1934 NE Alberta
It's painful when you see a restaurant struggle and then die. You know it's only a matter of time, but each day it's like watching a mouse in a snake aquarium—you know the snake is eventually going to get hungry and eat the mouse, and the waiting is agonizing. The Olé Olé Café that existed for more than a year on Alberta was one of these businesses. It was a great space in a great location, but it was just the exact wrong restaurant. Nobody wanted expensive taqueria Mexican on a street famous for cheap taquerias. And so nobody went, and it was sad.
Now though, with the café's long, arduous death finally behind us, Lagniappe breathes new life into the space on Alberta Street. This Southern food restaurant previously thrived in a tiny shop on Broadway, and now they're taking advantage of their popularity with a space at least three times as big. Already, the big stone patio is full of diners and the hodge-podge dining room is sprinkled with patrons drinking beer and sharing huge plates of food.
So far, Lagniappe is working out a few kinks in their new spot—the service was slow and they ran out of decent beer, but I'm positive they'll get stronger in the coming weeks. At present I suspect they're not quite used to the swell in business.
As for the food, some items were remarkable, others, not so much. The spinach and crawfish salad was big, delicious, and layered with large, tender deep-fried crawfish tails on a heaping bed of fresh spinach, tomato, red onion, and hard-boiled egg. A pungent homemade blue cheese dressing came on the side, which was an addictive dip for the crawfish.
The beef brisket was tasty and smoky, but could have been cooked longer—the meat wasn't falling apart with tenderness, which is the benchmark of great BBQ (or at least that's what the Food Network tells me). The sides that accompanied the beef, though, were great. Two huge, moist hushpuppies were enough to share and the red beans and rice were delicious, with a solid smokiness and just a hint of heat.
If your aim is to get your money's worth, Lagniappe's po-boy sandwiches are the size of a Duralog. The oyster po-boy was overwhelmingly huge, served on soft French bread and accented smartly with mayo, shredded iceberg lettuce, tomato, and pickle. Each tiny oyster was wrapped in a thick blanket of cornmeal breading and deep-fried, then smashed into the sandwich with about 30 buddies. I actually could've used less oysters and breading, but that's not a proper complaint in a Southern joint. Lagniappe offers fried shrimp, catfish, and slow roasted beef po-boys, as well.
Other recommendations include the pulled pork sandwich (try it with creamy coleslaw on top for an extra buck), any of the restaurant's sides—meaty, slow-cooked collards and potato salad especially—and the chicken and andouille gumbo if you're a fan of gumbo (I, personally, can't stand the white rice). The vegetarian jambalaya, however, is a no go. It was tomatoey and herby, but overall bland.
While every aspect of Lagniappe may not be perfect, BBQ is by nature forgivably sloppy. So grab a seat on Lagnaippe's bustling patio, order up a po-boy or a pulled pork sandwich, and hope by the time you get there they've restocked the beer.