My friend and I decided on a weekend getaway to New Orleans, so we spent a Friday afternoon in September driving across the state of Mississippi and into Louisiana. I had decided that we would stop at the town of Mandeville, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, where we could eat dinner, and my iPhone showed two waterfront restaurants. We ultimately chose Rips on the Lake, a seafood restaurant which proved to be an elegant two-story house directly across the street from the lake. The weather was pleasant, and many people were sitting out on the upstairs balcony while the sun was setting, but my friend said she preferred to eat indoors, so we chose an indoor table near the bar. Rips’ menu proved to be impressive, and our initial difficulty was in deciding between the numerous seafood options, almost all of which sounded good. I ultimately opted for the trout almondine, while my friend chose the trout audrey. Almondine is one of my favorite choices when on the Gulf coast, and Rips’ did not disappoint. It came along with roasted potatoes that were equally delicious, and my friend said she enjoyed her trout as well. Prices were a little on the high side, but for the view and atmosphere, quality of food and excellent service, I am of the opinion that Rips is worth it.
Rips on the Lake
1917 Lakeshore Dr
Mandeville, LA 70448
Tourists have undoubtedly heard that New Orleans is an island, but they seem to often forget that the city lies with a river at its front and a lake at its back. If they spend a lot of time at or near the river, they spend remarkably little at the lake, and that is a shame indeed, for the city’s lakefront is one of its most beautiful assets. Although Hurricane Katrina wrecked much of the lakefront of old, things are slowly building back, with several lakefront restaurants having opened in the last several years. I had reviewed Brisbi’s Lakefront Restauranthere in 2014, and there’s not much new to add, except to remind visitors that it is a great place for seafood, with an unbeatable view of Lake Pontchartrain from its upstairs deck.
Brisbi’s Lakefront Restaurant & Bar
7400 Lakeshore Drive
New Orleans, LA 70124
When I got to the Intercontinental Hotel, the Cutting Edged NOLA Keynote Speech was going on, followed by a legal panel about sports and entertainment law. At the end of that, I headed out to the lakefront and ate dinner at Landry’s Seafood House. Even though Landry’s is a chain, it is the restaurant nearest to Lake Pontchartrain and has the best view of the lake, and the food was very good, at least on this particular day.
I had been invited by my friend Darren Towns, the bass drummer for TBC Brass Band, to go around with the band to their gigs on the Saturday of Satchmo Fest, and for the better part of the afternoon I had. But when I found out that there was an hour and a half interregnum between gigs, I decided to head out to Lake Pontchartrain and try a restaurant that I had been seeing for about a year but had never tried called The Blue Crab. Elsewhere in this blog, I have discussed the odd fact that the seafood cuisine of New Orleans and of the Mississippi Gulf Coast are rather different, despite close proximity, and that while it has been fairly easy to find fried seafood in New Orleans, it has not been nearly as easy to find the kind of gourmet seafood that is fairly common in Biloxi, Gulfport or Bay St. Louis. That now seems to be changing, and while Hurricane Katrina decimated the old seafood restaurants on the West End, a couple of new restaurants have appeared along what New Orleanians call the Lakefront, and the Blue Crab is one of them. All of the new restaurants along Lakeshore Drive have certain things in common, chief of which is beautiful views of the lake, the marina and the yacht club, and the Blue Crab is no exception. The view from its outdoor dining deck is truly amazing, and the resort ambiance is far more akin to something from Florida than something from Louisiana. As for the menu, there is little unusual for a New Orleans seafood place, and the prices are fairly reasonable. I opted for the fish of the day, which was pompano, and had it prepared in an almondine style, where the fish was breaded and fried, then topped with a butter-based almond sauce. As one might imagine, it was amazingly good, and accompanied by french fries that were golden brown and delicious. I chose to end my meal with a slice of key lime pie, which I enjoyed while watching the sun go down in the west over the marina. All in all, I was pleased with the Blue Crab, and will likely return.
As I was driving into New Orleans on Saturday night, I noticed a restaurant on Lakeshore Drive that I had not noticed before, a place called Brisbi’s on the Lake that clearly has a waterfront view. There really have been few dining options on Lake Pontchartrain since Hurricane Katrina, which wiped out all of the classic seafood restaurants at West End Park. Part of it was due to delays in the issuing of new flood maps to see where building would be permitted, and part of it was also due to a considerable amount of red tape in building on the waterfront. Fortunately, both Brisbi’s and the Blue Crab opened late last summer, joining the Landry’s franchise in the former Joe’s Crab Shack location. Brisbi’s proved to be a delightful experience. Downstairs is a covered yet outdoor bar, with a deck alongside the water and brightly-colored picnic tables, and a band playing on an outdoor stage. Upstairs is a restaurant with a beautiful view of the harbor from both indoors and from the outdoor deck. While New Orleans is known for seafood, it’s almost always the fried variety, which I have always found surprising. By contrast, Brisbi’s has a menu that more resembles the restaurants in Bay St. Louis, Gulfport and Biloxi that I grew up eating at, with Redfish Meuniere or Almondine, and Fish Pontchartrain. I had the almondine redfish, and was amazed at how good it was. Of course there are po-boys and burgers for those who want something a little less formal, but Brisbi’s seems to have the best (non-fried) seafood in New Orleans. It’s definitely worth a visit, and for the food as well as the view.
After crossing the twin spans on I-10 into New Orleans East, I decided to leave the interstate and head north to the lakeshore, since the sun was setting. Unfortunately, much of the lake view has been eclipsed by the Corps of Engineers’ new ugly but needful seawall installation, but after I got past the University of New Orleans campus, I got some beautiful views of the sun going down over the lake, while some people were out enjoying an early evening of fishing. Nearby, I saw that a new restaurant called Brisbi’s on the Lake had opened, and made a note that I needed to try it.