|Prime cuts still the hallmark of Mr. Johns Steakhouse
POSTED: 02:40 PM Monday, February 7, 2011
BY: Tom Fitzmorris, Restaurant Writer
The intensive eating of seafood during Lent is entrenched in the New Orleans food culture. But it also implies we should eat meat just as avidly before Mardi Gras. Indeed, thats the very meaning of the word carnival.
Recent dinners at the locally owned, top-class steakhouse Mr. Johns have revealed a steady climb in the excellence not only of the cooking but also in the dining room.
||Chef Robert Barker cuts a New York Strip at Mr. John's Steakhouse on St. Charles Avenue. (Photo by Frank Aymami)
Why its essential
The most consistent and best steak specialist in New Orleans, Mr. Johns follows the time-honored New Orleans standards for its beef: all top pedigree, served sizzling and aromatic in butter. Enhancing its menu is a significant array of Italian food, which is a good match for steak.
Why its good
Mr. Johns is one of only three local steakhouses whose steaks are all USDA Prime, including the filets mignon. They have all the classic cuts, trimmed to the point of being manicured, which are sold at prices a touch below those of the big names.
The sizzling butter touch a New Orleans steak trademark is exciting and delicious. While the Italian dishes are more or less routine, they go surprisingly well with the steaks, especially at a table whose diners are splitting entrees.
John Santopadre, who passed away in 2007, was a classy operator of many restaurants around town over the years, including Smilies and Cafe Giovanni. He opened Mr. Johns in 2003 with the help of Chef Duke Locicero from Cafe Giovanni. In 2006, the restaurant was sold to Santopadres son-in-law, Rodney Salvaggio, who ran Smilies for most of its history; Desi Vega, an alumnus of Commanders Palace, Ruths Chris and Emerils; and Paul Varisco of The Milestones.
The location originally was the Avenue Cafe, one of the first Uptown gourmet Creole bistros in the early 1980s.
The dining room is a bit sparse, but thats what a steakhouse looks like. The tiled floor and many windows looking out to St. Charles Avenue and its streetcars add charm.
Top 10 essential dishes
1. Crab cake
2. Barbecue shrimp
3. Shrimp remoulade
4. Turtle soup
5. Caprese salad (tomatoes and fresh mozzarella)
6. Strip sirloin steak
7. Filet mignon
8. Cowboy bone-in ribeye
9. Potatoes au gratin
10. Creme brulee
For best results
Go with several people, order the larger steaks and split them. Work in a red-sauce Italian entree as a side dish. Reservations are absolutely essential for Friday lunch and dinner and Saturday dinner, when you will have no luck just waiting for a table.
Room to improve
The decor needs something to soften it up. A bit more creativity in the side dishes would be welcome.
Factors other than food
Up to three points, positive or negative. Absence of points denotes average performance.
Wine and bar +1
Local color +1
Outdoor tables for drinks only; romantic; good view; good for business meetings; medium private room; unusually large servings; good for children; free valet parking; reservations honored promptly.