The first time I tried to eat at La Petite Grocery, I was foiled by a small sheet of paper taped to the front door, but this wasn’t any ordinary sheet of paper; it bared the unfortunate news that La Petite Grocery was closed for a summer vacation. I was devastated and a little confused. If they were closed, why could I still make reservations on Open Table? Nevertheless, the fates smiled upon me that trip and I enjoyed the fruits of Susan Spicer’s labor at Bayona. This last time in Nola, I had La Petite Grocery on my mind and there was no summer vacation standing in my way.
True to its name, there originally was a grocery in this building on Magazine Street, but since 2004 it has bore the name La Petite Grocery. With a decently sized bar section and equally ample dining area, the grocery seemed a little empty for a 12:30 lunch. No worry, I was much more interested in the lunch menu than décor or crowd sizes.
Almost immediately, I was presented with a rather sizable problem. I was interested in nearly every dish on the menu. Racked with indecision, I decided the only way to solve my problem was to try as much as possible, starting with the Lobster Beignets.
Served on top of a spicy remoulade, I wouldn’t really call it a beignet.
With a thin, incredibly crunchy skin, and a creamy filling, it was more like a stuffed fritter.
Regardless of nomenclature, it was delicious. The remoulade provided a wonderful tartness and a little spice, the filling was full of delicate lobster meat, and the thin, crispy shell was the perfect vehicle.
Abita Root Beer Braised Beef Short Ribs were the next appetizer I had to try.
I was amazed at just how viscous the root beer reduction was, like old motor oil, but more appetizing.
Accompanied by a potato croquette and house pickles, this was an excellent use of short ribs.
With the first bite there was the delicious crust on the beef with a meltingly tender interior.
Truthfully, the middles of the short ribs were a little dry, but all qualms were eased by a liberal application of that delectable root beer reduction.
Showing some modicum of moderation, I made sure to order only three appetizers, the third being the Pork Cheeks.
I think cheeks is a bit of a misnomer. With only one on the plate, it was still an impressive site when served on top of fried polenta with green tomato jam and smoked jus.
With a deliciously thick pork flavor and crust on the cheek, it was nicely contrasted by the silky fried polenta and rather subtle tomato jam. I really enjoyed this dish, but it had a hard time comparing to the bolder flavors of the short ribs.
I really can’t leave well enough alone. A thorough sampling of the appetizer section should have been more than sufficient, but I was intrigued by the idea of the Local Shrimp & Grits entrée.
Paired with shiitake mushrooms, smoked bacon, and thyme, it had all the makings of a great bowl of shrimp and grits. With a slightly earthy aroma, these grits were creamy if a bit bland. The bacon pieces were meaty and chewy, but the shrimp were perfectly cooked.
I was a fan of how the mushrooms added an extra dimension of meatiness to the dish, but I was soon overwhelmed with just how rich everything was. This bowl was crying out for some spice, if only to break up the endless assault of richness. Some black pepper helped, but this needed a good dose of hot sauce or at least a little cayenne.
Was lunch at La Petite Grocery worth the wait? Absolutely, I wouldn’t hesitate to come back to the grocery or to recommend it. Even with a few negatives to the dishes, there was just so much overall quality that I’m regretting not trying some of the other dishes, particularly the LPG Cheeseburger and the Hand-Made Spaghetti. I suppose I’ll just have to wait and see what La Petite Grocery has in store for next time. Hopefully there won’t be a summer vacation to get in my way.