Barely thirty minutes northeast of New Orleans, you'll find a thriving, world class culinary scene in Slidell, Louisiana. For over 20 years now, Duffy Ramirez has paved the fine dining path at Palmettos on the Bayou. Beginning with a century-old homestead, Duffy expanded and grew his restaurant from the original 40 seats to today's capacity for up to 400 without ever losing the intimate feel of Palmettos' original cottage. When executive chef Ross Dover took the reins in Palmettos' kitchen, the operation took a serious step up. We sat down in the restaurant's dining room for two conversations: first with Chef Ross and then with Duffy to learn more about the special spot along the bayou.
How about adding some flora to your caffeine fix? Roots Plants and Coffee, nestled in a sun-kissed corner of Olde Towne Slidell, is a haven for coffee lovers and plant enthusiasts on the Northshore, serving up fresh coffee amidst a verdant display of tropical plants. This welcoming café, which occupies a space that once housed an antique mall, brims with antique furniture, an inviting ambiance, and a range of distinctive plants you can buy. Louisiana Eats paid a visit to Roots Plants and Coffee, savoring a stimulating cup while chatting with the proprietor, Bryisha "B" Lyons.
At the center of Covington's walkable historic district is Cured. on Columbia, a lively place for a morning coffee or an after-work cocktail, a healthful lunch or an upscale wine dinner on special nights. Co-owners Amanda Birdsong and Anna Watkins sat down with Poppy Tooker in their back garden to talk about their menu--which relies heavily on local vendors, especially the nearby Covington Farmers Market--how they took a chance on opening the now-bustling café during Covid shutdowns, and how the Northshore community embraced the couple, helping to make Cured. on Columbia a safe and welcoming space that fosters connection and acceptance, where a dining experience is not just about eating, but about celebrating inclusion. Photo: Cured. on Columbia
Poppy gives a highlight of recent Northshore excursions with a revisit to Backwater Farmstead in Bush for Ross McKnight's luxury food foie gras, then to Slidell to meet Jeremy and Alyssa Reilly of Restaurant Coté and The Maple Room and Nick Asprodites, proprietor of the dockside restaurant and oyster bar, The Blue Crab at the Pointe Marina. Finally, she talks with Chef Jeff Mattia, whose Pyre BBQ restaurants in Covington and Mandeville showcase his passion for primitive cooking techniques fused with classic steakhouse precision to deliver a Southern-inspired dining experience. Photo: Pyre BBQ
Foie gras – that’s French for fat liver. This celebrated luxury food is found mostly in high-end restaurants where even a small amount is quite costly. Traditionally, foie gras production has centered in the Aquitaine region of France where for hundreds of years ducks and geese have been carefully fattened in order to produce the large, ivory-colored lobes. There has been limited foie gras production attempted in the U.S. but today, Ross McKnight is creating some of the most beautiful fois gras seen this side of the Atlantic Ocean at his farmstead, Backwater Foie Gras in Bush, Louisiana. Photo Credit: Kate Gauthreaux, Louisiana Eats!
The story of Abita Beer, Louisiana's first craft brewery, all began in the sleepy little town of Abita Springs. In 1986, the Blossman family ventured into the business at a downtown Abita Springs location — a 100-seat brew pub, which they completely outgrew by 1994. Today, Abita Brew Pub is owned and operated by the second generation of the Essaied family who continue to serve delicious American fare in a comfortable, casual atmosphere right on the Abita Springs Trailhead.
Restaurant Coté and the Maple Room in Olde Towne Slidell is best described as a family-owned and family-focused business. Chef Jeremy Reilly and his wife Allysa opened their family business almost ten years ago and while growing the restaurant, grew their own family as well, adding two children to the Reilly family mix. Chef Jeremy’s food has deep roots in traditional French cuisine with distinctively Louisiana accents.
Monica Bourgeois and Neil Gernon are experts on that topic. The two wine lovers met while working in the New Orleans hospitality industry. They gained retail experience managing bottle shops before transitioning to wholesale wine distribution, making great California vineyard friends along the way. When these two locals learned that Louisiana’s only premiere winery, Pontchartrain Vineyards was for sale, their ambition grew. Wandering along St. Tammany Parish roads, we spotted the Wild Bush sign and stopped in for a visit.
When the Blue Crab Restaurant and Oyster Bar opened in 2013, Nick Asprodites brought the tradition of lakefront seafood dining back to the New Orleans Lakefront. After finding a waterfront property on the Louisiana Northshore, Nick and his family expanded and opened a second Blue Crab at the Pointe Marina in Slidell that is reachable by car and boat soon.
Chef Jeff Mattia's story began in Hartford, Connecticut. The Marine vet and his family moved to New Orleans in 2010 where they quickly found themselves in St. Tammany Parish. In 2019, just three months before the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, he opened Pyre Provisions, now known as Pyre BBQ. Despite the challenges, his methods of live-fire cooking have carried Chef Mattia through to begin a food truck and second location just across from the Mandeville Trailhead.
Michael Gottlieb, of Tchefuncte's and The Anchor in Madisonville, began his culinary journey the day he was born. His family bakery, The family bakery, Gottlieb’s was established in 1884 making him a 5th generation baker at birth. Gottlieb’s of Savannah, GA was famous for many things, including being the bakery that first baked cookies for the Girl Scouts of America. Chef Gottlieb is now the executive chef of the "worldly destination" dual-concept restaurants along the Tchefuncte River
In the quaint little downtown of Covington, there’s a charming yellow cottage filled with English tradition and taste. That’s the English Tea Room, established in 2002 by Jan and Tim Lantrip. Guests of the establishment experience one of the finest High Teas to be found anywhere on this side of the pond. A word to the wise, make reservations before you visit the English Tea Room, as the seats tend to fill quickly. If you’d like to try the experience yourself at home, you can visit the tearoom virtually.
Everybody needs a little love sometimes and there is a place on the Northshore where that love is served with every bite. From the palm trees to the peace signs to the tie-dyed T-shirts, everything about Liz Munson’s diner is laid back. Be forewarned – Liz's happiness is perfectly contagious!
Since 1965, the Randazzo family name has been closely tied to New Orleans’ king cake tradition. In 1997, Tricia and Lou decided to open their own bakery in Slidell where they continue the family tradition today. Order your king cake online at KingCakes.com for pick-up and shipping in 2022.
Emma’s Famous Pralines is a compact but cozy space filled with the rich aroma of butter and sugar. There you’ll find individually wrapped pralines for sale, along with homemade goods, both sweet and savory. You can find Miss Emma at her shop at 705 Spanish Trail in Slidell and she does ship! She’s on Facebook and you may give her a ring at 985-641-9151.
The Northshore’s very own, Chef Robert Vasquez formerly with Pepe’s Sonoran Cuisine and Forks & Corks, handily won the 2020 King of Louisiana Seafood crown with his red snapper, crawfish sofrito. Learn all about the competition and just how the Southwestern native came to win this special Louisiana Seafood honor. While the restaurants have closed, Vasquez continues to delight diners as the Executive Chef at Tchefuncte Country Club in Covington.