New Orleans Jazz music and brunch go hand-in-hand in the Big Easy, and Atchafalaya hits all the right notes with an indulgent New Orleans-style menu. Executive chef Chris Lynch whips up shrimp and grits, duck hash, and a variety of egg dishes plated alongside local favorites such as popcorn crawfish and alligator sausage. While a line at Atchafalaya is likely, a teeming Bloody Mary bar and a lively, bustling atmosphere will keep things interesting during the wait for this authentic NOLA brunch. Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s New Orleans Travel Guide
The local Bloody Mary bar trend likely originated at the restaurant, 901 Louisiana Ave., which started offering the bar during Sunday brunches more than four years ago, said Tony Tocco, who owns Atchafalaya with his wife.
The idea sprang from desperation, Tocco said, as he struggled to attract and keep customers during a six-month battle to transition the restaurant’s liquor license from the former ownership to his.
There are herbs and flowers growing in beds and boxes outside of the restaurant’s entrance at the corner of Louisiana and Laurel. It’s a cultivated look that’s duplicated by the view when you enter. There’s a sense of space that you get from the wall dividing the bar from the main dining room. The ceilings are as high as you’d expect in a New Orleans restaurant, and the wall between the rooms is made of mismatched window frames. It highlights the size of the room while keeping the scale intimate, if that makes sense.
Chris Lynch, a former Emeril’s chef de cuisine, has taken over the kitchen at Atchafalaya, and his menu makes this atmospheric Uptown bistro even more attractive. The execution of the food was a shade indelicate, but dishes, such as potkiller-steamed mussels and lamb meatball cous cous crowned in soothing cucumber raita, were too structurally sound to disappoint.
This is the restaurant where Fiona and Madison have brunch. It’s a gorgeous building with a fantastic reputation for New Orleans food. Try the Duck Hash or Eggs Treme. Oh, there’s also a Make-Your-Own Bloody Mary Bar.
Since Lynch has come aboard he’s been gradually working more of his own style across the menu, and much of this is in synch with where things left off during the high point of Meson 923.
Two good examples from the appetizer list are scallops ($16), with candied pumpkin seed brittle and vinaigrette imbued with foie gras, and the hamachi crudo ($16), a raw fish preparation lavishly dressed with beets, fried shallots and pistachio.
That brunch is something to behold, as much for the scene under Atchafalaya’s roof as for anything that happens on the plate. It’s an exposition of poached eggs, crabmeat and hollandaise orchestrated for surging crowds, abetted by a self-serve bloody Mary bar and urged on by jazz and blues combos squeezed into the corner by the bar.