Designated Diner: Mexico meets Broadmoor
Designated Diner: Carol Pulitzer
Day job: Author/artist, who also writes about cuisine and art for NolaVie.
Current day job: She’s working on a book, Little Theatre, that compiles personal stories, illustrations, recipes, essays and more. “It’s a hybrid book,” Carol explains. “Everything from how to keep a kitchen journal to fiction to poetry to cartoons and paintings.” Stay tuned.
The restaurant: El Pavo Real, 4401 S. Broad Street
Why she chose it: I live three minutes from here and am always passing this place. I always wondered about it.
Her go-to restaurants: Chateau du Lac on Metairie Road, which is a sort of Metairie Galatoire’s without the noise. Carmo, for its exotic menu. And Bud’s Broiler for the hickory burger. Nobody else makes a sauce like that.
What she looks for in a restaurant: The main thing I want is to be able to hear my companion talk. Young people have great hearing, but not being able to converse drives me crazy. I literally came out of one popular lunch place with a sore throat from yelling.
What else she likes in her dining choices: What really makes me excited is seeing something on the menu that’s too much trouble for me to make at home. It takes a lot of energy to cook, and I’ve lately lost my cooking mojo.
The restaurant’s MO: “Real Mexican food for a real New Orleans neighborhood.” With emphasis on the latter. The choice of cuisine, says co-owner/chef Lindsey McLellan, was a secondary consideration in opening this family concern. “We really wanted to open a neighborhood place. My husband just happens to be Mexican.” They live a quarter-mile away and have a play area in the back for their two small children. But the Mexican menu keeps up - from thick, sweet mole sauce to authentic tamales tied up with a cornhusk bow.
What’s good: Black bean soup that coats the spoon, laced with sour cream and sprinkled with green onions and tortilla strips.
What else: Chile rellenos filled with corn, black beans, pumpkin and squash, then lathered with a poblano/peanut sauce.
And: Carnitas of achiote-rubbed, tender pulled pork shoulder that you can flake with a fork, partnered with red rice and pintos.
To drink: Mexican Coke, which purists insist tastes better than the U.S. version.
Lagniappe: A table offering of peppery, buttery popcorn. And breakfast (huevas rancheros, chilaquilles) served all day.
The atmosphere: Neighborhood cozy, the dining room awash in light from the high ceilings and two walls of windows. Says Carol: I love the green and white tile here. Hey give me your phone; I have to take a picture of those blue denim sneakers against this great floor (did I mention she’s an artist?).
Sweet touch: The fluffy Mexican custard studded with peanuts almost pales next to the caramalized fried plantains it’s paired with. There's also a silky vanilla flan.
Bottom line: Warm and unpretentious setting, offering heart-warming below-the-border cuisine made with fresh ingredients that are attractively garnished and served. You don’t have to live nearby to enjoy this inviting neighborhood joint.
Renee Peck is editor of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]