Marti's in the French Quarter
Favorite Restaurant of Tennessee Williams
By: Charles Giuliano - Apr 04, 2015
1041 Rue Dumaine, New Orleans, LA 70116
After a session of the Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival our friends Anne Siegelsz and Susan Cohn wanted a late night supper.
It had been a long day of meetings of the American Theatre Critics Association starting with a rather inadequate "enhanced' continental breakfast at our Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Located at the corner of Canal and Bourbon Streets we were on the edge of the French Quarter with its range of decadent entertainment and fine dining.
There had been group dinners organized by our friend Fast Eddy who seeks gourmet opportunities during ATCA conferences. On the opening night of our meetings he organized a trip to Brennan's, one of the nation's most renowned restaurants, but well above our pay grade. In general entrees over $30 make me break out in hives. It's ok now and then but we had to stretch our budget for a full week in pricey New Orleans.
That meant taking Fast Eddy and the gang around the corner for lunch at the wonderfully rustic and affordable Acme Oyster House. On a previous trip we flipped over their broiled oysters at $19 a dozen. On our first day we walked straight in for lunch at about 3 P.M. Astrid wanted to go back for more but no luck as the line reached around the corner. When we brought the gang there was a half hour wait that seemed to fly by.
Earlier in the day Anne had taken the Tennessee Williams walking tour which is how she encountered his home and Marti's his favorite restaurant across the street on Rue Dumaine.
We had just attended an evening of readings at the venerable Ursuline Convent near Jackson Square.
It was quite a schlep late night to get to Marti's but I did my best to keep up with Fast Eddy, who as the name implies is fleet of foot, Susan with long strides and sneakers, the determined Anne, Astrid and my pal Jack Lyons who, while like me a senior, is far more fit and spry.
I kept yelling "Hold up guys" but they were too far ahead to hear me.
Finally I caught up as we admired the modest domicile of Williams. There was a bronze plaque identifying the landmark.
Entering the bar of the restaurant we were informed that the kitchen had just closed. It was just 10:30 PM and she inquired in the kitchen but no dice.
Anne asked if we might see the lovely dining room. She pointed out Tennessee's favorite spot a banquette in the corner with a commanding view.
After more wandering about we found a modest restaurant with a gregarious and charming waiter. He regaled us with stories of Katrina and the FEMA mess. Most of our group ordered food but Fast Eddy just wanted a fancy drink and an oyster shooter. That seemed like a good idea, it was, but I settled for a beer. Sitting opposite to me Susan feasted on a huge oyster po boy.
On the last night of our conference Fast Eddy organized a return to Tableau where we had a prix fixe meal prior to "Suddenly Last Summer" in its adjoining Le Petit Theatre. Our experience at Tableau had been miserable as I will report separately. So I was not in the mood to again shell out big bucks to be treated like a peon.
Astrid wanted to have a very special private dinner at Marti's which proved to be a spectacular decision.
On a quiet Sunday night the lovely and charming restaurant wasn't crowded. We got to sit in Tennessee's corner. I remarked at absorbing all that wonderful literary history. With a bit of humor Astrid remarked the banquette appeared to have been reupholstered since his demise. So it wasn't that much of a contact high.
The single waiter working the room couldn't have been more delightful. There were so many tempting items on the menu that we asked a lot of questions.
We shared a salad which he split into two very adequate plates. It was a lovely arugula salad with pumpkin seeds, idiazabal, pickled shallots & white wine vinaigrette ($9). The dressing and ingredients were perfect.
I considered the duck confit but opted for lamb osso bucco, tomato & red wine braised, polenta, sautéed kale, & pancetta gremolata ($32). It proved to be a hearty, robustly flavorful recipe and a quite different approach than the usual preparation with beef. It's a dish which now and then I make at home.
Astrid's dish of stuffed Texas quail with brioche-sausage stuffing, fried cabbage, crispy sweet potatoes & creole mustard sauce ($28) was simply spectacular. We often make cornish game hens so it was interesting to try a similar small bird.
Walking back to the French Quarter to start packing it had been the perfect way to end our visit to the Big Easy.