The first nice dinner in NOLA was at Le Petite Grocery, which ended up being Jo’s favorite meal of the week. Located Uptown, on Magazine, this restaurant opened in 2004 in a building that had housed a grocery store, under one set of owners or another, for more than a century.
Executive Chef (since 2007) / co-owner (with his wife, since 2010) Justin Devillier has built quite a pedigree at Le Petite Grocery. He’s been nominated for a James Beard award for Best Chef – South for three years in a row and was a contender on “Top Chef – New Orleans”. The decor is simple and the atmosphere without pretense, as we saw folks in jeans looking equally at ease with others in business wear.
They had a really cool wine fridge, which stored the wine bottles on their sides on shelves that pulled out, just off to the left in the picture above. I don’t recall seeing that anywhere before. We chose to opt against any appetizers and went straight into entrees. Jo ordered the shrimp and grits, with roasted shiitake mushrooms, smoked bacon and thyme.
When I think of shrimp and grits, I always think of one preparation – in the restaurant in the light house on Hilton Head Island. Those are my favorite shrimp and grits, in the world. The bite I had of these would run a close second, although the preparation couldn’t be more different.
It was delicate, had a crunchy, crispy crust and was delicious. I ordered the macaroni, as I was unsure of the sides with my paneed rabbit entree: spaetzle, wilted greens, turnip pouree and a sauce grenobloise (browned butter, capers, parsley and lemon).
The rabbit was pounded thin and pan fried and served atop the greens and turnip puree, with the spaetzle on the side. It was tender and rabbit-y (no “tastes like chicken” here) without being gamey and very good. I didn’t care for the turnip puree – there’s not much that you can do to a turnip to make it tasty, in my book.
In general, the meal was excellent. The portions, which by most restaurant standards appeared “small” were very filling and each dish was well seasoned and well prepared. The dish they are best known for, that we did not try, are the blue crab beignets – not really our kettle of fish, but they were flowing from the kitchen to the tables around us. We ate in a nicer restaurant, and had certain dishes that were better, during the week, but we didn’t have a nicer overall meal. I wouldn’t hesitate to return, or recommend it to a friend.