Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Not So Great Expectations

Posted By on Wed, Oct 8, 2008 at 3:15 PM

click to enlarge obriens.jpg

After a group outing to a new restaurant, the post-game analysis begins nearly the moment the car door is closed.

On our trips to O'Brien's Grille, reviewed in this week's issue, the drive across the Crescent City Connection back from Gretna gave us plenty of time to talk the meal over, and on each trip the car was abuzz with praise.

Some of this surely comes from the surprise of finding a place like O'Brien's on a stretch of swampy suburbia like Gretna's Belle Chase Highway.

I personally consider Gretna one of the area's most appetizing destinations, primarily for its profusion of excellent Vietnamese restaurants, including Tan Dinh, Pho Tau Bay, Kim Son and Nine Roses. There's a good mix of Latino restaurants and comfortable stalwarts like the Beef Connection and the Red Maple dot the scene.

But I don't normally think of Gretna for a meal with well-informed wine service, crisp table linens and prices that can reach into the upper spectrum of the local range. So the high level of polish in service, atmosphere and food at O'Brien's was accentuated by the pleasure of discovery.

Sure, a restaurant where the best landmark is the drive-through daiquiri stand sharing its parking lot, and which looks like a fortified self-storage unit (see above), does not start out with the highest expectations.

But on each of our visits, it was clear to everyone involved that O'Brien's can go toe-to-toe with any number of high-end places in the city's more competitive upscale market across the river. For those who live nearby, O'Brien's is a much-needed elegant asset close to home. For those who don't, it's well worth the drive for a great meal.

-- Ian McNulty

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