New Orleans, Louisiana – The American Sector (John Besh)

Restaurant: The American Sector
Cuisine: American/Southern/Soul
Last visited: May 25, 2012
Location: New Orleans, LA (Warehouse District)
Address: 945 Magazine Street
Transit: New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal
Where I stayed: Le Richelieu Hotel (Taxi recommended)
Price Range: $10-20

1Poor 2OK 3Good 4Very good 5Excellent 6FMF Must Try!

Food: 3.5
Service: n/a
Ambiance: 4
Overall: 3.5
Additional comments:

  • Chef/Owner John Besh
  • Located inside WWII Museum
  • Casual, but nice
  • American cuisine
  • Modern comfort food
  • Big portions
  • Affordable
  • Family friendly
  • Kid’s menu
  • Good for groups
  • Wine/cocktails/beer
  • Reservations recommended
  • Lunch/Dinner menus
  • Daily Happy Hour 3-6pm (50% off select beverages and $.75 BBQ sliders)
  • Sun-Thurs 11am – 9pm
  • Fri-Sat 11am-11pm

**Recommendations: Smokey Lamb Ribs, Fried Chicken Gizzards, Fried Seafood Po-Boys, Meatloaf and French 75 Cocktail.

I did the Emeril Lagasse so I had to do the John Besh! That doesn’t sound right… but their restaurants were on my Follow Me Foodie to New Orleans itinerary and I had to check them off! They are two widely recognized celebrity chefs from New Orleans so I wanted an authentic experience in their home towns.

The American Sector was actually a last minute decision. Originally I had plans to visit John Besh’s casual fine dining restaurant August, but it was only open for dinner and I already had all my dinners prearranged. I still wanted to check out at least one of his nine restaurants though and I was recommended and invited to try The American Sector.

It was my last lunch in New Orleans and it was packed tightly with a late lunch at Willie Mae’s Scotch House for “America’s Best Fried Chicken” and Café Du Monde, but at last it all worked out.

The American Sector is conveniently located in The National World War II Museum so it’s easy to hit up both places at once. When I heard it was the restaurant at The WWII Museum I did have my biases though. As a “foodie” the first thing I thought was “touristy”, and that was already on top of the fact that it was a celebrity chef owned restaurant. It was the same feeling I had about Emeril’s, but to dine at their restaurants is still something I wanted to experience. There’s no doubt they’ve influenced the New Orleans food scene and helped establish it as a food city, and this was the closest I was going to get other than trying recipes from their cookbooks.

I knew little about The American Sector other than the fact that it was taking a modern approach to classic American food. It was actually a very sophisticated and polished restaurant with people of all ages. It was definitely family friendly (being located in the museum and all) and the menu had great appeal to kids while being inviting enough for adults and approachable for tourists. I wasn’t sure what to order so I just left it up to chef’s choice, which worked out really well.

It was a very typical Southern American restaurant with big portions and affordable prices, but the ingredients and execution were better than a standard chain restaurant. I was expecting the restaurant to be overpriced just by the looks of it and also by the brand, but I was surprised at how well priced it actually was. I would even say it’s good value for that ambiance. It was a comfortable restaurant and the dishes were playful and expected without being messy and boring.

Personally, it wasn’t a restaurant I would have chose myself, but there was nothing wrong with it. If I was a local I would probably be there more often for casual lunches and happy hours. As a tourist with a food focused itinerary it was fun to try, but I would probably be more curious to try his other restaurants before I return to this one. The food was good and easy to accept by the masses and it’s one of those places that has something for everyone.

On the table:

**French 754/6 (Very good)

  • Bombay gin, lemon juice, champagne $8
  • This came recommended and it’s a very classic cocktail.
  • It’s named after the Canon-75 or French 75mm field gun that was used a lot during WWI.
  • It was refreshing and very lemony, but not sour and well sweetened without being dessert like.
  • They used a prosecco for the champagne so it was very lemon-forward.
  • It was heavier with the gin than the champagne which is how it should be, but it was still well balanced.
  • For a very sophisticated version of this I highly recommend the Saint-75 cocktail from Commander’s Palace too.

Sweet Pickles - Instead of bread and butter it was complimentary sweet pickles which were good as is. They were nice and crunchy and marinated with good heat and sweetness, but it wasn’t spicy or too sour.

**Smokey Lamb Ribs5/6 (Excellent)

  • Mayhaw glaze $12
  • When these were recommended I had a slight hesitation because I felt like I could get lamb and ribs at home. However I was in the South and lamb ribs don’t show up as often as pork or beef ribs, so I decided to try them.
  • They were indeed smoky with a a bit of heat and spice at the end and they were falling off the bone, but from being slow smoked and not boiled.
  • The flavour was locked in and although the meat was quite fatty, oily, and rich, these ribs were lick your fingers delicious.
  • They were sweet initially from the Mayhaw glaze which is a sweet berry-like fruit that grows in the States.
  • The glaze was all syrupy and sticky and a bit crispy and charred and those smoky sweet flavours played well to the natural gaminess of the lamb.
  • I think there was some Worcestershire sauce and they had a kick and there may have been some molasses too because they were quite syrupy.

Shrimp Tempura and Heirloom Tomato Salad

  • Daily feature.
  • This was just a last minute dish chef put together and it featured herbs from The National WWII Museum’s Victory Garden, which I thought was neat.
  • Being from Vancouver we have endless options for shrimp tempura, so I’m not sure how common it is in New Orleans.
  • I guess it’s just deep fried shrimp though, which is common almost everywhere, but I’ve never had shrimp tempura like this.
  • The shrimp was pureed shrimp instead of whole shrimp so it was almost like a soft shrimp meatball. I wasn’t so keen on that and the batter was a bit thick for me as well.
  • I felt like the shrimps needed an aioli and to be battered and fried whole, but if served in a salad context, simple grilled would have been great.

**Fried Chicken Gizzards4/6 (Very good)

  • Creole Honey Mustard $7
  • This is a classic Southern “speciality” and I was surprised I didn’t have it until my last day in New Orleans.
  • It’s served at fast food chain Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits, but these were of course way better.
  • If you’ve never had chicken gizzards they’re delicious.
  • In this case they tasted like popcorn chicken made with dark meat chicken, but a bit chewier.
  • They’re naturally chewy, but not tiresome to chew and they’re not gelatinous.
  • The batter wasn’t too thick and they were nice and crispy and well seasoned with salt and maybe garlic salt.
  • The were plated on top of a house made Creole honey mustard which was fantastic!
  • It was a bit spicy with Dijon and sweet with honey and had a good kick of grated horseradish.
  • If I was a beer drinker I would have ordered a beer with this. They were more addicting than peanuts.

Housemade Foot Long All Beer Sector Frank3.5/6 (Good-Very good) Photo Credit: www.frugal-cafe.com (My photo doesn’t show size as well)

  • $7
  • Toppings: Caramelized onions +$1, Sauerkraut +$1 Chili +$1, Cheddar Cheese +$1, Cole Slaw +$1
  • What. the. heck. When this hot dog came out I was shocked.
  • You should order this just to see it. It was huge! I don’t know how a kid would eat this.
  • It came piled with caramelized onions, chili and melted cheddar cheese on top and I ate it without touching my knife and fork.
  • I was expecting a gourmet sausage made from ground pork, but it wasn’t that at all. It actually tasted like a gourmet version of an Oscar Mayer Weiner.
  • The wiener was very soft and almost spongy and it was super tender, plump and juicy and I don’t even know how they make it like that.
  • It wasn’t as firm as a smokey and it tasted like a processed wiener, but it wasn’t.
  • It was housemade with likely good ingredients, but the flavour and texture was that of an Oscar Mayer or Maple Leaf Top Dog.
  • I’m not sure if adults would enjoy this as much as kids because it really doesn’t come across as a gourmet sausage. It was good, but unexpected.
  • There are no apparent seasoning or herbs and the meat was all puréed so the filling is all smooth.
  • The skin was snappy and the bun was also super soft and fluffy, and it was a good bun, but I wish it was toasted.
  • The chili was quite regular and a bit like spaghetti sauce with ground beef, onions and tomatoes, but it wasn’t spicy.
  • It had no kick which is understandable since it likely had to be kid friendly.
  • The hot dog didn’t have much texture with the soft dog and bun, but it was fun to try once and it was enjoyable for the first few bites.

**Fried Seafood Po-Boys4.5/6 (Very good-Excellent)

  • Gulf fish $12 Busters $16.50 Oysters $14.50 Shrimp $12.50
  • I ordered it with oysters.
  • I’ve had Po’ Boys before, but not yet in New Orleans.
  • It’s a sandwich NOLA is notorious for along with the Muffuletta (which I tried at the famous Central Grocery – see here).
  • It’s just a submarine sandwich, but I couldn’t report back on New Orleans without at least one Po’ Boy experience.
  • This was freaking huge! It was enough for 2 people and totally worth it.
  • Any sandwich wrapped so tightly usually means it’s going to be bursting with ingredients and this one was a delicious mess.
  • As a gourmet Po-Boy it was excellent, although I don’t have anything in New Orleans to compare to.
  • It was a traditional foot long Po’ Boy with 9 breaded and fried well seasoned oysters.
  • The flour batter was well seasoned, but a bit soggy and the oysters were plump and juicy, but I wouldn’t mind them a bit firmer.
  • I wanted that crunch of oyster, but under all the toppings and sauce it was expectedly going to be a bit soggy.
  • It was all dressed with shredded lettuce, tomato, pickles and sambal mayo, but there still wasn’t much crunch of vegetables although there were a lot of flavours.
  • The sambal mayo was a nice Asian twist, but it wasn’t that noticeable and it wasn’t spicy.
  • It was double filling to bread and I definitely tasted mostly oysters which were fresh and not too gutsy or mushy.
  • The bread was a thin and chewy French bread from Haido Vietnamese Bakery which is known for their fantastic French bread.
  • I wish the outside of the bread was crisp though, but the inside was nice and soft with good chew.
  • Personally I wanted a Po-Boy from a local hole in the wall eatery, but if I wanted it gourmet I would be satisfied getting it here.

Not the nicest photo, but after unwrapping it I understood why I should enjoy it in the wrapper. It’s messy.

It came with a side of house made potato chips which were crispy and crunchy like gourmet Lays Chips, but not as crunchy as Mrs. Vickie’s Chips. The oil was fresh and they had great colour. The only thing is that they were a bit greasy and under seasoned so I could have used more salt.

Grilled Gulf Fish2.5/6 (Okay-Good)

  • Farro and seasonal vegetables $15.50
  • This was probably the healthiest thing I ate in my whole trip in Follow Me Foodie to New Orleans.
  • The fish was Black Drum Fish and drum fish (white, black or red drum) seems to be the most common fish to show up on menus in New Orleans.
  • It’s a very mild tasting flaky fish similar to cod or sole and I saw it everywhere. I think it’s their “go-to” readily available fish.
  • The skin was removed which is my favourite part, but it’s understandable that it doesn’t appeal to a mass market.
  • It was pan fried and crispy on both sides while still being moist and it was seasoned with salt and maybe garlic salt, but it was a very basic fish.
  • The farro made it a bit more interesting and it’s just a whole grain made from wheat and it’s almost like barley.
  • It was sautéed with fresh vegetables in a bit of brown butter and lemon juice, but it wasn’t noticeably acidic and the lemon was faint.
  • I kind of wish the dill was more chopped up too just because I like the garnish to look like it’s intended to be eaten.
  • This was something you could make at home and it was the healthy option on the menu, but not particularly something I would come back for.

**Meatloaf5/6 (Excellent)

  • Mashed potatoes $15.75
  • It’s just meatloaf and every “American Housewife” knows how to make one, but this one was excellent. It would convert a meatloaf hater.
  • I actually enjoy meatloaf and enjoy making meatloaf and I really liked this.
  • It’s one of the house favourites which is funny because Chef (not John Besh) told me that it used to be what he would make for staff meals. Well sign me up for a job!
  • It was a very nice looking plate and I liked that it wasn’t an enormous loaf of meat like everything else had been so far.
  • The sprinkle of green onions is the classic New Orleans garnish for almost everything. They love doing that.
  • The mashed potatoes I wish were grits, but the potatoes were excellent.
  • The potatoes were very buttery and almost like pommes purée and they were super creamy and smooth.
  • The gravy seemed like chicken gravy and that too was very good.

  • The meatloaf was the highlight and Chef is probably tired of making it, but it’s undeniably well liked.
  • It was brushed with a simple yet classic ketchup and brown sugar barbeque sauce so it was nice and sweet with a bit of tang.
  • The meatloaf was moist and soft and made with green peppers, fennel seed, onions and garlic and it wasn’t mushy, soggy, crumbly or tough.
  • I didn’t feel like there was much breadcrumb and it wasn’t over mixed and quite light and tender.
  • The texture was perfect and there was a bit of heat, but it wasn’t spicy.
  • For a meatloaf, it was definitely one of the better meatloaves I’ve had and there was a good salty, sweet and tangy contrast.
  • It was solid old fashioned comfort food, but with good ingredients and execution.

The desserts were very classic American and playful. This had “kid-friendly” written all over it. They’re not really my style of desserts, but then again, I never really discriminate against any dessert since I naturally have a crazy sweet tooth. It’s just a personal preference thing, but these desserts work for the type of establishment and clientèle.

Milk Shakes3/6 (Good)

  • $5.50
  • Blueberry was the seasonal flavour, but otherwise I would have ordered the Bananas “Foster” milkshake.
  • I was hoping it would be much thicker with more ice cream. I like the milkshakes that are so thick and creamy that it’s almost hard to suck up with a straw.
  • This one was quite thin and milky and very easy to drink with a straw, but I liked that it wasn’t too sweet.
  • It could have used more blueberries and it was quite pale in colour and I think I just wanted to be hit with fresh blueberry flavour.
  • Personally I prefer White Spot milkshakes if I had to give a home comparison.
  • Milk shakes aren’t rocket science, so it just comes down to the ice cream and milk ratio and I like more ice cream to milk.
  • The dairy also has to be good quality and the ice cream in this one was house made without that greasy mouth feel which is always ideal.

Peppermint Pattie3/6 (Good)

  • $5
  • I’m not a fan of Peppermint Patties or peppermint ice cream unless it’s really fresh and gourmet high quality peppermint ice cream. (I know, I sound like a snob, but I hate fake peppermint flavours and waxy chocolate together).
  • This was the ice cream sandwich version of a York Peppermint Pattie, and for what it was, it was pretty good.
  • It was two thin vanilla wafer cookies and the chocolate and peppermint part really tasted like a York Peppermint Pattie, but with better chocolate.
  • I couldn’t taste the vanilla wafer cookies though and I think it was there for support purposes.
  • It wasn’t too sweet and the cookies were crunchy and hard and the peppermint ice cream was refreshing.
  • It was double ice cream to cookies which is what I prefer as well.
  • I wasn’t really keen on the peppermint ice cream, but it wasn’t bad.
  • I prefer mint ice cream with fresh mint leaves, but that wasn’t the style of this restaurant which is more kid-friendly.
  • It was a very cooling peppermint dessert and the ice cream took forever to melt which I liked. I hate the ones that melt really fast.
  • It’s a different style of restaurant, but I highly recommend the ice cream from La Petite Grocery.

Cupcakes – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)

  • 1 for $2.50 or 4 for $8
  • I thought the cupcake trend was over… but no, they are still here.
  • Again, trend or not, it comes down to if it tasted good and they did. They were also very affordable!
  • The cupcake liners didn’t stick to the cakes and all of them were moist and generously filled.
  • The ingredients were not bad and there was a ton of icing on them.
  • They were good, but not necessarily memorable.
  • Each cupcake had a different cake base and icing which was quite impressive.
  • Most of them tasted like what they were, but they were on the sweet side as expected.
  • Red Velvet Cupcake with Cream Cheese Icing and Filling – 2/6 (Okay)
    • I couldn’t taste the cocoa in this and it was heavy with the dye, but it was moist.
    • It was quite dense and very rich and cheesy with a lot of sweet and thick cream cheese icing.
  • Meyer Lemon Cupcake with Meringue Icing, Coconut and Lemon Curd Filling - 4/6 (Very good)
    • It was a very moist lemon shortcake base with a little coconut.
    • It was fluffy and not too sweet with a creamy marshmallow whipped frosting and a nice zing from the lemon curd filling.
  • Vanilla Cupcake with Sugar Cane Icing and Candied Bacon – 2/6 (Okay)
    • This was way too sweet for me and the sugar cane icing was an instant sugar rush.
    • The salty sweet bacon is a bit “seen it”, but it’s still good.
    • I wish there were vanilla bean seeds in the cupcake and the vanilla flavour was mild.
    • The cake was a bit drier, but it wasn’t dry.
  • Seasonal – Blueberry Cupcake and Blueberry Whipped Cream with Blueberry Filling – 5/6 (Excellent)
    • This was my favourite!
    • It was almost a pound cake base so it was naturally a bit drier and it wasn’t too sweet.
    • It tasted like a blueberry pound cake and it was filled with fresh blueberry jam that tasted naturally sweet with plump whole blueberries.
    • There was a light and fluffy blueberry whipped cream and it wasn’t the best presented, but it tasted the best.
  • Devil’s Food Cake Cupcake and Nutella Filling - 3/6 (Good)
    • This had the densest cake and it was a bit too sweet for me, but it was very moist.
    • It was filled with Nutella and it was very chocoaltey, but my favourite part was the whole hazelnuts on top.
    • It was likely something you’ve had before, but still good.
After this, was a trip to Willie Mae’s Scotch House for “America’s Best Fried Chicken” and Café Du Monde for their famous Beignets!

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5 Comments

  • Nicole Dafoe says:

    I just <3 LOVE <3 reading your blogs!!!!

  • mimihui says:

    I am so so hungry the food make me want to eat….thanks follow me foodie x

  • Meg says:

    2 questions:

    Re: the Fried Seafood Poboys – What is/are “Busters?

    and…

    Where the HECK do you put it all? I assume you don’t eat the entire serving of each dish? Or were you not alone? You are an anomoly, young lady :)

  • Linda says:

    mmm i heart john besh! i was rooting for him the entire time he was competing on “the next iron chef” :)

    i always hope that american chefs like him, especially ones that specialize in southern cuisine, would make their way over to vancouver.. we’re definitely lacking in that style of cuisine and with his food quality and his prices, he’d definitely make a dent here

    the po boy looks so yummy! and that meatloaf.. WOW… what i’m amazed most about is how great those desserts look! :)

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