Heaven on Seven Wabash

BBQ Shrimp po’boy

Gumbo and jalapeno corn muffin



Hot sauce wall (only half of it!)


One table’s hot sauce

***** (5 stars)

This is a very good Cajun restaurant. No, it’s not as good as many in New Orleans, but it’s good. And what makes it special is the vibe, with its thousands of different hot sauces lining the walls (no, there are no repeats) and its perpetual Christmas-garlanded ceilings.

I started with a cup of the gumbo, which was excellent, with its generous helping of tender, flavorful Andouille sausage.

A jalapeno corn muffin wasn’t all that impressive compared to others I’ve had.

My main was a Cajun barbecued shrimp po’boy. The shrimp was very hot, with a slight saffron flavor, and the bread was nicely grilled. The whole mess (and I use the term intentionally) was covered in a flavorful Cajun gravy with just the right amount of spice. At first, as I picked at it with my fork, I thought it was just okay, but once I’d eaten enough shrimp to be able to pick the whole thing up and get a bite of everything, I really liked it.

Service was friendly and efficient. A lot of regulars came in and sat at the small, U-shaped lunch counter while I was there. I could tell it’s a place many people have been coming to for decades, and I can see why.

Heaven on Seven Wabash
111 N Wabash Ave
Chicago, IL 60602
(312) 263-6443

Oak Alley Plantation Restaurant

**** (4 stars)

This is an unexpectedly good restaurant, much better than one expects at a tourist attraction. The food is authentic, diverse, and well-prepared. And the service is gracious and attentive.

I particularly enjoyed the shrimp poboy, which was better than any of the cajun lunch foods I had during the week in New Orleans.

If you’re planning a visit to Oak Alley Plantation, I encourage you to make time for lunch at the fine establishment.

Oak Alley Plantation Restaurant
3645 Hwy 18
Vacherie, LA 70090
(225) 265-2487

Emeril’s New Orleans

***** (5 stars)

Coming from Orlando, I’ve eaten at Emeril’s at Citywalk many times, so we wanted to check out the original while in New Orleans. We stopped in for lunch, and I have to say that in all respects I found it superior to the Orlando version. The space is smaller, more nicely decorated, the acoustics are better, the food was perfectly prepared, and the service was extremely gracious.

The barbecue shrimp is a favorite appetizer, but the mini lettuce wrap taco concoctions are my new favorite. Duck wings were mighty sticky! The glazed salmon entree was great.

I would definitely go out of my way to return to this original location on future visits.

Emeril’s New Orleans
800 Tchoupitoulas St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 528-9393

Restaurant R’evolution

***** (5 stars)

This was our best meal in New Orleans, one of those magical evenings where everything comes together to create perfection.

R’evolution is a sprawling space in the Sonesta Hotel. Each room is decorated differently, and has a different ambience. While all of them looked great, most were very energetic, so I was happy we were seated in the more refined Bienville room.

All of the food we had was great, but I was particularly impressed by my selections. The foie gras mousses was served in a jar accompanied by toast, pickled vegetables, and four condiments, all for the ridiculously low price of $6. Quail three ways was stunning. Each quail was completely different, and all were deboned to make them easy to eat.

The 10,000 bottle wine list is full of gems, and some are at reasonable price points. There is also a dessert beverage cart with some really interesting offerings. We couldn’t pass up the 1907 Madeira, a Malvasia which might be the best Madeira I’ve had, which is saying a lot.

A tour of the restaurant and kitchen afterwards was the perfect way to end a perfect meal.

Restaurant R’evolution
777 Bienville St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 553-2277

Commander’s Palace

*** (3 stars)

This century old establishment is still doing things the same way they always have. The sprawling dining rooms cover much of the block, with the nicest rooms upstairs, and the least nice through the kitchen and across the enclosed patio.

We began with the soup sampler, a nice way to get a reasonable size sampling of their famous turtle soup, the best of the three. (No turtle is used in the soup.)

Entrees were less impressive. My giant lamb rack was nicely crusted and cooked, but may have been the toughest lamb I’ve ever had.

Desserts also seemed pretty run of the mill.

The wine list is designed to impress, and it certainly impressed the Wine Spectator, who awarded it the stamp of Excellence. Unfortunately the prices seem designed to avoid depleting inventory. While there are 60 wines at under $60 featured at the front of the menu, and there are plenty of prestige bottles at $400 and up, there are surprisingly few gems in the range in between, making it a difficult list.

Service was definitely a well-oiled machine, although like a machine it seemed a bit mechanical. Perhaps that’s the only way to cope with so many tables.

Commander’s Palace
1403 Washington Ave
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 899-8221

The Big Easy

**** (4 stars)

The Big Easy offers fairly authentic New Orleans style food in a convivial, neighborhood sports bar-like atmosphere. The emphasis is on fried food, including shrimp, crawfish and oysters, which can be ordered as an appetizer or in a po’boy sandwich.

We enjoyed the mixed seafood appetizer and the fried pickles, but my favorite was the Mufaletta sandwich, as good as any I’ve had in New Orleans. The ham was tender and generous, the olive spread appropriately tangy, and the bread had the perfect crusty consistency. The sandwich was accompanied by some great battered fries, served piping hot.

There are also entrees such as Étouffée and Jambalaya and blackened redfish. I found the flavors of the Étouffée and Jambalaya a bit too similar.

Service was a real standout. A single waitress handled the whole room, and was more efficient than three people might have been. She kept our drinks refilled, checked back often, and made the whole experience a very pleasant one.

The Big Easy
15502 Stoneybrook W Pkwy
Ste 120
Winter Garden, FL 34787
(407) 654-3279

Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen

**** (4 stars)

I like the decor and service here very much. You can sense the Tijuana Flats influence, but it’s definitely a sit-down restaurant. I’ve tried quite a few of the items here, and haven’t yet found the thing that transports me back to New Orleans. That said, the food is good, especially the dirty rice. There aren’t many cajun choices in town, and Tibby does a good job of filling the gap.

Tibby’s New Orleans Kitchen
2203 Aloma Ave
Winter Park, FL 32792
(407) 672-5753

Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop

**** (4 stars)

Considering the owners are not originally from the South, this is a remarkably authentic dining experience.

I had the lunch special of a half blackened catfish poboy and a cup of gumbo. The catfish was the perfect spiciness, still moist, and not muddy, and the bread was fresh. Gumbo was a tasty, rich mixture, served with the rice separate on one side of the cup, which was an interesting approach. My meal came with a pair of corn meal pancakes rather than muffins, which is a bit unusual, but tasty. At under $7 it was a good buy for lunch.

The unsweetened peach tea was very tasty; it’s hard to find good unsweetened tea in the South. The breakfast items and salads I saw also looked good.

I love the funky atmosphere. The space is decked out like a bait shop, and red checkered plastic tablecloths brighten things up. There are also four tables out on the sidewalk.

Dixie Kitchen & Bait Shop
825 Church St
Evanston, IL 60201
(847) 733-9030