Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Best Breakfast Ever!

Ruby Slipper Café
139 South Cortez Street
   (one block off Canal Street, in Mid-City)

OMG! This place was fantastic!

A really good breakfast place is one that you can enjoy and relax in with friends; a great place is one you can enjoy and relax in alone. Being on my own in New Orleans, I really lucked out coming here. 

I picked it because of its Mid-City location, since I planned to spend the morning at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden in City Park. Cortez Street is almost on the way there. It's an old neighbourhood, even by local standards, just off Esplanade Ridge, and despite ongoing gentrification it still exudes that dignified yet slightly degenerate charm that infuses all of this city.

Step into the Ruby Slipper and you feel immediately part of the neighbourhood. On your left is a small bar, lining the first small dining room. I got no further, having the good fortune to get a table with a view of both the street and the kitchen. The other people around me were clearly locals, if not neighbourhood residents: their accents would have told me that, had their mannerisms not done. 

Community garden
I started off with coffee. Locally roasted, the menu told me, as if I would care; like coffee beans lose significant attributes when they travel. Distance doesn't matter; time barely matters. Roasting technique matters, and having it done "in town" as opposed to elsewhere is irrelevant, just a passing fad in this Starbucks-laced society. (Of more interest to me was the fact that the Ruby Slippers coffee grounds go into the community garden on the corner opposite.) If any flavour remains in those grounds, then surely the veggies produced there are some of the best available, because the coffee I had was probably the best I've had in donkey's years. Seriously, it was. And they're not stingy with it either, although the $2 price tag might have more to do with that.

I was torn. On the blackboard was the day's special, peanut-butter-chocolate pancakes. Pancakes are a little-heralded specialty in New Orleans. The city is famous for its po-boys and seafood and creole food and all kinds of other things to tempt the palate, but it lives on pancakes. Big, fluffy pancakes. To combine that tradition with two great tastes that taste great together makes for an almost irresistable combination. But then, the menu lists other house specialties that are similarly drool-inducing. Having narrowed down that list to Bananas Foster Pain Perdu and Eggs Blackstone, I eliminated the pain perdu on the basis of having had Bananas Foster Ice Cream Cake last night. As good a rationale as any, at that point. And when I mentioned my dilemma to the cheerful, attentive waitress, Lindsay, she immediately assured me I could get the Eggs Blackstone with one peanut-butter-chocolate pancake. Which I did.
(Thanks, Irving.)

The pancake was the size of the dinner plate on which it was served. It was overcooked ever so slightly, a pardonable sin, given the perfection that awaited me in everything else. The peanut butter flavour was subtle, and it's my own fault for ruining it half-way through, when I had the wild notion that maple syrup might somehow add something to this culinary treasure. Still, the chocolate flavour was in no way impeded by my rashness, and it carried me through to the pancake's proud end.

Not to be outdone, the Eggs Blackstone were a marvel. Poached eggs on a small (poached-egg size, coincidentally) English muffin, with a slice of tomato and some Applewood-smoked bacon, and just enough of the house's delicious sauce Hollandaise to satisfy the gourmand in me. The presentation was enhanced by a delectable mix of ripe, fresh fruit in bite-sized pieces, providing an outstanding sweet complement to the luxuriant Hollandaise. 

What's that mean?
I had bought a local newspaper from the box outside the restaurant just to have an excuse to linger over my meal, and I almost followed up the meal with a mimosa (which the house tarts up with a splash of pomegranate juice). I could have done without the paper. Just sitting in that small room, contemplating the marvels on my table and listening to the howzyamomminem din around me would have been enough. 

The Ruby Slipper Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. Martin C. AndersonOctober 16, 2011

    I took my wife and in-laws to this place last week just on the strength of this review of it. You're absolutely right about it. Everything was delicious, and the place itself has a really pleasant feel to it. I wish you wrote more of these restaurant reviews from around the country. I especially wish you'd do some from my area (around Chicago).

  2. Ooh, I'd love to do some reviews for Chicago restaurants! I love Chicago, and have had some great things to eat there. (One of my favourites is pizza at Pizzaria Uno and Pizzaria Due; I was happy to see them export those pies in a franchise operation, which was enticing enough to get me past my strong preference for local (non-chain) operations when I was in Maryland a year or two ago.)

    Unfortunately, fulfilling your wish will require a return trip, which isn't in the cards at present.


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