Kyle Nabilcy is, among other things, a food writer. Jenni Dye is, among other things, a Dane County Board member. We'll be visiting a restaurant, cafe, or bar in each of the county's 37 board districts in a feature we're calling...
The Hunger Danes.
I headed into the most recent Hunger Danes with high expectations -- or perhaps just excitable expectations; while I’ve often passed New Orleans Take Out’s Monroe Street location, I’ve never ventured in. This episode of The Hunger Danes took us to their other location, on Fordem, in District 2. I’ll confess I actually didn’t know this second location existed prior to our excursion -- which, I suppose, was part of the original idea of dining forays through Dane County's districts.
We both opted for the smaller of the two entree sizes offered, which was still plenty of food to fill you up at a reasonable price. Where the shrimp Creole (my choice) is listed on the menu as "Very hot," the crawfish etouffée (Kyle’s choice) is "Very, very hot.” Reader take note: this doesn't seem to be hyperbole; the etouffée started to burn from the first bite, and never stopped. The crawfish, though, was tender and amply portioned. Alongside an order of dirty rice, this is a dish not short on flavor -- even if you're sweating the entire time.
Kyle assures me that there was a noticeable difference between the “very, very hot” crawfish etouffee and the “very hot” shrimp Creole, but I found my shrimp Creole to be just over the edge to too spicy (and I generally like spicy). It may have been more manageable had I not paired it with dirty rice which packs a heat of its own. The dirty rice, however, was perfect and I’m glad I didn’t pass it up even if I wouldn’t pair these two in the future.
Red beans and rice with smoked sausage is always a strong choice, one Kyle’s wife makes at pretty much every visit. Cornbread (or good, crusty French bread) is a nice sop for the heat of whichever dish you decide on, as is the white rice served underneath many items. Kyle and I agreed we would split a dessert in addition to the entrees and sides we’d already ordered. Perhaps this is a hidden benefit of take out -- you order dessert simultaneously, before you realize how much you don’t need it.
Regrettably, the sweet potato pecan pie we both wanted to try was out for the night, and if we’d been smart we would have simply passed on dessert at that point. Once you have given yourself permission to indulge, however, it is difficult to turn back. Sadly, the fudge pie we settled on was unimpressive. But then, you don't come to NOTO for dessert.
Kyle noted that there seems to be a little less joy in the operation at the east side location of New Orleans Take-Out, compared to its Monroe Street counterpart. It's probably a foot traffic/college student thing; the east side NOTO is butted up against the railyards between Fordem Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. But if the ambience is more somber at the Fordem location, the food is consistently equal to the more popular Monroe Street spot. District 2 is lucky to have a spot like this to, as they say, “eat mo’ bettah!”
Thanks to Jenni for taking the wheel on this edition of Hunger Danes.