Jul 31, 2013

A commoner reviews Middendorf’s, Manchac, La.

This is going to read more like a glowing endorsement than an objective review, but in all honesty I've never had less than extraordinary food here.  And I come here almost as often as I make it to New Orleans. 

Middendorf’s is located just off Interstate 55 in Manchac (or Akers, as their mailing address uses), La.  It’s on the first of two exits as you drive southbound over the bayou.  As a town – and I use that term loosely – Manchac has more homes reachable only by boat than car.  Fortunately, you’ll find Middendorf’s in the “heart” of Manchac on old U.S. Highway 51, right before the bridge rises over Pass Manchac, a channel allowing boat traffic to go between Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchatrain.   

As you might imagine, Manchac itself is very scenic, has a feeling of being very much off the beaten path (a small building that serves as a St. John the Baptist Parish police station is located behind Middendorf’s restaurant), and is very much surrounded by water.  As my friend Tom Woolsey, who is very familiar with the area, once said, “It would be a great place to hide a dead body.” 

With this location, you’d expect Middendorf’s to have the inside track on the best and freshest seafood around, and boy do they ever deliver with whatever you decide to order.  Let’s go inside and check it out. 

Since it first opened in 1934, Midddendorf’s has become most known for its self-proclaimed world famous thin fried catfish.  I would have to agree it’s simply the best catfish I've ever tasted, and the quality never varies.  Even a Gypsy I once knew who derided catfish as bottom feeders in the food chain had to admit the catfish here is amazing. 

The tasty catfish almost forced a smile out of him.  
So, if it’s your first time at Middendorf's, you must give the catfish a try.  The Young Curmudgeon chose a combo platter with fried shrimp.  And yes, in the end, he had to admit as well that it was the best catfish he had ever tried.   

Middendorf's barbecued oysters -- a taste orgasm.
But as much as I love the catfish, I never visit Middendorf's without ordering barbecued oysters on the half shell for an appetizer.  They are, put simply, orgasmic.  These oysters are actually a little smaller than usual.  But I can assure you they’re always fresh and succulent, smothered in a savory barbecued shrimp-style sauce and grilled (or maybe broiled?) to perfection to ensure maximum juiciness when you bite into them. 

I usually get a cup of crab and shrimp gumbo whenever I’m here, too.  It’s always filled with seafood in every bite, and I’m usually fishing out a Louisiana soft shell crab claw at some point (it’s fun to suck the broth off the claw – tastes great!)   

Middendorf's turtle soup 
But on this visit I decided to branch out and try the turtle soup.  You have no idea how glad I still am with this decision.  Once again … Best.  Turtle soup.  Ever.  (Sorry, Court of Two Sisters, you’re now in second place.)  Plenty of turtle bits in every bite, a delicious dark roux and the right amount of sherry to taste to give it just enough zing at the end to make it memorable.  The waitress also let me pour in the amount of sherry I wanted to taste, which tickled the Young Curmudgeon when she advised me not to get carried away. 

One more notable thing about the food at Middendorf’s … the hush puppies aren't too shabby, either.  It shouldn't be that hard to find good hush puppies, but it’s harder than you might think.  The ones here pair quite well with any seafood platter.    

OK, I've salivated long enough about the food here.  But seriously, Middendorf’s is worth the stop if you’re driving down to New Orleans, and it’s worth the effort to make the trip out to Bayou Manchac if you’re already in the Big Easy.  They are closed Mondays and Tuesdays – and for the occasional hurricane until the water recedes.  I give Middendorf’s my strongest recommendation.  

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