Our trip to the “Big Easy” started about four months before we actually touched down in New Orleans—because that’s when we first started telling friends and family that we were planning our trip. Which is precisely the time when the recommendation-floodgates burst open and overwhelmed us. Some people sent us a modest (manageable) list of one or two places to try. Others forwarded five-page word documents listing must-try eateries by neighborhood, cuisine, and meal-type. Soon after that we realized everyone who’s been to New Orleans has their “favorites” and that pretty much anywhere we ended up was gonna be fantastic.
But I’m too OCD to not do some research and seek out the best. After all, the fear of never making it back to New Orleans meant I had to get it right the first time around.
So after putting every recommendation into a spread sheet, using Excel macros to cross-reference recommendations from fellow foodies, our guide book, and friends whose pallets we trust—I created an algorithm and ended up with the a slightly more tolerable list of restaurants, pastry shops, lunch spots, BBQ joints, etc. And the brunch place that bubbled to the top was Elizabeth’s Restaurant.
At first glance Elizabeth’s doesn’t seem like much. The chipped wood paneling on the exterior and the junkyard hodgepodge of recycled-material-turned-artwork on the walls was a little disconcerting. But Elizabeth’s Restaurant wears its wares on its sleeve like it’s bastion for the Bywater recovery effort that’s been taking place since Katrina. And it’s once you know their backstory, that the funky décor really feels necessary and makes the most sense. Besides, it’s the Bywater, and funk is what it’s all about.
Elizabeth’s is two stories of Dr. Bob adorned walls with a full bar upstairs and tables for dining throughout. The restaurant is as casual as can be, but it’s their “we don’t give a shit” attitude that’s rallied the second oldest community in New Orleans to revive in the face of disaster.
Your tattooed and nose-pierced waiter may or may not have giant holes in the armpits of his shirt. The air-conditioning may or may not be working the day you show up. But one things certain—your food is going to be amazing.
Elizabeth’s in the Bywater
We started with the praline bacon, which is what may have put Elizabeth’s on the map back in 1998 soon after they opened their doors pre Katrina. The bacon was is cut thin, and they layer brown sugar and chopped pecans on top before crisping it up under the salamander. It’s sweet. It’s got a little crunch. It’s heaven.
I also went a little crazy and ordered the fried chicken livers with Elizabeth’s pepper jelly. The richness of the liver meat was cut by the spice and coolness of the pepper jelly. Not everyone’s a chicken liver fan, and this is totally different from chicken liver pâté, but I happen to love liver so I really liked it. Be forewarned—this is a huge serving of fried chicken liver.
Smoked Salmon and Brie Grilled cheese sandwich. This was two pieces of buttery lightly toasted Rye Bread with smoked salmon and Brie cheese melted inside. The entire thing was topped with two fried eggs and served with a side of cheesy grits.
Cajun Bubble and Squeak. This was one of the “healthier dishes” with country bacon (that’s chunky ¼ inch pieces of roughly chopped bacon), sautéed with shredded cabbage and shrimp—topped with two poached eggs and a slathering of Hollandaise sauce.
At Elizabeth’s, the eggs Florentine is a little different from what you might be used to. Here they serve the poached eggs over roasted home fries (potatoes) with some creamed spinach and crispy fried oysters. We had the Hollandaise on the side so we could keep the oysters crisp!
We had to get the Duck Waffle, because the words “duck” and “waffle” were used in the same dish name. Duh! This was a sweet potato and duck confit hash on top of a corn bread waffle with a garnish of Elizabeth’s delicious house-made pepper jelly. The cornbread waffle was moist and soft, and again, the pepper jelly helped cut through some of the richness.
Our friend Justin, whose waist is as big as my upper thigh, ended up getting the heartiest meal of all—the campfire steak and eggs. This was a huge piece of cold smoked rib eye topped with Hollandaise and fried eggs. Make sure you ask for it cooked the way you’d like, because the piece of meat is so darn thick, I think the default is medium rare…or in Justin’s case MOOOre rare than I think he was used to!
And you can’t go to Elizabeth’s for brunch, lunch or dinner without getting something filled with crab. So we got the crabby eggs benedict, consisting of two crab cakes with poached eggs and Hollandaise on top. Unlike traditional crab cake benedict, the crab cakes at Elizabeth’s were the English muffin. We got the biscuit on the side just for fun. Delicious!
Oh and don’t forget to order a side of the buttery biscuits with strawberry jam. They’re perfect for sopping up whatever runaway egg yolks you’ve got on your plate.
And check out the bar upstairs. They make a delicious Pimm’s cup with ginger beer! Refreshing and sharp, just like I like my cocktails.
Been to Elizabeth’s in the Bywater New Orleans neighborhood? Tell us all about it in the comments below, or on our social media sites.