly in a cornmeal/corn flour coating, making them wonderfully crispy and clean, without any greasiness at all. Accompanying the catfish were several hush puppies that Dani said “tasted like they could have come out of her Grandma’s kitchen”, cool coleslaw and a pile of French fries. I switched out my fries for a taste of their chunky Sweet Potato Salad and was not disappointed.
We were both quite full and had to make a quick exit or suffer the wrath of a tired, unruly toddler. Reflecting on lunch, I’d have to stand firm and say that my first supposition was correct. Everything was so clean compared to your average plate of Southern food, from the use of super-fresh ingredients to plating style. Plus, even with all the scrubbing and orderliness, the price was a bit high to pay for your average fried catfish adventure, especially quantity-wise. But (oh yes, there is a but) the food is damn good.