Joey K’s Restaurant & Bar
3001 Magazine St.
From well-tuned standards of New Orleans neighborhood restaurants, this Uptown café also branches out just a bit for dishes like its shrimp Magazine ($17.95). Fat shrimp, lots of chopped ham and quartered artichokes are united by a sheen of garlicky olive oil over a tangle of spaghetti, with plenty of green onions for a bright crunch on top. Hearty and homestyle, it’s just a little different but still rooted in a casual Creole-Italian appeal. Wash it down with draft beer in a gigantic frosted schooner for the full treatment.
Bloody Mary Oysters
3835 Iberville St., (504) 309-3570
Chef Greg Picolo is best known for his long tenure at the former Bistro at Maison de Ville, though the place to find him these days is Redemption, the Creole restaurant inside a Mid-City church (the pre-Katrina home of Christian’s Restaurant). Redemption was closed for a while but reopened in November with a new menu, which starts with this original approach to baked oysters ($10). The name certainly fits. The oysters are dressed out in their shells with a smoky, almost beefy tasting tomato sauce under a thick cap of tangy-creamy Asiago cheese. A nose full of horseradish and small slices of pickled okra complete the bloody mary effect.
Arroz con Pollo
930 Poydras St., (504) 304-6615
At a place where a guacamole topping of fried grasshoppers practically leaps off the menu, the rice with chicken ($15) sounds pretty tame. In fact, it’s one of the more memorable dishes at Johnny Sanchez, the stylish new taqueria from chefs John Besh and Aarón Sánchez. That’s because the rice is coated in a rice flour batter and fried, with each grain giving its own pop for a chorus of crunch in your mouth. Grilled chicken thighs, avocado and crumbled cotija cheese are all mellow elements over the fascinating texture and toasty flavor of this base, while the acid burst of roasted tomatoes and the heat of serrano pepper rings flicker brightly across it.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.