Grilled Watermelon and Brie
Biscuits & Buns on Banks
4337 Banks St.
Small and easy to miss, this Mid-City breakfast and lunch cafe is the type of place you have to keep in mind if you’re ever going to visit. Fortunately, its casually inventive menu has plenty of distinctive dishes to make it memorable, and as the season heats up the grilled watermelon and Brie ($10.75) rises to the top of the list. Thick slices of watermelon, crisp and especially sweet where they touched the grill, sandwich a combination of creamy, oozing cheese, the peppery pop of fresh arugula and the syrupy tang of balsamic vinegar. By the time you start eating the second half, these flavors have penetrated the watermelon slices themselves. Served at breakfast and lunch, it’s light, satisfying, offbeat and tailor-made for a quick meal on a hot day.
Smoked Chicken Salad
2317 Hickory St., (504) 738-1508; hillbillybbq.com
This longtime Jefferson Parish barbecue spot is now in Harahan on Hickory Street, and as it happens its smoker is fed by hickory wood. That wood imbues this deeply smoky, creamy and smooth-textured chicken salad, a special prepared each Thursday (check if there’s any left on Fridays too). Hillbilly sells it as a simple sandwich ($5.75) and also by the pound ($8.95) to bring home, which is my preferred option. Slather it on sliced baguette, crackers or any other handy platform. It’s a chicken salad you can eat like paté.
Basin Seafood & Sprits
3222 Magazine St.
Basin looks like a neighborhood seafood joint, and it boils crawfish, fries shrimp and shucks oysters with the best of them. But what I like about this year-old Uptown restaurant is the way it also puts familiar Louisiana seafood through some unfamiliar paces. This swordfish ($22), for instance, is completely swaddled in a thin, crinkly layer of bacon, which, after its trip across the grill, suffuses the meaty fish with a taste like broiled prosciutto. Risotto with oyster mushrooms and a scattering of more buttery oyster mushrooms complete an entree that is modest in size but not in flavor.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.