For almost eight years, I have penned this column discussing delicious and affordable eats in the Greater New Orleans Area. Every month, I reveal at least two (often as many as six) dishes or meals to be had when one is limited by an unforgiving budget. But just this once, I am going to break through the monetary limit (only just!) and focus on several dishes in one restaurant, and that special spot is Coquette.
Located on the corner of Washington Avenue and Magazine Street, Coquette opened a decade ago by chef (and owner) Michael Stoltzfus. From its inception, this Garden District restaurant has been wowing both locals and tourists alike and has held strong over the years as one of the city's best. In 2016, esteemed chef Kristen Essig joined forces with her friend (and beloved partner) at Coquette, and since then, things just keep getting better. Stoltzfus had been nominated for James Beard's Best Chef: South category quite a few times before Essig joined the crew, and the duo were nominated together both last year and for 2018.
Over the years, I have experienced incredible meals at Coquette, from their version of cochon de lait and fried catfish with satsumas and Napa cabbage, to Buffalo apples with blue cheese and gingerbread donuts with pumpkin ice cream. I even got to indulge in the creative sandwiches (ahem, ham with huckleberry, cheddar, and heirloom tomatoes) built by Coquette's former sous chef Mason Hereford, who now owns his own shop only a hop and a skip away on Jackson Avenue. Dubbed Turkey and the Wolf, Hereford’s restaurant itself was nominated for James Beard's Best New Restaurant category in 2017 and was listed in Food & Wine's 2017 Restaurants of the Year.
One would think that it couldn't get any better, but I was wrong. Never in my wildest dreams would I believe that a restaurant as refined and creative as Coquette would offer a budget-worthy brunch, and what do they do? Most recently, they've been offering a two-course, prix-fixe brunch for $20! Now, I realize that with tax and tip (cocktails and dessert?), your tab will tumble well over the limit, but c'mon … where else can you get a meal of Coquette's caliber for such an incredible price? Though the dishes change with the season, through this two-for-$20 deal, I've enjoyed dishes like delicata squash with crème fraiche and pumpkin seeds, smoked pork gumbo with filé and potato salad, soft-scrambled eggs with braised pork shoulder, and shishito peppers and rabbit bucatini with Parmesan and tarragon.
For those naysayers screaming, “That's not under $20 per person!” I say, well, what about Coquette's new “family-style” option? Birthed at their initial collaboration Little Bird, a weekly pop-up at whiskey bar Barrel Proof in the Lower Garden District, the installation was so successful that Stoltzfus and Essig decided to incorporate it into Coquette. Diners can now enjoy a half ($29) or a whole ($36) fried chicken platter with deviled eggs, pickles, buttermilk ranch dressing, and rotating sides to share, like coleslaw, potato salad, and biscuits. Splitting the whole chicken with one other diner easily keeps one under budget with just enough left over for a generous tip.
If that doesn't encourage you to make reservations for this weekend, know they also have quite a few a la carte options that offer plenty of bang for your buck, from the fried chicken sandwich and hot sausage biscuits to a pickled shrimp salad or an omelette big enough for two.
What brunch begs you to break your budget?