People don’t demand much of a neighborhood bar and grill. They want good drinks, food that provides some ballast, servers who pay more than passing interest and prices reasonable enough to permit frequent visits.
You get all that at The Lost Pelican — especially during the prolonged happy hour that stretches from 3-7 p.m. daily.
The menu nods to N’Awlins, where owner Michael Forte spent years working in fine-dining establishments. Chef Michael Amatangelo is a native of The Pelican State, as Louisiana is known. His cooking veers toward the rich, Creole style.
New Orleans is as famous for its cocktails as for its cuisine. Here you’ll find several of the Crescent City’s signature drinks, plus other notable cocktails. Absinthe wasn’t noticeable in the Sazerac, but the Vieux Carré achieved a perfect balance of rye, brandy, sweet vermouth and Benedictine. Should gin be your spirit of choice, try The Monarch, a beguiling mix of gin, St. Germain, grapefruit and mint. The Bensonhurst, in which bourbon and vermouth meet Cynar and maraschino liqueur, is a Manhattan gone hipster.
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On a particularly raucous Saturday night when college football filled the TV screens, drinks arrived at our table wetly. Service was equally sloppy. Orders went astray, and a guy at the table next to me was flummoxed to receive a seafood mixed grill with a big gap on the plate where halibut should have been. In fairness to the staff, they were doing their best, but the restaurant appeared short-handed.
On a weekday during happy hour, things were completely different. A grandfatherly bartender and a motherly waitress doted on patrons. Both recommended the crawfish pasta, one of the $5 happy-hour plates.
Good advice. The portion of penne was tossed with béchamel sporting bits of red pepper, andouille and plenty of crustacean meat. Also on the happy-hour menu are golf-ball-sized crawfish fritters that will carry you through some serious drinking. The cornmeal batter fried up crisp; the rémoulade was tangy with capers.
A thick cream sauce flecked with red pepper and andouille blanketed sinfully rich shrimp and grits featuring several good-sized, carefully cooked shrimp and a dense mound of cheese grits that rose like a jagged haystack rock from the center of the bowl.
Bell pepper and andouille joined forces again in a zesty tomato sauce for Shrimp Creole, a pretty substantial small plate. The sauce and seafood is mixed with the rice rather than ladled over it.
Both the pork belly po’boy and the muffuletta were satisfying sandwiches. The pork belly was nicely crisped. The muffuletta contained melted cheese, griddled Italian meats and the requisite olive spread; fried pickles were pinned to its toasted baguette.
I would have better appreciated that jaunty garnish had they not been jacketed in the same bland breading as the fried green tomatoes, so firm they could have been air-hockey pucks and little improved by a lackluster Louis dressing.
Oysters Rockefeller were more of a poor relation than a true Rockefeller. The huge Gulf oysters had been removed from their natural shells and baked in tin replicas. The spinach, bacon and Parmesan topping barely covered their fat bellies.
Gumbo packed with chicken, andouille and rice was the real deal and tasted mighty fine. I thought it had plenty of heat, though others reached for the Crystal hot sauce. Plump barbecued chicken wings were slathered with a sauce that did need a flavor boost. Dipping them into the Creole mustard on the side did the trick.
A similar barbecue sauce moistened country-style ribs. The boneless meat was indeed fork tender as the menu promised, but it doesn’t say that the difference between a half portion of ribs ($7) and a full portion ($13) isn’t more meat. According to the server, only the full portion comes with sautéed spinach and, more importantly, the delicious little cubes of fried, garlic-and-herb-seasoned Brabant potatoes.
Unless you have a raging sweet tooth, skip the soggy-crusted, candylike pecan pie and the mushy bread pudding. The cornbread muffin with maple butter, however, is not to be missed.
Providence Cicero is The Seattle Times restaurant critic. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.