FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Chef Elmer Guzman bites into a Fried Oyster Po' Boy, made at his Poke Stop eatery in Waipahu. He uses a tempura batter to coat his oysters.
A big bowl of flavor
A local expert gives the lowdown on where to eat in New Orleans
» Not making the trip? Serve some New Orleans-style food at home
Six days to Sugar Bowl Tuesday and all eyes are on New Orleans. For Elmer Guzman, owner of the Poke Stop in Waipahu, this means lots of time on the phone. Ever since the announcement that the University of Hawaii Warriors were bowl-bound, Guzman's been taking calls from people asking that ultimate New Orleans question: "Where should I eat?"
Guzman spent three years in the kitchen of famed chef Emeril Lagasse in the mid-'90s, and it was part of his job to eat all over the city while learning to cook all the regional specialties. For those lucky enough to be making the trip, here are his suggestions for where and what to eat. But proceed with caution: "That's how I got my high cholesterol, living there," he says.
Café Du Monde: Make a pit stop for a beignet, a puffy, pillowy doughnut covered in powdered sugar, and a chickory-laced café au lait. Open 24 hours.
Central Grocery: Lunch on a muffuletta, round Italian bread layered with cheese and cold cuts, drizzled with olive oil and mounded with a chunky salad made with at least three kinds of olives. Finish with a Barq's root beer and a bag of chips. Take it to go and plan to share. "You're walking around and it's all wrapped in paper, all greased up ... All kinds of flavors bursting in your mouth."
Acme Oyster House, or any corner oyster bar: "You gotta have an oyster shot." That's a raw oyster in a shot glass or in the shell, with a dose of the house hot sauce. Louisiana is the home of Tabasco, by the way.
Commander's Palace: For Sunday brunch, if you can get in -- call now, (504) 899-8221. Load up on all the regional specialties, from Fried Green Tomatoes to Bananas Foster. Be sure to try the soups, especially turtle, which is legal in these parts.
Mother's Restaurant: A casual place known for Po' Boys, gumbos and roasts. "They call the gravy debris, and I thought, rubbish, eww." It's actually bits and pieces from the roasting pan -- debris -- made into a sauce. "It's like a rich, rich brown gravy."
Emeril's: Chef "Bam!" is likely to be in the house for the new year, working in the open kitchen. And he always takes a stroll through the dining room. Try his Barbecue Shrimp with Rosemary Biscuits or Double Cut Pork Chop. It's pricey at dinner, but a bowl of gumbo at lunch would be quite affordable.
Any Bourbon Street sandwich shop: Try a Po' Boy -- fried oysters, shrimp, roast beef and countless other fillings, served on crusty French bread with Remoulade, a sauce of mayonnaise, ketchup, Worcestershire, garlic and spices that will vary by eatery. "Locals are going to think it's a chunky Thousand Island Dressing."
And add these to your list: Steamed crawfish, etouffée (a seafood stew), gumbo (a soupy stew of many types), blackened red fish (snapper), andouille sausage.