It’s been a good while since I’ve seen a biker gang straddling a city street, machines turned off, glaring, and cars with nowhere left to go.
A group of men on dirt bikes and atv’s has commandeered Egania Street in front of Cafe Dauphine but that’s alright. The instant I turn the ignition over they immediately disperse. Maybe it’s my 1% t-shirt or maybe it’s just respect. We’ve been trying to eat at Cafe Dauphine since Ian McNulty was still at the Gambit where he wrote a praise-filled review of the little cafe in the Holy Cross neighborhood. That was a year and a half ago but we made a wrong right with tonight’s visit.
We’re absolutely famished so we order a round of fried chicken wings as a starter, and they’ve been treated carefully. The fryer man’s deft touch comes into play as the meat is cooked to a perfect turn before being annointed with hot sauce. The ranch is plain, not the highly-stylized sort that you run into in a ranch-worshipping state. A few slivers of celery come alongside.
We inquire as to whether the hot sauce is Frank’s, the gold standard for wing sauce and the waiter returns with an affirmative. We love all sorts of hot sauces but this brand cozies up to fried chicken like no other.
Anytime a New Orleans restaurant offers a mixed, fried seafood platter you can rest assured that it will be the size of a leather ottoman from Rooms To Go. And Cafe Dauphine is no different. The behemoth arrives laden with a bounty of achingly fresh catfish, oysters, and shrimp: fried, stuffed and deviled.
But it’s the catfish that steals the show. It’s the sweet-meat style cat with nary a trace of the gray stripe that has turned so many folks off to this lovely fish.
And that fryer man is worth his weight in gold. The oil in the fryolators has been immaculately maintained and kept at a hot/balanced temperature that seals all the flavors in and keeps the grease out of the food.
Walking into the cafe we’re greeted at the door by an elderly woman who leaps outside to keep the door open for us “Welcome to Cafe Dauphine” she announces. Before we can make it to our table two more workers have also sallied forth with friendly hails.
Neither glowers nor grimaces are the order of the day from the service staff.
The room is a beauty with massive, painted white columns adorning the small-ish interior. I didn’t count but I reckon around 50 people could be accommodated at one time. A full liquor bar is at the rear of the room if you like a tipple with your Creole soul food.
Service is the sort that I really enjoy. Our waiter leaves us alone, only stepping by once in a great while to see after our weal. He’s young, solemn and efficient.
Would that all waiters could attain his sphynx-like demeanor.
As we prepare to leave, the room slowly starts to fill up. Holy Cross is undergoing a renaissance of sorts but so far that has not extended itself to any sort of restaurant boom. People are flooding into the neighborhood with fat wallets and buying modest homes for unheard of sums but if you’re going to eat well you’re going to be eating at Cafe Dauphine.
Hours of Operation
Address: 5229 Dauphine St,
New Orleans, LA 70117
Phone (504) 309-63