My last two meals at Mandina’s have been sad little affairs. Freezer bag french fries, iodine-tasting fried shrimp, flabby planks of catfish, surly waiter etc.
To make matters worse, on each instance I had brought a friend whilst claiming “this is the quintessential New Orleans neighborhood restaurant”
Yet I will still go back.
My love of Mandina’s is manifold: Yes, I’ve had dozens of good meals there since the 80s but they would not have tasted nearly as delicious if I didn’t know the arching history of the business.
Sebastian Mandina originally opened his eponymous business as a grocery store all the way back in 1898. By 1932 the Mandina family decided to convert the grocery into a restaurant and New Orleans has had one of its most beloved cafes ever since.
Of course Katrina, that reckless bitch, shuttered the restaurant for some time but the Mandina’s are back up and running full throttle.
And I’ll never forget dining there one afternoon when a construction worker raced in with barely enough time to eat before getting back to the welding or nail hammering and barked “gimme a Wop salad honey and make it snappy” “Shuh thing dahlin'” was the waitress’ response as she kicked it into high gear and headed for the kitchen like the Devil was on her heels.
Nowadays that salad has lost the appellation “Wop” for the more suitably pc “Italian” but it’s still a testament to old school New Orleans when libertines smoked in bars and the Bywater was where you went for cheap rent and evenings of frivolity with painted harlots.
3800 Canal St
New Orleans, LA
Sunday 12:00 – 9:00 pm
Monday 11:00 am – 9:30 pm
Tuesday 11:00 am – 9:30 pm
Wednesday 11:00 am – 9:30 pm
Thursday 11:00 am – 9:30 pm
Friday 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Saturday 11:00 am – 10:00 pm