A couple of months ago, I went to brunch with my friend and co-worker to celebrate her new gig in Tennessee. Believe it or not, it was the first time I’d ever dined at Tujague’s (pronounced two-jacks, for those who aren’t in the know). Established in 1856, It’s one of the oldest restaurants in the city, though it has moved around a bit on Decatur Street, and is up there with Galatoire’s and Antoine’s as far as being one of New Orleans’s classic dining establishments. For ages now, I’ve avoided reviewing old-school restaurants in the city because I realized rather quickly that many of these restaurants are frequented more often for the nostalgia and atmosphere, than for the food itself. People have long memories in this town and the last thing I wanted to do is offend anyone if I believed their favorite, family celebration spot sucked.
I finally decided to break my rule of thumb, not only because I enjoyed brunch at Tujague’s, but because I’ve reached a time in my life where I really don’t care what people think of me anymore. I’ve decided to stop doing what other people “think” I should do and write whatever the hell I feel like writing. I know, it took me a long time to get here, but I’ve reached it at last and I’m not turning back.
That lovely Sunday, I made reservations for a late brunch at 1pm and due to restrictions, booked a spot in their new courtyard. They moved down the street from their previous, historic location last year and though they lost a much-beloved bar, they gained more dining space including a cute, bricked-in courtyard.
My friend and I started out sharing a couple of appetizers. I chose the crisply-fried green tomatoes topped with crab-boiled shrimp and drizzled with ravigote — a classic, creamy, tangy French sauce — which is one of my absolute favorites. My only complaint was that there wasn’t nearly enough sauce, but I could literally bathe in the stuff, so I’m obviously biased. Also, I am sure they would’ve brought me more had I asked. My DC chose crunchy, spicy boudin balls served with Creole mustard honey.
For an entrée, I selected the “Three Little Pigs,” a sort of potato hash with braised pork belly, andouille and smoked sausage topped with two poached eggs and hollandaise. It tasted wonderful, but I guess I was anticipating more of a “meat fest” and was a little disappointed that most of the dish consisted of potatoes. I also ordered a side of fluffy, warm buttermilk biscuits with honey, and with all of those carbs, I needed a nap soon after. I probably should’ve ordered the “After the Boil” salad entrée like my friend — boiled crawfish, new potatoes, corn, mushrooms and artichokes on fresh Romaine lettuce with a garlic dressing — but I was already prepared to break my fast and pay the price.
Along with good conversation and a beautiful, French Quarter courtyard atmosphere, one of the best parts of the meal was our service. Being short-staffed that day, our server was actually the bartender and he was full of smiles and more than willing to bend over backwards to fulfil our requests. Plus, he offered us a mini-Grasshopper, Tujague’s signature cocktail, as lagniappe!
Given my great experience with the food, atmosphere and service at Tujague’s, it’s probably past time I give some of the other Grand Dames a go when I have the ducats to spare. Here’s hoping they live up to my expectations!