New Orleans French Quarter Restaurant Market Cafe Review

by on February 15th, 2011
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Sandwiched on a small triangular-shaped island of real estate in the French Quarter, between Decatur and N. Peters Streets, the French Quarter restaurant, Market Cafe, turned out to be a nice surprise to us on our vacation to New Orleans. With world-famous Central Grocery just across the street, we found out not all French Quarter restaurants need to be Michelin or Zagat-rated to serve good food. Not that we didn’t know that already, but this perfectly-located establishment not only served up good food–with one particular dish just off-the-charts good–but also surprised us a couple of other ways.

Gimme’ a Gumbo

While we were on vacation, my wife and I sampled gumbo from every New Orleans restaurant in which we ate, at least at every restaurant that served it. We had no intention of trying anyone’s gumbo on this day, nor eating at Market Cafe, since the lunch we had planned was to get a muffelatta (sandwich) from Central Grocery, and a couple of Barq’s root beers, and walk two minutes up onto the Mississippi River levee and eat there, while looking at the boats passing by on the river.

Fifteen minutes into waiting for the long line that was out the door of Central Grocery, and a half block down Decatur St., to move one inch, I telephoned my wife–who was sitting just across the street in the Place De France (Place of France) park–and asked her if she wanted to try the same “Cajun Creole Cuisine” restaurant I knew she had been glancing at too while waiting.

“I was thinking the same thing,” she replied.

Walking out of the very quaint French Quarter park and right onto the patio of restaurant tables that makes up the majority of tables at Market Cafe, not only were we sitting and ordering food within a couple of minutes of changing lunch plans, but the view was equally as good–in a different sort of way–than had we been sitting on the levee overlooking the Mississippi River, eating lunch.

“How’s your gumbo,” I asked the second restaurant employee to have given us perfect attention the minute we stepped onto the restaurant patio.

Confidently he said, “We have a good gumbo!”

“Really!” my wife and I replied in unison, surprised that the waiter was as confident as he was about their gumbo.

“Well, gimme’ a gumbo!” laughing and politely adding, “we’ll see if it’s as good as you say it is. You know, everyone says they have a good gumbo, but we haven’t found that to be so.”

” Oh, but our gumbo really is good.”

” Well, gimme’ a bowl of gumbo and a half muffaletta.”

Look at her go!

Not that other cities don’t have open-air restaurants that play live music for you while you dine al fresco, but there’s jus’ sumtin’ special about listenin’ to a live band play jazz and cajun and zydeco music, while eatin’ at a restaurant in New Orleans. So special did the lunch become, that when our little toddler daughter decided she didn’t mind dancing by herself before the band and in front of all the patrons at the restaurant, everyone’s spirit was lifted that much more on this sunny New Orleans day. Again and again did she get up from the table and dance a jig or two–with the band even playing to her–and looking around at the smiles on everyone’s faces, it was easy to see everyone’s lunch turned out that much better that day.

The gumbo IS that good

Without much of a wait–partly because the restaurant was half full and not half empty–another attentive waitron brought out our gumbo. I only had to look at to see, yes! this gumbo was potentially very good.

A good gumbo, whether chicken and sausage or seafood, is supposed to be served as a light-bodied sauce as its base, not a thick gravy. Not that the liquid is called a sauce or a gravy anyway–it’s simply gumbo, and nothing else.

The color of the liquid in the gumbo doesn’t matter, darker or lighter. That’s simply a matter of how long whomever is cooking it wants the roux to darken and taste. Of course, there is a limit to how long you darken the roux; overcooking or burning it is a factor. However, the gumbo at this New Orleans restaurant, Market Cafe, was somewhere close to perfection. Perhaps, there was a tad too much filé powder in it, but nothing to sass about.

And a muffelatta too!

When we decided to get lunch from somewhere else other than getting a Central Grocery muffaletta, we certainly knew we were giving up eating an old, traditional New Orleans sandwich. Our itinerary was planned out till the time we left New Orleans, and this was the day we were supposed eat a Central Grocery muffaletta. So it was another nice surprise to see a muffaletta on the menu of Market Cafe.

Was it as good as a Central Grocery muffaletta? No. Was it as large? Sort of. However, it was a muffelatta–only without the meats piled as high and less olive salad. Nor was the olive salad as pungent and spicy as I prefer, which is the same as what is a traditional, French Quarter, Central Grocery muffaletta.

The Market Cafe muffaletta is an Italian pompiean bun with sliced ham and salami, and sliced mortadella, provolone and swiss cheese. Topped with olive salad and baked, it’s heaven when baked and then eaten nice and hot.

The Market Cafe

2 ½ stars

1000 Decatur Street (between Decatur and North Peters Streets, at the gilded Joan of Arc statue, in Place De France)

504.527.5000, The Market Cafe

Atmosphere: An open-air restaurant with partial indoor and al fresco dining. Nowhere in the French Quarter is there better restaurant seating for people-watching. Festive. Original (1823) Cypress tree ceilings and live band hearken you back to old New Orleans.

Sound Level: The music can get quite loud, but certainly not in a cacophonous sort of way. Depending on the time of day and the day itself, the song being played, and so on, the live band plays with more or less volume. The band takes breaks, so that’s the time to speak to whomever you’re with at this French Quarter restaurant. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy what this restaurant has to offer–live Louisiana and New Orleans music.

What The Stars Mean: Very similar to The New York Times, the stars reflect my reaction to the food (on my plate), (general) ambiance, and service (I’m rendered), taking price into consideration. The visit to the restaurant is anonymous, and may be a single visit or multiple visits. Zero stars is the lowest rating, while four stars is the highest.

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