This peculiar thing happens to me each time I travel south: I suddenly feel more connected with the history of the US than I do when north. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, I know. After all, many of the first colonies settled in the US are in the north and even my hometown in Ohio is rich with Native American culture and restaurants with names like ‘First Settlement’. But something about the south is spooky and telling and mystic to me. Be it the voodoo or Baptist churches sprawled along dirt roads, I am not sure, but when I am down there, I have an insatiable longing to dive as deep into history as possible.
When in New Orleans, there are a couple restaurants, I hear, where this can be done. But Tujague’s tops the list for me.
Tujague’s is New Orleans’ second oldest restaurant. Pitched right on Decatur street, the restaurant has stood, untouched by the likes of floods or war, since 1856. And the minute you step foot into this place–you can tell. There’s a certain musty air to Tujague’s–one that accompanies a history so thick it seeps through the cracks of the wood-panneling on the walls, which are decorated with framed pictures that have been signed by celebrities, a chef’s apron from 1936, rusting silverware, and a large clock with browning paper beneath the still-twitching hands. Quintessentially old southern liquor bottles sit on framed shelves amidst the decor madness and the large, rectangular room, is filled like a dining hall with 4-seater tables, draped in white-cloth.
And the warm, soulful history of New Orleans doesn’t stop showing itself at Tujague’s there.
Tujague’s offers one kind of dinner and one kind of dinner only: a full one. You will not, cannot, leave this restaurant hungry. Or dissatisfied. Because everything they serve here is not only traditionally Creole, but it is all delicious.
You’ll start off with an appetizer–Shrimp Remoulade. And it is perfect. This will be followed by Soup Du Jour–for which I had gumbo–and it was everything I could ever expect from a gumbo, and I mean that in the best way possible. This will be paired with the house speciality–the brisket of beef. They don’t call it their speciality for nothing. I eat beef extremely rarely and this beef made my mouth water. It could nearly stop any vegetarian dead in their tracks. As the tradition of the restaurant goes, you’ll be offered one of four special entrees, and I doubt you’ll be unhappy with any of them, although I only tried one: The Crawfish. I couldn’t have been more pleased with my selection, either. And just when I’d thought I’d had enough, the ever-charming waiters brought out coffee (in a glass, which I deemed a nice touch) and dessert.
Tujague’s was new to me when I stepped through the doors, but it’s a classic New Orleans staple to most others. I overheard one guest boasting to his fellow-diners how they were “In for a treat” with Tujague’s while another comfortably tossed me Mardi Gras beads as I enjoyed my Fresh Cap bread. And it’s true. Presidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower have all dined in that very same old, haunting room.
And if you’re in New Orleans, you’d better, too.
By: Elizabeth Seward