Dining at Morrow’s on St. Claude Avenue can feel like a party.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given that the new restaurant’s proprietor is local event promoter, entrepreneur and writer Larry Morrow. He built a following by bringing people together at concerts and events.
He has created a similar vibe at Morrow’s. The restaurant has a clubby appearance from the outside — there is valet service and, on weekends, a security guard at the door — but that belies the homespun comforts of New Orleans Creole cooking inside.
Morrow and his mother, chef Lenora Chong, opened the restaurant in April. For years, Chong ran Lenora’s Grill in Pontchartrain Park, and her culinary chops account for much of the magic here.
Freshly shucked oysters are served on the half-shell or char-grilled and topped with crabmeat, Parmesan and butter. Thick and swampy file gumbo includes chicken, sausage, shrimp and crab surrounding an island of rice in the middle of the bowl. The base is a not-too-dark roux flecked with herbs, and the gumbo’s flavors are strong and soothing.
A bed of creamy Parmesan grits holds plump, head-on Gulf shrimp topped with a buttery crimson sauce that imparts a soft lingering heat.
Grilled salmon is one of the most successful dishes. The perfectly cooked fish has a slightly sweet char on the exterior and a light pink medium rare interior, so pieces flake apart at the touch of a fork.
Though the focus is on Creole and New Orleans standbys, a small selection of Korean dishes nod to Chung’s heritage and provide a lighter option than the heavier local dishes. Butter leaf lettuce cups are filled with chunks of grilled chicken and a fiery and funky gochujang paste. A straightforward take on the Korean mainstay bibimbap features sweet, marinated beef strips over rice with a colorful array of blanched carrots, spinach, mushrooms and sprouts, all topped with a sunny side up egg.
Chung’s cooking anchors the operation, but the spot’s boisterous ambience is a part of the equation. Morrow’s does not accept reservations, so on busy weekend nights, guests should expect to wait for a table — sometimes for a long time. This also translates to the occasional speed bump in service while the servers try to keep up with the volume and crowded space. Guests can bide their time at the bar.
In the end, a meal at Morrow’s is about celebration and a place where food and drink bring people together, something that New Orleanians know all too well how to do.
where: 2438 St. Claude Ave., (504) 827-1519; www.morrowsnola.com
when: lunch Tue.-Sat., dinner Mon.-Sat., brunch Sun.
how much: moderate
what works: grilled salmon, shrimp and grits
what doesn’t: service can be bumpy
check, please: classic New Orleans seafood and Creole cooking at buzzy new St. Claude Avenue restaurant