The phrase “put an egg on it” would seem to be a simple enough (and lately pervasive) statement about making a complete meal out of something allegedly incomplete on its own – say a plate of plain asparagus not wrapped in prosciutto or draped in hollandaise.
But then Urban Dictionary gets involved with a more urban meaning, a food ‘zine in Brooklyn calls itself “Put A Egg On It”… and folks such as myself with a long local food memory begin to think back to Bigz Burger Joint and its option of making a burger “dirty” with a fried egg. Make it gloriously messy with a poached egg might have been the mantra governing the watercress salad (or was it frisée? The food memory may be long, but it’s not always perfect) at the late Bistro Vatel. No longer a mere meme, the added egg has become entrenched.
And there’s no better place in town to prove the point than NOLA Brunch & Beignets. There’s an abundance of egg on the menu – sometimes, such as with the blue crab omelette, it’s even indispensable.
The avocado tostado, already super-loaded with accessories such as sautéed mushrooms, fried shallots, radish and crema, is adorned with a fried egg. A fried egg also tops the Cajun boudin flautas that start out wrapped in chile-tinted tortillas that then get inundated in chipotle gravy and melted cheese. Would we miss it if it weren’t there? Maybe not. But by the end of this apparent exercise in excess, just when the zingy preserved lemon cream is finally kicking in, the whole thing finally seems right. Score one for added egg.
Eggs are the whole point of Eggs Rockafella; the NOLA brunch plate is built on scrambled, which take all too well to praline bacon. A previous iteration of the grillades employed a poached egg; the Crescent City hash, a cheffy (and worthy) deconstruction of the dish, goes for a chunkier style than usual with andouille and cubed sweet potato, all crowned with a fried, poached egg for a two-step variation on the theme. Uptown Eggs Bennie require two poached eggs.
On my Bennie order, one of those eggs was perfectly oozy, proving the point of putting an egg on it in the first place; the runny yolk helped meld together the crumbly buttermilk biscuit and the deftly fried green tomatoes. Egg number two arrived overcooked. No unifying ooze. Insert frowny face here. But the accompanying shrimp creole, maybe standing in for the standard recipe’s Canadian bacon, is just spicy enough to add the touch of pizazz the dish needs.
There’s a new sandwich I guess we could call “dirty” at NOLA as it employs an over-easy egg. With spicy sausage at its core, the McDowell also comes with some slabs of superlative bacon, a dab of Creole hollandaise, and just enough melty pepper jack cheese. It’s gloriously messy and right up there with the best of SA’s sammies. (Though the very best, IMHO, was the late and now-lamented pastrami formerly served at The Cookhouse, now closed for lunch, where it was a star option. Maybe bring it back at NOLA? Please?)
I did order some things unegged at NOLA. The fried oysters, perfect in their cornmeal crust and beautifully served by a mustardy remoulade, needed nothing more. The new version of NOLA’s brisket grillades also does without. A New Orleans breakfast/brunch classic, this is a dish that depends on its gravy. Fortunately, it’s bold and outgoing here as the beef alone is a little shy and retiring. Fortunately, too, the kitchen has bedded the grillades on creamy grits and added a scattering of atchara, which turns out (who knew?) to be a pickled papaya condiment in its original form. NOLA’s rendition seems to be more of an agro-dolce with raisins, onions, olives and a smattering of peppadew—but it works.
Beignets, part of NOLA’s name after all, are available paired with glazed chicken wings in a kind of riff on chicken and waffles. Traditionalists, on the other hand, may want to order the simple classic unencumbered by anything other than a Mt. Fuji’s worth of powdered sugar topping. (Word to the wise: don’t wear black.) I haven’t yet tried any of the stuffed versions—lemon curd sounding especially enticing, but the original, accompanied by a cup of the house’s mellow café au lait, is eminently satisfying. The accommodating staff will keep filling that cup, by the way. At some point, you simply have to say, “No more!” and push away from the table. Even if you didn’t have eggs.
NOLA Brunch & Beignets
, 111 King's Ct., (210) 320-1572, eatatnola.com
The Skinny //
NOLA inhabits its colorful cottage on King's Court with Crescent City flair and occasional flashes of inspiration such as the Uptown Eggs Bennie. Order oysters because they're good, fried green tomatoes because they're classic, and the McDowell sandwich because it's gloriously excessive. Order beignets with their exuberant powdered sugar topping at your own sartorial risk.
Best Bets //
Fried oysters, fried green tomatoes, Cajun boudin flautas, McDowell sandwich, Uptown Eggs Bennie
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