A few weeks ago, on a hot, sticky night, most of the Indy edit staff was to be found sitting at large picnic tables on the back patio of a New Orleans restaurant, downing po-boys and alligator gumbo.
Though roast beef and fried-clam sandwiches also came our way, the shrimp variety really shone, popping with a hot sizzle when you bit into them. Throw in the mayo, fresh lettuce and tomatoes — not to mention a French roll so chewy it almost hurt to bite through it — and I don't know whether we swallowed some of the Gulf, or some of the Gulf swallowed us.
Which, in a perfectly roundabout way, leads us to a stop at Bon Ton's Café this week, as well as non-nostalgic samplings from my dining cohorts.
Bon Ton's Café
2601 W. Colorado Ave., 634-1007, bontonscafe.com
Almost hidden behind its beautiful, tree-lined patio, Bon Ton's kicks breakfast and lunch out all day. With the siren song of NOLA fresh in my mind, it was the shrimp po-boy ($10.99) I had to have.
Of course, before that, we had to order. My girlfriend tipped me that diners on the patio often get lost in the shuffle, and sure enough, as we sat by the inside cash register, several abandoned eaters came up to order, pay or both. (To her credit, our server took care of them all.)
As for the sandwich, it was as much a departure from the Crescent City as my own flight out of there. Cocktail sauce, but no mayo until requested; little flavor to the shrimp; cafeteria fries; and a standard white roll. Not a crime, but worse for the memory missed. — Bryce Crawford
La Tartine French Bistro Café
1420 Kelly Johnson Blvd., 598-5550, web.me.com/yemericalde/latartinenorth
One was truly the loneliest number at a recent visit to La Tartine, formerly a La Baguette location. As the only in-house diner around 5 o'clock, I was greeted with half the restaurant's chairs stacked upside down on tables for a mopping; not very welcoming.
As for the menu, La Tartine proudly proclaims that while the name has changed, the menu hasn't. But perhaps aspects of it should have, because several missteps caused the butternut squash ravioli with sage butter ($7.75) to fall flat. The sparely arranged, overly sweet ravioli were placed on a cold, dry plate that caused them to not only stick, but cool too quickly, leaving a gummy and oily product. Thankfully, some redemption came with an order of garlicky garden critters, or escargot ($7.75), which were textbook. — Monika Mitchell Randall
702 S. Cascade Ave., 328-1412, shugas.com
It's hard to deviate from the locally famous gin-lavender blossom cocktail when at Shuga's, but in the name of exploration and duty, I forced an order of the Little Cricket Juice ($9) this past weekend. The house-created drink comes on and off Shuga's menu seasonally — mainly on in the summertime.
Now, if bourbon's not your bag, stick to the safe shores of your go-to spirit. But if Maker's Mark makes you chirp, here's your master. The whiskey's met with a slightly viscous mix of mango purée and peach schnapps (up yours, Fuzzy Navel!), brightened with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice. The result isn't overly sweet, but fruity enough to cancel out the whiskey burn while still tasting strong. It's no lavender blossom, but these wings do sing. — Matthew Schniper
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