First Take: Classic New Orleans Seafood at Felix’s Oyster Bar

Right across from the well-known Acme Oyster House in New Orleans is a simple, basic seafood spot for locals, Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar! Recommended by a friend, I’m all for underdogs and local, hidden gems. So I skipped the long line in front of Acme for the simplicity of Felix’s. And in some ways I loved that decision, in other ways not so much… But I guarantee you, if you eat here you’ll get a REAL New Orleans experience…

Felix’s is old-school, all the time. You get a blast of saltwater and brine the moment you step in which is a great sign! Diners happily slurping down beautiful oysters at the counter, it reminds me of the classic Swan Oyster Depot in SF. Lots of white tile, boisterous activity and motion, I ask for a quieter table in the backroom. In the back they’ve got their liquor bar along with a flaming grill for those famous roasted oysters. My waitress is Louisiana sweet but a bit inexperienced, no big deal. I order up some jambalaya and a fried shimp-oyster combo plate, how can you resist seafood in New Orleans?! As I wait for my food I sip on an Abita and listen in on the conversations: SEC football, crawfish and more, the drawls here are a bit different than what I run into in North Carolina.

My small cup of jambalaya comes out with a sprinkling of parsley on top. Spicy with small shrimp and chunks of sausage, it’s comforting but seems a bit over-cooked, a bit mushy but the taste is still there. My main of fried shrimp and oysters with some fries look great! Home-made cocktail sauce on the side, 8 medium to large golden brown shrimp and 4 or 5 oysters, Felix’s uses a very fine corn meal giving their fried seafood a nice texture and non-greasy crunch. The fried shrimp is excellent but that’s pretty much the case for all the shrimp down here. A dab of cocktail sauce, a bit of tartar and deelish! The fried oysters have the taste and texture of a fried clam belly and are pretty decent but not my fave. The hushpuppies are interesting and tasty, small little nuggets with pepper and corn bits inside. All the food on the plate has a bit of a kick in it, even before the Crystal hot sauce goes on. At $18 or so, it’s a decent plate of food and filling. Service is ok but Felix’s gets pretty busy with all the locals coming in for dinner. Sitting back, I feel like I could have been on the set of the movie, The Help! But overall I really enjoyed my experience here. New Orleans is fantastic when it comes to Southern hospitality and a place like Felix’s is a prime example of that hospitality. Just don’t ask the waitress here to split the check and you’ll have a great meal!

 

Best Restaurants for Dating and Dining in Durham!

A while back I had written up some of my favorite date spots in Raleigh and it got me thinking about the same deal for Durham. Where to go when you’re meeting someone for the first (or second) time and want to make a nice impression? A place where there’s decent food, energy and a discrete back door out to an alleyway in case you need to escape? Ok, I’m just kidding about that last requirement but everything else still stands. And the place needs to be reasonably priced cause you know you shouldn’t be blowing a ton of money on a first date! So here are some of my favorite options in the D-ham, when you’re looking to stir up a bit of l’amour…

 

 

 

 

 

My first and foremost favorite in Durham is probably Toast because it does gourmet while keeping things real. Bright cheery inside, cool sidewalk seating on Five Points, great sandwiches, soups, salads with some inexpensive wine. Love their tramezzini, mozzarella crostini and pretty much everything else on the menu! And you can easily get out of here for $30 with an adult bevvy. The wine quartino’s are a deal and usually are good for two glasses of vino. And if the date went well, you could head on over to Whiskey or Alley 26 to continue the conversation. I’ll be honest with you, if I brought a date here and she DIDN’T like Toast, I doubt there’d be much of a future for the two of us!

 

 

 

 

Another casual choice for me would be to match up Fullsteam Brewery with one of their food trucks, preferably KoKyu. I mean you can really tell a lot about somebody and if they are good with this pairing, you know your date is pretty easy-going and fun. How can you go wrong with some great Southern beer, happy Durhamites and delicious Asian-inspired street eats?! Yeah, it can be a bit messy eating one of KoKyu’s short-rib quesadillas while standing but what better way to show you care but to share some of their delicious eats? And afterwards, maybe you can catch some live music at Motorco.

 

 

 

 

 

Another great option in a similar vein would be Guglhupf out on Durham-Chapel Hill Road but in a very different way. You could do a lunch-brunch on their huge patio and enjoy their sandwiches or pastries. Or come at night where they atmosphere totally changes. Guglhupf literally glows at nights with the outside lighting and overhead lanterns. Great German food with solid service, you really can’t go wrong and there’s plenty of people-watching options. Guglhupf is a great place to woo a date but the one drawback is there’s not much else to move on to after dinner in this area.

My final dating option would be the newer Mateo for Spanish tapas. Similar to Guglhupf, this place also glows at night and is filled with European ambiance. Large mirrors, blown glass lighting fixtures in addition to a great small plates menu that allows you to graze a bit. Mateo is a lovely experience that takes you away for an hour or two with fantastic food, wine and ambiance which is great to get to know somebody. The one concern I’d have is to avoid the crazy times if you want to have a conversation cause this place is usually busy and can get quite loud. I think it would work perfectly on a Tues-Thur or slightly off-peak hour period. But yeah, great spot for a potentially great date, you will pay a bit more for Mateo.

So there you go, four great options for a great date without totally killing your wallet. Food has always been to me, a way to bring people together, even if it’s just two of you. And I have to confess that it’s a great way to screen in (or out) if somebody’s going to be compatible. You can tell if somebody is adventurous, easy-going and fun in no time at all once you’re sitting down with a menu in front of you right?! But in the end, it should all be fun because if you hit one of these places up for a date, while you may not find love, you will find yourself a great meal. Bon appetit!