Restaurant Review: The Upperline

Mar 29, 2008 by


The other night I took the wife and a friend out to a place I have not been since well before the levee failure: The Upperline. I was thrilled to observe that seems to have survived and thrived unchanged. The small dining room was festooned with an array of local paintings, photos, and memorabilia that must have exceeded the surface area of actual wall space by a significant amount. The owner, JoAnn Clevenger, was her usual vivacious self as she wandered from table to table engaging the diners in lively conversation. (NOTE: you can click on any of the images in this post to be taken to a larger version with its own independent comment stream. -Loki)

In short order we were escorted to a table in the front dining room of the 1877 town house in which The Upperline delivers its unique offerings. Our server, Jenn B. as I recall, was lively and attentive as she started us off with wine and classic New Orleans coffee and chicory.


The appetizer was Spicy Crispy Oysters St. Claude which disappeared before I could sample them. The rapidity of their demise gave me momentary mental flashes of Carroll’s Walrus and the Carpenter, although the ladies I was with were far easier on the sensibilities. Their reactions to the shellfish were ones of pure culinary bliss, which I take as a good sign. I can only surmise that it rightfully earned its USA Today Top Dish in 2007…

It was also about this point in the meal when the adies and I commented on how nice it was to be someplace that had unobtrusive music rather than blaring it to cover the noise of multiple conversations. It was while we were discussing this that to my pleasure I tuned in on and recognized the sound of a favorite local band of mine, Johnny Sketch and The Dirty Notes! (You hear that, Mark? We were dining to your music!) No wonder this has always been a place where could see just as many hipsters as republicans, and that without any sense of friction.


Then came the main course. I was feeling indulgent and had the Filet Mignon. It came out a perfect medium rare, hot and pink on the inside with a well cooked exterior. The only steak I have had in New Orleans that was on a par with it is the one at the Louisiana Bistro. Serious carnivorous bliss that just melted in my mouth. For those of you reading this from outside our environs we are far from cattle country so really great steak is less common here. In New Orleans it tend to all be about the seafood.

The Garlic Port Sauce was the ideal compliment to the beautifully cooked filet. Rich and flavorful without being incredibly heavy. The simple and classic side dishes, mashed potatoes and fresh green beans rounded out the plate with lovely simplicity.


My lovely wife ordered the Drum Piquant with Hot and Hot Shrimp, which elicited another another round of oohs and ahs. This one was the USA Today Top Dish for 2006. The thing I remember most about this one is my lovely wife looking up at me and saying, ‘this is the BEST cornbread I’ve ever had!”


Tom Cowmans Roast Duck with Garlic Port or Ginger Peach Sauce (or in this case both) was our companion’s choice for the evening. The two sauces were both excellent, and provided a very nice counterpoint to each other. The Garlic POrt sauce I described before, it was the same sauce that I had with my filet. The Ginger Peach was a nice, full bodied sauce with a solid balance between the bite of the ginger and the sweetness of the peach. The duck was crispy on the outside and still moist, although slightly dry, on the inside.
All in all it was nice to return to an old favorite. The Upperline still provides one of my favorite dining experiences Uptown.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Crawfish

The minute you land in New Orleans, something wet and dark leaps on you and starts humping you like a swamp dog in heat, and the only way to get that aspect of New Orleans off you is to eat it off. That means beignets and crawfish bisque and jambalaya, it means shrimp remoulade, pecan pie, and red beans ‘n rice, it means elegant pompano en papillote, funky filé z’herbes, and raw oysters by the dozen, it means grillades for breakfast, a po-boy with chow-chow at bedtime, and tubs of gumbo in between. It is not unusual for a visitor to the city to gain fifteen pounds in a week – yet the alternative is a whole lot worse. If you don’t eat day and night, if you don’t constantly funnel the indigenous flavors into your bloodstream, then the mystery beast will keep on humping you, and you will feel its sordid presence rubbing against you long after you have left town. In fact, like any sex offender, it can leave permanent psychological scars.

— Tom Robbins, from Jitterbug Perfume

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