Foodie Friday: High Hat Café is a New Orleans Staple on Freret

Usually Foodie Fridays are reserved for restaurants none of us have been to. But rules are meant to be broken, especially when oyster remoulade po’ boys are involved.

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High Hat Café is by no means a new institution. Not old, per se, but not new. Like so many of the now well-established food establishments on Freret Street, High Hat saw after Katrina that they could help revitalize an entire neighborhood while also making a name for themselves in the process. And make a name they did.

And like the rest of the city, they took what was so great about the city, namely the food, and added a little twist and called it their own. Though nothing on their menu sticks out as uniquely “High Hat,” it’s obvious that everything on their menu has been well planned and highly organized so that it fits the High Hat brand. In doing so, they have created a traditional New Orleans restaurant that stands out amongst the rest.

High Hat Cafe Exterior

What you need to know:

The first thing I thought when walking into High Hat was “comfort food,” not just because of the overwhelming aroma, but also because of the atmosphere. Unlike so many restaurants in this city, the dining area is spread out enough that you can enjoy your company but close enough to feel an overall sense of camaraderie. You can talk without screaming, but scream if you really want to. That type of place.  They also have a restaurant-length bar, which doesn’t hurt either.

The Food

Atmosphere is always good, but if the food doesn’t match the vibe, you don’t stand a chance. Luckily, High Hat goes above and beyond.

Instead of embarking on a collard green rant, which I often do, I’ll just say the collard greens are good. Really good. They’re not too sweet but not too spicy. A vegetarian big bad wolf would be in heaven.

As a word of advice, if you go to High Hat and you can’t decide between a menu item and a special, always go with the special. The special has never failed me, and will likely never fail you.

Having said that, this time I went with the oyster reoulade po’ boy, because what sounds better on a Friday afternoon during the spring than an oyster remoulade po’ boy? Rather than just drenching the po’ boy with remoulade sauce after frying the oyster, High Hat fries their oysters AFTER battering them in whatever remoulade mixture they use. And thank God they do.

The special didn’t go unnoticed, though. Their specials of the day included oyster fennel soup, shrimp creole, strawberry shortcake pie and Jack Daniels ice cream to top it all off.  Not bad, right?

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The shrimp creole, as the waitress explained, was cooked to order, so that they didn’t boil the shrimp until right before it was served. As a result, the shrimp were plump, juicy and had the fresh texture that so many restaurants seem to mess up.

Really, though, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Their fried catfish, or even better, fried catfish po’ boy, makes a perfect Lent meal. Even if you don’t follow Lent, you can act like you do and still have a good time. The vegetarian combo consists of three sides of your choice with a side of cornbread. Because who doesn’t like sides on top of sides? And from prior experience, the High Hat Burger could go head-to-head with any burger in the city. That means you, Port of Call.

I usually have a paragraph where I say something bad about a restaurant, but in this instance I can’t really think of anything. Oh yea, their Arnold Palmer was a little bit too sweet. Tisk tisk.

Long story short, if you get the chance, go to High Hat Café. Now when someone asks you “what’s a good New Orleans restaurant?” you can say something besides Jacques-Imo’s or Commanders.

About Patrick

As a born and bred New Orleanian, on a good day you will find him eating oysters and/or crawfish at the Fly, and on a bad day you might find him in jail.

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