Crescent Pie & Sausage Company
4400 Banks Street
New Orleans, LA 70119
Napoleon's Rating - ***/*****
There's a new appreciation out there for house-made ingredients and farm-to-table produce, a return to the time-tested kitchen ways that too many restaurants discarded in the name of efficiency during generations past. Few casual, inexpensive restaurants around town embrace this revival more enthusiastically than Crescent Pie & Sausage Co. The "sausage" in the name is a dead giveaway to the specialty here: an ever-changing array of hand-made meats. "Pie" refers to pizza pies and also savory hand pies filled with meats, seafood or cheese.
This new restaurant was supposed to open in a Mid-City building on Banks Street that was badly in need of renovation. Before that could happen, however, the building collapsed outright. What rose in its place is a beautiful new structure that feels very much at home in its neighborhood. The interior gleams with lumber salvaged from the original building, big windows let in plenty of light and there is a large, covered deck for outdoor dining.
This is a casual place where you can expect prompt service and well-informed descriptions of menu items, which is especially helpful when it comes to the assortment of specialty meats.
If there are at least two people at your table, the best way to start is by ordering the mixed grill. This is a sampling of some of the sausages on offer that day, and a recent line-up included a link of boudin, a link of spicy chicken sausage, sheets of thin-sliced coppa and a stack of "little smokies" slathered by spicy-sweet sauce. You can also get a single "link of the day" as a more modest appetizer. The savory hand pies make better appetizers than entrees, and while this assortment changes frequently look for those made with duck confit. Salads are surprisingly good, a tribute to the way this place sources so much of its produce from local farmers. Finally, the gumbo is excellent. It is a thick, dark, meaty, smoky Cajun-style rendition.
If you don't order a pizza at Crescent Pie & Sausage, you'll probably regret it once you see a pie set down in front of somebody else. These are gorgeous and delicious compositions of crust, sauce and topping, often including those house-made meats. Just don't look for your standard large pepperoni pizza here. Each pizza has its own identity, like the Mediterranean pie with lamb sausage, roasted red pepper sauce, grilled eggplant, artichoke hearts and a drizzle of goat cheese cream. The hot coppa pie arrives under a bushy pile of fresh arugula hiding thin slices of spicy salami, peppadews and a glaze of blue cheese and garlic oil. Even the ricotta cheese is made in-house for the chicken Marsala pie. The sandwiches here are no slouches either. My favorite is called the "redneck brisket," layered thick with smoky beef, roasted peppers and aioli. If you're in the mood for a fat link of bratwurst over a bed of sauerkraut this place also has you covered.
The dessert menu is homey with a twist. There are fruit pies (with house-made crusts, of course) and root beer floats using the local-favorite Barq's brand. But then there's the float made with a scoop of Creole cream cheese ice cream plunked in Framboise, the sweet raspberry beer.
The bar serves beer and wine and though the selection is small it is surprisingly diverse. The focus is on craft beers, so you can expect some interesting imports and new brews from small producers. Check the colorful blackboard for what's new.
This is a moderately-priced place with good value for the quality of food served. The single-size pizzas range between $12 and $15, but with so many interesting and top-notch toppings it's unfair to compare these prices to standard pizzas. Sandwiches and sausage plates are between $8 and $11. Two people can dine well here for about $40.
Pizza, sausage and beer are common enough pleasures - and sometimes guilty pleasures. But Crescent Pie & Sausage casts these familiar eats in new light thanks to a creative eye and the effort to make so much of the offerings in-house and by hand. The place is an attractive, lively endorsement of the idea that comfort food doesn't have to be lazy food.