When you think of New Orleans, what comes to mind? Maybe the Creole culture, the mighty Mississippi, professional sports teams, and of course Mardi Gras! But there’s one other thing that New Orleans is known for: our food.
With a unique mix of French, Spanish, African American, and indigenous peoples, the city was a melting pot from the very beginning. When the Irish and the Germans followed, the city became even more diverse. In fact, NOLA was the first city in the country to host a large Italian, Greek, Croatian, and Filipino populations. This early population clung to their roots, even as they became part of the larger population. And even today, the diverse mix of cultures in this city is evident.
This may be the reason that NOLA continues to host a wide array of amazing restaurants, even to this day. And while we’re known for them, it certainly doesn’t have to be Creole and beignets all the time. While we’re sure you’ll eat your fill of both, we’d like to recommend something a little different: a historic, family owned restaurant just a block away from our B&B: Mandina’s Restaurant.
This eatery has been a neighborhood tradition since Sebastian Mandia came from Palermo, Italy in 1898. At that point, Mandina saw a need for a store in this part of town, and he opened a grocery store in the downstairs portion of this home while the family lived upstairs. In those days, Mandina was such a part of the neighborhood that he would allow residents to come get what they needed anytime, and he’d send bills to homes to be paid on paydays.
Not long after the grocery store became a pool hall that sold sandwiches. However, once Sebastian’s sons (Anthony and Frank) grew up, the boys turned the pool hall into a restaurant in 1932, and there it has remained, still owned by the family after all these years. And the boys made what they knew: dishes straight from their Italian heritage. And still, the restaurant endured.
Today, you’ll see grandmothers with grand kids lining up at 11:30 before the eatery even opens, and it’s Anthony’s granddaughter Cindy who runs the place after being raised at the restaurant home while her dad took his turn. She even managed to bring the restaurant back to life after Hurricane Katrina all but destroyed the area in 2005. Cindy is still trying to return the house to its “bare-bones, 1930s look”… keeping much of the historic decor and practices alive (although the restaurant finally takes credit cards as of about 4 years ago). She works on the restoration even while she takes care of both her historic customers, and those who wander in during a visit to the city.
And trust us when we say that you won’t be disappointed if you decide to give Mandina’s a try: their mix of classic Italian fare, mixed with seafood dishes and a host of Creole staples, may have you returning more than once!
- Go all-out Italian with their eggplant sticks appetizer, classic spaghetti or one of their –parmesan meals for the main course, and cup custard for dessert.
- Choose a seafood theme with crab fingers in wine sauce for an appetizer, and any of their fish or soft-shelled crab plates for your meal. Top it off with some bread pudding!
- Or maybe you do want Creole after all… Mandina’s is happy to oblige with a shrimp remoulade or seafood gumbo as a starter, and fried or grilled catfish as the main catch.
- Even if you don’t have a lot of time to eat, Mandina’s is a great place for a traditional Muffaletta, Poboy, or even an Italian sausage sandwich for lunch. Take a piece of Milkyway Pie for later!
- Mandina’s even has a few delicious “true American” dishes for those craving something familiar: try their grilled or fried chicken, an open-faced roast beef plate, or even a club-sandwich lunch.
No matter what your taste or your food-craving, Mandina’s is the perfect place to have that need met – and they are happy to do it! And tell them Monica sent you!