111 Veterans Blvd.
Metairie, LA 70005
Napoleon's Ratings: **/*****
Each property in the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group has its own concept and stakes out its own turf, and Heritage Grill is no exception. In fact, this one is highly site specific.
It's in the lobby level of the Heritage Plaza office tower just on the Metairie side of the Orleans-Jefferson parish line, and it serves lunch and happy hour expressly to accommodate the business people stacked above it or looking for a midway point for a cross-parish lunch.
The cuisine is a mix of sandwiches, salads and entrees that all aim higher than your typical lunch café, all informed by that relaxed, contemporary Creole style that runs across Ralph Brennan's restaurants.
There's a sleek, corporate feel to the split level dining room. Padded leather booths large enough for office parties -- and others small enough for a conspiratorial meeting of two -- line the edges, and there's a large bar and a series of private rooms for meetings and luncheons. The clientele is usually sharply dressed, consisting of business outings and ladies-who-lunch getting away from the country club.
The staff here come off polished and professional, if maybe a little overly-coached here or there. Things can sometimes bog down at the rush hour for lunch, and it can sometimes be hard to get in and out in an hour, which shouldn't happen at a restaurant designed explicitly to serve business lunch.
The gumbo here (duck and andouille) is dark, hearty and first class, as are the fried oysters with a smoky, tasso-touched sauce. But this kitchen can put out some more original appetizers, and when they appear you should go for them. For instance, the crawfish bruschetta appetizer sounds conventional enough but proves something else altogether. It's made from thick, towering slices of chewy bread that look more like cakes, with crawfish tails stuck to the top by stretchy, creamy, house-made mozzarella. It's all drenched with zesty, lemony dressing, which makes this a fork-and-knife undertaking. The duck, mushroom and tasso eggrolls have a good smoky, earthy flavor, though the ginger-soy sauce proved distracting.
The best entrees at Heritage Grill these days are hanging out in the two-course "express lunch" section of the menu. That's where you'll find the textbook hanger steak, with grilled asparagus and potatoes, and the bronzed redfish, a satisfyingly meaty plank of tender fish crusted with robust seasoning. Of the entrée salads, the BBQ oyster salad Paulette is the best and the most original, though it does riff on a long-time mainstay at Ralph Brennan's Red Fish Grill in the French Quarter. Those are the "BBQ" oysters, which are actually fried and coated in a spicy Buffalo-style sauce, here done over spinach and frisee. Specials are always worth a look, like an excellent tuna sandwich I had here with its thick, large, irregular cut of beautiful fish all dressed with mayo, avocado and sprouts on a seeded French bread bun. The fine-dining hallmarks are here in abundance, from sweet, chutney-like house-made ketchup for the crisp fries to the interesting sauces, like sun-dried tomato aioli on sandwiches.
Dessert is normally a harder sell at lunch than dinner, but Heritage Grill makes a pretty compelling argument for giving in. The bread pudding brulee in particular is a tight rendition of a classic. You can always get a bowl of fruit with a shortbread cookie if you're playing it tight.
Again, you might think that a place that just serves lunch would not have much bar business, but at Heritage Grill that isn't the case. There's a menu of specialty cocktails and a respectable wine list, and enough people partake at lunch that the bartender is busy. The happy hour is a pretty good scene too, as business people from the floors upstairs get loose before heading home.
Heritage Grill is priced like a high-end restaurant's lunch menu, so most of the entrees fall in the low- to mid-teens and appetizers are $6 or $7. There's a smart express lunch deal with two courses for between $14 and $22. The happy hour, with $5 cocktails and $6 appetizers, is a fun bargain.
Heritage Grill serves a specific niche and a specific clientele - namely, business people in the market for a meal that might last longer and cost more than your standard lunch café. Quality is high, even if the offerings aren't the most head-turning or creative. It's a place to keep in mind when the need for its specific skills and amenities are in order.