Thanksgiving is of course the starting gun for the holiday shopping frenzy. All that retailing can be hungry work, so this week we're providing picks for restaurants near some of the area's bigger shopping hubs, including some new additions and an old favorite.
Near Lakeside Shopping Center - Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar & Fish House
3117 21st St., Metairie
This is a new restaurant in a familiar location. Until last spring, the address had been home to Bozo's Restaurant, a longtime Metairie favorite for raw oysters and fried catfish. In September, it was taken over by the well-known local restaurateur Ed McIntyre (who also has Mr. Ed's and Austin's). He changed the name and gave the entire property a thorough make-over. The overall menu is now much larger and more contemporary, with more grilled seafood and creative appetizers. The hamburger steak and the gumbo are still made using the old Bozo's recipes, however, and the connection to the old place is still palpable, especially at the oyster bar.
Near the Oakwood Center - Kim Son
349 Whitney Ave., Gretna
Kim Son is a large, comfortable, somewhat dowdy restaurant, done in the familiar style of Chinese restaurants all over the country. But this one serves Vietnamese food, and lots of it across a menu that goes on and on. Your options for starters are by no means limited to the appetizer list. For instance, rice paper spring rolls are the go-to order at Vietnamese restaurants, and Kim Son does these as well as anywhere. But if you're sharing a meal around the table which is the optimal way to eat here I suggest finding a few dishes that you can all pick at, like steamed mussels in garlic sauce or the charbroiled shrimp with steamed rice noodle cakes. There are many soups that can either be small starters or meals in their own right. The big round tables with lazy susans are ideal for parties of more than four.
Magazine Street -Baie Rouge
4128 Magazine St., New Orleans
This casual cafe opened earlier this year with relatively modest aims and reliably moderate prices, which makes it just right for drop-in, anytime occasions like lunch during a shopping spree. It looks like a coffee shop inside but the food is consistently more interesting than any old salad and sandwich stop. Start with the brie fries, which are crisp, hand-cut fries enrobed with velvety fondue-like cheese sauce. The burger and 'pig dip' sandwich are good choices, or you can move a little more upscale with shrimp and risotto or hanger steak. Baie Rouge makes no pretensions of being a fancy place, and it won't cost you like one either, so there's more left in your wallet for the shopping list.
French Quarter - Tableau
616 S. Peter St., New Orleans
A shopping trip to the French Quarter is about more than just the finds at the boutiques and specialty shops. There's also the ambiance, atmosphere and festive mood of the Vieux Carre, and Dickie Brennan's new Tableau is right in the heart of it. The menu is rooted in old-school Creole tradition, with shrimp remoulade, fried eggplant sticks, turtle soup and egg dishes, like eggs Sardou, served as dinner entrees. But more contemporary touches are always close at hand, like crab claws in truffle vinaigrette, a gigantic rib eye paired with roasted marrow and BBQ shrimp over goat cheese grits. The restaurant design is classic French Quarter, richly imbued with detail and art, all cleverly wrapped around the necessities of a major modern restaurant. Drop your shopping bags by the table and take a long look around. Though new, Tableau looks and feels like it's been holding down its corner of Jackson Square for a long time.