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.
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.
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.
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