In a city with several popular restaurants that have been open for a century, being founded in 1923 isn’t all that big a deal. However, Mandina’s might be the oldest restaurant in New Orleans that doesn’t make the usual New Orleans tourist hit list … probably because it’s not in the French Quarter.
Mandina’s most famous dish is crab fingers in wine sauce. This appetizer takes the work out of enjoying sweet blue crab claws, dressing them with buttery gremolata, rich with the aroma of sherry wine. The sherry and the crab are grand companions, and buttery bread crumbs help to make this a substantial, shareable first course.
The menu spans Italian and Creole classics from po-boys to eggplant Parmesan. Everything comes in huge portions, so tasting all of the esteemed dishes would take dozens of trips. The Creole-Italian staple, Pasta Bordelaise, is something like what Italians call spaghetti aglio e olio (garlic and oil), but, being a Creole interpretation of Italian, it’s more complex than the usual four-ingredient Italian version. It is enriched with butter and wine and sparkles with fresh herbs. The pasta is great, but it’s the chargrilled shrimp on top that make this dish a Mandina’s signature. The shrimp are powerfully spicy and salty and have a noticeable char on their edges. Their bold flavors balance the simplicity of the giant bed of noodles underneath.
From the more Creole side of the menu come various daily stews and traditional simmers (red beans and rice on Monday). Most days a seafood etouffe or Creole dish is available; among our favorites is extra-herby crawfish etouffee, some of the finest in town, ready to be mixed in with fragrant jasmine rice. Even the buttery green beans that come alongside are remarkably good.