Monday, July 16, 2012

June 9, 2012: Rivershack Tavern

The request was, "Let's go somewhere that's been on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."

That and the fact that the Hale Boggs Bridge was closed this particular weekend was how we ended up at the Rivershack Tavern on River Road near Ochsner Hospital in old Jefferson.

GUY FIERI: A good-food guru?
There staring at the back of my head via a poster on the far wall was Food Network host Guy Fieri's signature sunglasses and platinum-blonde-with-roots countenance. 

(Between all the other junk tacked to the wall, from the obligatory old license plates to the zydeco washboards, to the blue-wigged half-mannequins to the... let's just say there was a lot to look at. It's a Cracker Barrel on, well, whiskey and smokes, I guess. This is, after all, the self-proclaimed "home of the tacky ashtray.")

The first distraction was the aforementioned 'ambience.' Was it supposed to a bar? A restaurant? A music venue? A party place? All I know is that one entire wall of the large dining room was lined with an open bar, and it was smoky. (And not from barbecue, if you know what I mean.) And in the other corner – tables, chairs, a bustling wait staff and families with small children. They've basically got a permitting nightmare going here, but I guess this 'vibe' gets people in the door. 

Maybe the food Chef Mike Baskind made for Mr. Fieri was awesome. (Not that I'd be able to know; I don't eat rabbit for moral / ethical reasons.) But the food we ordered in this joint-with-an-identity-crisis wasn't exactly camera-ready.

The cool thing about Rivershack Tavern? Not the food so much. But
check out the old-timey painted ads and signage that adorn the building.
The story goes that they were hidden under an old layer of paint and
discovered by one of the building's owners. Photo courtesy
I wasn't necessarily looking to eat healthy, but the healthy option was really one of the only interesting, out-of-the-ordinary (read: not fried) items on the menu – a grilled portabella mushroom on sandwich thins topped with grilled onions, tons of sun dried tomatoes and feta cheese with a side of steamed vegetables. 

The major requirement for anyone to find this dish edible is a love of sun dried tomatoes. I happen to really like them, so I thought it was actually pretty good. It wasn't a burger and shouldn't be compared to one. 

That being said, something about the feta mixed with the onions had a really meaty texture, even 'meatier' than the already 'meaty' mushroom. It was weird, but I liked it. Overall this was the most flavorful dish at the table, including the greasy fried pickle appetizer.

Milt tried the "Fresh Catch" – a pan-seared mahi sandwich. The review went something like this: "Well, it's a fish sandwich, on bread." A step up from the Filet-O-Fish I'm sure, but nothing to necessarily salivate over.

And then there was the burger. Tyler, our connoisseur, was excited to try the 'boiger' (the 'Classic 1/2 Pounder') at such an obviously hip-n-happenin' joint. (So happenin', in fact, the place was about to commence a seafood boil / party right outside the building after that afternoon's thunderstorm.)

The Rivershack Tavern has a long history as a local meeting place. It's
pretty neat that the current owners have kept up with it. Photo courtesy
the Rivershack Tavern website.
But it was a swing-and-a-miss. He reports a bland patty, almost seeming to come out of the freezer section at Winn-Dixie. Again, nothing special.

After our meal we discussed how a place that seemed so down-home and interesting on TV could fall so flat in real life. I suppose anyone as in-your-face and entertaining as Mr. Fieri could take a funky little dive with a bit of interesting Jeff Parish history and make audiences crave a taste of the Shack.

I mean, who wouldn't want to eat at the "home of the tacky ashtray" at least once in his life, am I right?


  1. even as a smoker( who is hoping to quit sometime soon that is not an atmosphere i would want to eat in.

  2. I think it's a matter of being used to the idea of eating late night with a bar atmostphere. If you go to the RiverShack during the day it's a different sort of place. My husband's band plays here every few months and we love to go and listen. I've tried a few things on the menu and enjoyed them but there is generally a bigger choice/better specials during the day. In fact, we had my 30th birthday party here!

  3. Actually we ate there at around 2 p.m. on a Saturday. :) We're not bar people in the least, but I do think if we found the food better the atmosphere wouldn't have bothered us as much.