Unknown Food Critic
Porter & Luke’s
1517 Metairie Rd., Metairie, 504-875-4555
TWO STARS (out of four)
Porter & Luke’s is a new restaurant modeled on the very old template of the New Orleans neighborhood joint. You’ll be familiar with most of the menu, which dials in Creole flavor. There are a few fieldtrips away from the standards, though these are of varying success.
This restaurant space was for many years the home of Zeke’s, a once-beloved neighborhood spot that tanked badly after a change in ownership. It’s a big place, with a large bar area and a few interconnected dining rooms. The look throughout is clean, maybe a little bland, but the patrons make up for that with their own dose of local color. It’s a family-friendly restaurant and you see every generation in here at once.
Service is very good. The restaurant can get busy (a waiting list is common at dinner and even for some lunches). But the staff keep things moving. Sometimes dishes come out a little too fast, and your soup or appetizer might need to be pushed aside for your entrée. But the attitude is always upbeat and welcoming. They do a nice job in this department.
The best choices up front are the dishes you recognize right away – the gumbo and turtle soup are both excellent, as is the shrimp remoulade. One exception to that rule are the onion rings, which looked like the real deal but lacked both seasoning and crunch, as if they’d been hanging around too long in the kitchen. Fried clams, a frequent special, are tempting because they’re so rarely seen around here, but these are utterly bland and over-battered. The duck quesadillas are good but should definitely be shared – the portion is practically entrée size. The baked oysters, with a creamy mix of goat cheese under the golden caps, could make an entrée for one or a good pass-around appetizer for the table to share.
Familiarity is also a reliable guide through the main courses. The roast beef po-boy is first rate, and so is the BBQ shrimp po-boy, drenched with a peppery, buttery sauce. The root beer glazed-ham is excellent, but I would have preferred it on a po-boy loaf rather than the soft-textured ciabatta roll. That’s a minor complaint. A major one concerns a flank of fried flounder that was impressive in size but lacking in flavor and dried out to boot. The fried chicken is a winner, however, and the Creole-Italian platters are reliable comfort food. The eggplant Vincent is worth special mention: the fried eggplant is shaped into a sturdy column and filled with a crab and crawfish cream sauce that spills out over a pile of angel hair pasta. There’s a steak, but at a whopping $38 I can only imagine it’s on the menu to make people feel like a big deal on their birthdays. The bargain lunch specials are always good – especially the stewed chicken and the red beans with massive ham shank on the side.
You can get a root beer float here for an old-fashioned treat, though once someone at a nearby table gets the bread pudding you might be compelled to order one yourself. The aroma is alluring and a single serving is big enough for a table of four to share.
There is a full bar with basic cocktails and wines.
Prices are moderate, with most entrees in the mid-teens, sandwiches around $10 or $12 and that strange outlier in the form of a $38 steak. Lunch specials are always a good deal.
Some New Orleans neighborhood joints feel as old as their neighborhoods – and some truly are. Porter & Luke’s is very new, of course, but it still shares some of that old DNA across its recipes, its approach and the way patrons use it. It’s a very big operation with some kinks to work through still, but the goodness of its specialties really does shine and that makes it worth a visit when you’re in this part of town.