The New Orleans infused spot, NOLA on the Square, opened in Market Square this year and boasts cajun and creole style food to Pittsburghers who are a long way from New Orleans. NOLA is the latest restaurant from Executive Chef/Owner Yves Carreau who also owns Pittsburgh’s Sonoma Grille and Seviche.
When you walk into NOLA, you can immediately sense the Southern feel they’re going for, with the wall-sized murals, music, and decor. The large, dark wood bar has an old school feel to it and would be a great place to meet on a first date for a cocktail or have a late-night drink.
The layout of NOLA seems peculiar though, there’s a more intimate bar-like adult feeling in the front when you walk in, and there’s the back room which has a more kid-friendly atmosphere with booths and larger tables.
We ordered two appetizers when we sat down, the crispy fried alligator bites and the battered shrimp basket. I had tried alligator once before when I was about 10 in Florida, but this alligator blew that alligator out of the water. The crispy bites came with a spicy mayo that added a slight kick to the little fried bits of deliciousness. They were seriously good. But I have yet to meet anything fried that I didn’t like.
The shrimp “basket” was delicious as well, the shrimp had a really crunchy coating and the hot pepper jam dipping sauce wasn’t too much that it overpowered the shrimp. The only criticism I have of our appetizers is I wanted more of them.
Next up, I tried the Gumbo Ya-Ya. The gumbo contained organic chicken, andouille, okra, file, and steamed rice. It was hearty and something I could gladly order for my entree, with a slice of cornbread on the side, please. This would be a good thing to try and make on game day or a cold afternoon.
Then there were the entrees.
Both of my cousins ordered the scallops, and frankly when it came to the table, it wasn’t what either of them were exactly expecting. Scallops are usually on the lighter side and these were swimming in a pool of cream and melted cheese. Good for a few bites, but too heavy overall. The menu described the scallops as fresh cornucopia pasta, sea scallops, mornay, and spicy toasted breadcrumbs.
This is the pork shank BBQ with corn pone. I don’t know what corn pone is, but my Poppy loved it and it tasted basically the same as cornbread.
I ordered the grilled catfish….mostly because it was on a bed of mashed potatoes.The grilled fish with mashed potatoes and sauteed peppers and onions was delightful, but I could have lived without the slices of mandarin oranges. Maybe a better citrus note would be a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, not the canned jelly mini-oranges I’ve never been much of a fan of.
We finished the meal with the traditional New Orleans dessert, beignets. These beignets were crispy on the outside and soft & warm on the inside, we could have eat ten of them. They were served with peach sorbet, but I think a sweet, cinnamon sugar-y dipping sauce would have worked better.
Overall, NOLA was a fun place to eat dinner and I really liked the big bar and laid back atmosphere feeling I got when I first walked in. The fried appetizers were delectable too, I could definitely picture myself heading back for happy hour and some light bites.
And a big thanks to my awesome grandparents, Nannie & Poppy, for taking me to NOLA!