Ella and Steven eat New Orleans: Cafe Carmo
September 6, 2016
Lunch, arrived ~ 12:30pm
Universally, it’s a very good sign when a restaurant has homemade hot sauce. And for me, rack up the bonus points when said sauce is humbly hanging out on a bright, hand-painted hutch, next to grab-your-own silverware and a sign that reminds diners to take only the napkins they need, because napkins are made from trees.
Cafe Carmo might as well have been designed based on a dreams I had of my ideal beach bungalow: jewel-toned walls, mismatched furniture, and just enough tropical paraphernalia to trick your brain into relaxing a little bit more. Fortuitously, we arrived in the middle of a busy work day for both Steve and me, eager for a relatively healthy lunch option (actually, we’ve found, far more common in New Orleans than you might think). And Cafe Carmo was perfect.
Carmo does balance well. The menu is is heavily but not exclusively vegetarian, including lots of options for our vegan friends. But it *also* includes an entire section for Banquette Breads; description: crispy Armenian bread topped with havarti cheese and other select toppings then broiled. Not exactly a place that would look down its nose at you on a more indulgent day. The crowd, too, was delightfully blended. A few tables filled with be-dreaded vegan types, a few with suits clearly having a business lunch, and one table knocking back beer and wine at an impressive pace.
Unfortunately (and a little oddly), they were out of bread on the day we popped in. So no Banquette Breads for us. We rolled with the punches. Steve pivoted from a traditional sandwich to The Rico; description: A breadless fork sandwich made of a grilled plantain patty topped with melted cheese, spicy smoked ’n’ pulled pork, avocado, salsa fresca and our tangy sweet spicy “Rico” sauce. Suffice it to say, he did not end lunch disappointed.
For me, The Esmeralda Salad (quinoa, black beans, corn, pepper, and cilantro with coconut chili lime vinaigrette, pumpkin seeds, and cotija cheese) hit the healthy-but-not-boring spot wonderfully. In fact, I’d sum up the whole experience as hit the spot + healthy-but-not-boring + wonderful.
And the homemade hot sauce was excellent.
- Mountain Valley Spring Water (NOLA’s most ubiquitous seltzer brand, we’re learning)
- The Rico sandwich (4 stars)
- The Esmeralda Salad (4 stars)
Our overall Carmo rating: 8 / 10
Tips: go for lunch; try something vegetarian or vegan; pile on the hot sauce