In August, the annual restaurant promotion Coolinary offers set-price menus around New Orleans, baiting the hook for meals out during the slow slump. Many restaurants, however, do not wait for August. Even before summer technically begins (that’s June 21, according to someone who must not live here), they’re rolling out special menus, dining deals and culinary parties to spark things up as the heat descends.
Here's a look at what's on tap now:
Fried chicken and No Menu Tuesdays at Coquette
Coquette (Coquette, 2800 Magazine St., 504-265-0421) is known for the approachable, original style co-chefs Michael Stoltzfus and Kristen Essig bring to contemporary cuisine. It’s also known for fried chicken, served family style at brunch. Coquette periodically goes all in for the specialty, and on June 20, it hosts a dinner with all-you-can-eat fried chicken, plus sides and dessert, and bottomless Champagne. Tickets are $100, with seatings at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
In July, Coquette orchestrates a weekly summer dining series that resembles a culinary trust fall. Each edition of "No Menu Tuesdays" brings a five-course tasting menu for $45, but the chefs keep the meal specifics secret until the dinner begins. Coquette does reveal menu themes beforehand. Here's the line up for July
- July 2, Mastering the Art of French Cooking
- July 9, Wine Guy
- July 16, Junior League
- July 23, Hawaii 504 with guests Nick Dietrich and chef Ryan Prewitt
- July 30, Single Ingredient Dinner: Louisiana Rice
'Temperature lunch' expands
The “temperature lunch” at Dickie Brennan’s downtown Creole brasserie Palace Cafe (605 Canal St., 504-523-1661) is a send-up to the summer heat. Available on weekdays, it’s a two-course lunch with a price synced to the previous day’s high temperature. That means a 92-degree Monday, for instance, would bring a $9.20 lunch special on Tuesday. This summer, sister restaurants Bourbon House (144 Bourbon St.,504-522-0111) and Tableau (616 St. Peter St., 504-934-3463) have also adopted the deal, which continues though Labor Day.
'Surf & Sparkle' at Ralph's on the Park
Ralph Brennan's fine Creole restaurant by City Park (900 City Park Ave., 504-488-1000) is rolling out a special menu for lobster lovers this month, served June 11-30. "Surf & Sparkle" brings a three-course lobster menu (lobster salad, lobster risotto, tempura lobster tail) for $55, also served with sparkling wine pairings for $85.
Flavors of Brazil at Toups South
Chef Issac Toups is teaming up with Will Avelar, formerly chef at Meril, now at Mawi Tortilleria, for a benefit dinner at Toups South (1504 O.C. Haley Blvd., 504-304-2147) for the Capoeira & Brazilian Cultural Arts Center. The dinner, on June 25, has four courses showing the chefs' blend of New Orleans and Brazilian flavors, and includes wine pairings and a champagne and cocktail reception to begin. Tickets are $80 or $100; get them through eventbrite.com.
Summer wine dinners, events
Going off script at Galatoire's
The menu at Galatoire’s Restaurant (209 Bourbon St., 504-535-2021) upholds the traditions of classic French Creole dining. Through the years, however, the restaurant's wine dinners have given its chefs the chance to go off script with their own menus. Chef Phillip Lopez, known for the boundary-pushing cuisine at his former restaurant Root and Square Root, has embraced these opportunities since starting at Galatoire's last year and an upcoming summer wine series brings three more. Scheduled are:
- June 13, with Hall & Walt Vineyard, $175
- July 25, with Daou Vineyard, $175
- Aug. 29, with "An Evening of Rosé," with a selection of rosés, $125
Cellar tours at Brennan’s
Long famous for the depth of its wine cellar, Brennan's (417 Royal St., 504-525-9711) has lately been building a modern wine culture across the restaurant too, with a mix of Old World prestige and next-generation panache. Summer Cellar Tours, held most Thursday afternoons through Aug. 15, are small-group tours of its expansive wine cellar with sommelier-guided samples and light bites from the kitchen. Tickets are $30. Register in advance.
Sips of Summer at Commander’s Palace
These annual Sips of Summer series can make Commander's Palace (1403 Washington Ave., 504-899-8221) feel like a private wine festival, with 40 wine selections framed by particular themes to explore. Tickets are $49, including light bites. A retail partner is on site if you want to bring home bottles of your favorite finds.
The series begins June 19 with rosés and "summer BBQ reds" and continues July 17 and Aug. 14.
More wine dinners
Copper Vine (1001 Poydras St., 504-208-9535), “wine pub” in the CBD, enters its first full summer with a monthly "Between the Vines” wine dinner series. The first is this week, June 13, with Cloudy Bay Vineyards of New Zealand, and chef Michael Brewer's five-course menu with pairings for $135. Future editions include a Tale of the Cocktail dinner with the local Seven Three Distilling Co. on July 18 and a “rosé soiree” on Aug. 17. The restaurant also has a two-course lunch special this summer for $13.
The Steakhouse at Harrah’s Casino (8 Canal St., 504-533-6111) hosts California’s Wagner wine family on June 26 for a wine dinner featuring their latest Caymus and Conundrum releases. Chef Chris Lusk’s five-course menu looks decadent (steak, lobster and foie gras comprise one course alone). Tickets are $120.
Summer special prix fixe menus
Antoine's Restaurant (713 St. Louis St., 504-581-4422), the oldest restaurant in New Orleans takes a fresh approach for its summer lunch special, serving a three-course meal with dishes like charbroiled oysters and fried chicken for $20.19 throughout the summer, with 25-cent cocktails to boot.
Apolline (4729 Magazine St, 504-894-8881) has three courses for $39, served through the summer.
Bayona (430 Dauphine St., 504-525-4455) turns 29 this year, which sets the price for a $29 lunch special, with three courses, plus 29-cent cocktails to go with it this summer.
Broussard’s (819 Conti St., 504-581-3866) own founding year was 1920, informing the $19.20 three-course dinner special, available June 17-Sept. 9. Select wines are $19.20 at happy hour (3 p.m. to 7 p.m.) at the bar, which has a weekly changing $1.92 cocktail special.
Toups South (1504 O.C. Haley Blvd., 504-304-2147), Issac Toups’ modern Southern showplace, has deals across the day, served through Sept. 30. Two-course lunch is $20; three course dinner or brunch is $35.
Tujague's (823 Decatur St., 504-525-8676), the city’s second oldest restaurant, uses its “Taste of Summer” menu to feature seasonal dishes from chef Tom Robey, with three courses for $39 through Aug. 31.
Despite rumors, fine dining is not dead.
Just as the bar has become an ever more important part of restaurant dining, some bars now are developed with the bells and whistles of ambiti…
Walk into Mawi Tortilleria and the aroma of corn tortillas still puffy-hot from the oven fills the one–room shop.