Digging In: Barcadia dips a PB&J in the fryer to feed your inner child

WILDCARD

Billy’s Fried PB&J

Barcadia, 601 Tchoupitoulas St.

(504) 335-1740

barcadianeworleans.com

This new Warehouse District tavern makes no bones about going after your inner child. After all, it’s half bar and grill, half arcade, with a collection of vintage, coin-op video games and other amusements filling two rooms.

So it’s here, between the beer taps and the joysticks, that we find a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, that wholesome lunchbox favorite of childhood, corrupted into a belly-busting indulgence called Billy’s Fried PB&J ($8.50).

The sandwich starts off like Mom would make it, but then it gets a coating of honey-sweetened tempura batter and takes a dunk in the deep fryer. The result has a striking resemblance to an oversized donut with a crackling-crisp crust, a hot gooey interior and a carton of whole milk served on the side, which beats any beer for washing this thing down.

CASUAL

White Bean Cassoulet with Boudin

Crescent Pie & Sausage Co., 4400 Banks St.

(504) 482-2426

crescentpieandsausage.com

Bart Bell grew up in bayou country near Franklin, and he started his career as a chef at New Orleans fine dining restaurants. Put those two biographical notes together and you get a dish like the white bean cassoulet with boudin ($14) at his Mid-City sausage and pizza restaurant.

“It’s basically pork and beans, and there’s always some kind of pork and beans on our menu, whether we call it that or not,” Bell said.

The cassoulet part is a slow-cooked casserole of white beans enriched with duck stock, bacon and bits of hot coppa, one of the kitchen’s many house-made meats. Cut into the fat link of boudin beside it and the spicy pork and rice filling spills out to mix in with the beans. A pile of sautéed kale in the corner rounds out this three-part, one-plate meal.

UPSCALE

Chicken Under a Brick

Dante’s Kitchen, 736 Dante St.

(504) 861-3121; danteskitchen.com

The rather blunt name of this chicken dish ($28) describes the cooking technique, not presentation, so don’t expect to see a brick at the table. Rather, chef Emanuel “E-Man” Loubier uses old, foil-wrapped St. Joe bricks, salvaged during a sidewalk repair job at his Riverbend restaurant, as weights to compress his chicken as it roasts.

Why bricks?

“They radiate the heat,” Loubier said. “We put the chicken in an iron skillet in the oven, so between the skillet and the brick it’s like this sandwich of steady heat on the chicken.”

The result is a wonderfully juicy bird that’s served with a maple glaze, a fried egg and a potato cake studded with bacon. Loubier has come up with various incarnations of the dish at Dante’s Kitchen for years, though it was during his prolonged Hurricane Katrina evacuation that the idea for the current breakfast riff came to mind.

“I was at a Waffle House in Memphis eating chicken and waffles,” Loubier recalled. “That’s where the idea came for working in something like maple syrup and hash with the potato and bacon cake.”

“There just wasn’t a lot else to do then but think up recipes we’d use when we finally got home.”