The Happy Italian
7105 Jefferson Hwy., Harahan
(504) 305-4666; happyitalian.com
You may remember when Archbishop Gregory Aymond confirmed that alligator qualified as seafood for Lenten obligations in a much publicized letter to a local parishioner. Lenny Minutillo Jr. took the message to heart, and that’s why on Fridays during Lent he frequently rolls out this alligator chili ($13.99 dinner/$9.99 lunch with drink and salad or soup) at his engaging pizzeria and neighborhood cafe in Harahan. The alligator meat is finely ground, though it still carries its distinctive flavor and texture through a very assertive spice blend. In the style of chili mac, it’s ladled over elbow macaroni, which cuts the heat while raw onions add crunch. Minutillo doesn’t serve it every Friday, but when it appears it’s a memorable — and compliant — addition to the specials list.
5831 Magazine St.,
When baked Alaska arrives at the table, it’s usually big and grand enough to serve an entire board of directors. Not so with the version ($8) at chef Anton Schulte’s quietly excellent Uptown bistro. At the core, it’s is an oversized scoop of ice cream with dueling flavors of sweet pineapple and vanilla bean set over a slim, dense base of cake, all enveloped by a cloud of meringue, singed into concentric brown stripes. It’s a dessert for one that’s elegant and indulgent all at once.
New Mexico Rail Runner Burger
3021 St. Claude Ave.
(504) 272-0205; junctionnola.com
Junction comes from the same people who run Molly’s at the Market. They also happen to run a cattle ranch upriver in St. Amant, Louisiana, that provides the grass-fed beef used for the bar’s menu of burgers, each named for a different train line. The patties are mid-sized and succulent without being too greasy, a distinctive characteristic of burgers made with this type of beef. Order the New Mexico Rail Runner to add a serious dose of spice — the roasted green chiles and chipotle aioli bring a freight car of heat to the burger.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.