If you could manage to fit the entire state of Louisiana into a single building, DTB would have to be it. From the Cajun food, to the Spanish moss hanging from the ceiling, to the bayou-centric décor (including alligator-skin upholstery, fish head sculptures, and dangling fishing equipment) this place is Louisiana personified.
DTB—which stands for Down the Bayou—is a new Cajun restaurant which recently opened Uptown on Oak Street. Co-owners Executive Chef Carl Schaubhut (of Commander’s Palace fame) and Jacob Naquin pride themselves on sourcing locally and using as many ingredients and products from Louisiana as they can. From locally farmed crawfish and Louisiana produce to “Louisiana Born and Brewed” beer and coffee manufactured right here in New Orleans, this restaurant is all about Louisiana. Says Chef Carl Schaubhut, “We proudly source all seafood and other products from the rivers, swamps, lakes, bayous, ponds, and Gulf of Beautiful, bountiful Louisiana.” And the menu is updated seasonally to make sure that all the many Louisiana ingredients are as fresh, in-season, and “farm-to-table” as possible. Even the cypress furniture is made locally.
Cajun cooking has often been considered to be the less sophisticated country cousin of Creole cuisine. And even when Cajun cooking isn’t taking a backseat to its fancy relative, the two terms are often used interchangeably. Many folks don’t even know the difference. And without delving into what actually separates these two versions of Louisiana cuisine—in ingredients and origins—suffice it to say that, thanks to DTB, Cajun cooking is making a name for itself. Not only can (and should) it stand on its own, but it’s finally being elevated to a level where it’s beginning to outshine its Creole kin. No longer the gastronomic underdog, this “country cousin” just might be the new favorite in the family.
The cocktails at DTB also have a Louisiana spin, and are the creative liquid innovations of Beverage Director (and Cocktail Goddess) Lu Brow. I highly recommend the restaurant’s namesake libation, the Down The Bayou, made with Bayou Spiced Rum, fresh strawberries (doubtless straight outta Ponchatoula), citrus, and ginger; or the Window Box—cucumber, egg white, orange flower, fresh herbs, and Euphrosine Gin, which is distilled here in the Big Easy.
I had the pleasure of having dinner at DTB recently. Curious to find out what it was all about and not exactly sure what to expect, I soon discovered that everything exceeded my expectations.
The menu is broken up into different categories. In order of increasing portion size, there are the “Sociables,” which translate to small plates or tapas; the “T-Plates”—Cajun speak for petit plates, which are equivalent to regular-sized appetizers; and the “Beaucoup Plates,” which are what you would consider to be full-sized entrees. DTB also offers “Lagniappe” items, which equate to side orders and include such treats as Roasted Cauliflower with brown butter, lemon and almonds; Hand Cut Fries; and Smothered Brussels Sprouts with peanuts and fermented pepper jelly.
Unable to decide which of the many tempting items to try, we started off our meal with a selection of Sociables. We had the Mushroom Boudin Balls, made with three varieties of mushroom, eggplant, jasmine rice, and pickled collard greens; Crawfish Fry Bread with crawfish and green chile fonduta; Fried Cornbread served with ham hock marmalade and goat cheese; and Crispy Crab Boiled Potatoes, a dish which is meant to be a sort of deconstructed seafood boil with all its corresponding flavors.
For the next course, we shared a couple of the T-Plates. We tried the Cornmeal Gnocchi with hot sausage, broccoli rabe, and pecorino romano; and the Stuffed Squash Blossoms made with alligator chorizo, ricotta cheese, olives, and sauce piquant. Both were delicious.
Already full after multiple courses of fine cooking, and without a lot of room left to eat much more (despite the desire to sample everything on the menu), we opted to split just one of the Beaucoup Plates. This was the Shrimp Rice Bowl with shrimp, pork belly, mirliton, and tasso XO, topped by an egg yolk. Also amazing.
No evening would be complete without a little nightcap, and at DTB, the “Nightcaps” are their desserts. Somehow, we managed to devour three of these tasty desserts, including the Warm Chocolate Cake with buttermilk caramel and bourbon ice cream; the Banana Toffee Cake with banana pudding, meringue, peanuts, and sesame; and my very favorite, the Ice Cream Sandwich, which was made up of fabulous creole cream cheese ice cream sandwiched between pieces of “gateau de sirop” cake and sprinkled with pecans.
Even the tea is worth mentioning. Served in a fancy French press teapot (I’ve only ever seen coffee done that way!), DTB serves Benjamin Tea out of Chicago (one of the few non-Louisianan transplants on the menu). With tea in unusual and delightful flavors such as roasted almond and pomegranate cranberry, Chicago is welcome down South anytime.
This was without a doubt one of the best meals I’ve had in quite some time. Whether it was the delicious food, the great cocktails, the awesome atmosphere, or the stellar service (ask for Bobby, Server Extraordinaire), I can’t wait to go back. Probably for brunch. (In a service industry-friendly move, DTB offers brunch Fridays through Mondays, since most folks in the industry work on Saturdays and Sundays and don’t often get to be on the receiving end of a brunch meal.)
But whether you come in for dinner, brunch, or cocktails, just come in. Treat yourself to a plate of Louisiana. Or a bite. Or a sip. Everything is unbelievable, and you’ll leave loving your state even more than you already did.
DTB is located at 8201 Oak St., Suite 1; (504) 518-6889; dtbnola.com. Open for dinner Monday thru Thursday, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. – 11 p.m. Brunch is Friday, Saturday, and Monday from 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. and Sunday 10:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. Happy Hour: Monday thru Friday, 3 p.m. – 6 p.m., at the bar and bar and tables.