Your fridge might still be packed with holiday leftovers, but after Thanksgiving everyone wants to get out for a bit. With visiting relatives, kids out of school and a little downtime, that makes this weekend a big one for outings to easy-going, neighborhood-style eateries. After all, you don't have to bring a side dish and someone else will clean up. Here are four picks that fit the bill.
3701 Bienville St., New Orleans, 504-484-0580
It took longer for Katie's to reopen after Hurricane Katrina than some of its neighbors, but when it came back it had plenty of new improvements in store. While retaining the essential character of the New Orleans neighborhood joint, there are many more options and updates on the menu. A tall stack of onion rings is still the go-to first order for many, but you can also get a plate of char-broiled oysters. Most of the entrees and pastas are pretty straightforward and by the book, though one of the most important new additions here also makes some of the best eating: pizza. A distinctive crust and a tangy cheese blend set them apart, and the toppings can be outrageously flavorful, like a combination of pulled pork, garlic and oil. Katie's is a family restaurant with something for everyone and an ambiance that brings people back in time a bit.
900 Harrison Ave., New Orleans, 504-224-2633
Nothing signals a restaurant's intent to serve as a casual, family-friendly neighborhood eatery quite like the appearance of a kids menu. That's true of Mondo, but there's something different about this particular neighborhood eatery. Opened by chef Susan Spicer, who has won national acclaim over the past 20 years at her flagship restaurant Bayona, this restaurant is a gallery of global comfort food. While Mondo is clearly intended to be a much more modest, laidback venture than Bayona, there's still no missing the chef's interest in eclectic cuisine, nor the bedrock culinary craft of her crew here. Both are in evidence all across the Mondo experience, and they demonstrate that simple, everyday food needn't be predictable.
8311 Jefferson Hwy., Harahan, 504-737-3700
Dating back to the 1950s, Charlie's was revived a few years back by New Orleans restaurateurs Frank and Marna Brigtsen, who are better-known for the contemporary Creole and Cajun-inspired cuisine at their fine, high-end Brigtsen's Restaurant. Their new, revamped Charlie's shows just how good our seafood can be, and does this in a laid-back, inexpensive, family-friendly setting. Charlie's has the look of the classic seafood joint. The interior has a single, large, potentially loud dining room with a long bar with no stools. Get meat pies, shrimp remoulade, calas (the old Creole rice fritters, here done as savory versions), fried seafood platters and the "un-fried" seafood platter.
High Hat Cafe
4500 Freret St., New Orleans, 504-754-1336
As Freret Street has grown into a restaurant row, High Hat Café has emerged as one of its welcoming, easy-going ambassadors, a place that blends Southern soul with deep New Orleans flavor and does so in a setting that feels both classic and fresh at once. The walls are lined by big windows and ceiling fans turn overhead while underfoot there's an intricate tile mosaic pattern. You can get Delta-style tamales wrapped in cornhusks, a dark, country-style chicken and andouille gumbo, pimento cheese plates, fried catfish, grilled Gulf fish, an outstanding burger (try it with the pimento cheese), roasted pork shoulder, always-reliable specials and great, old fashioned slices of pie. Local drafts line the bar's taps, and the cocktails are classic and well-prepared. The wine list is short, but it's also smart and affordable.