I've never been a huge fan of New Orleans, not even now that it's the socially progressive thing to be. And while I've been intrigued by stories of Mardi Gras, including an account from an old girlfriend who swore that as she left her hotel lobby one Fat Tuesday, she saw a girl trying out her knee pads for her man (if you catch my drift), this wonderful tale is more than balanced out by plenty of stories about guys ending up in jail or passed out in a puddle of God knows what. When I did finally get to New Orleans one summer, I had fun, but I returned home with an overwhelming desire to shower for a couple of days. That, and an appreciation for the town's fatty food.
So after a night that resulted in a clinical deficiency of grease in my bloodstream, my family and I met the Oriental, Italian, Texan and Jewish representatives to the Institute of Drinking Studies at Lucile's (275 South Logan Street), a Denver outpost of the Boulder original where the line on Sunday morning is long enough that you can put away a couple of drinks before breakfast. And this is a wonderful thing, because the Bloody Marys here are phenomenal, with just the right kick to warm you up on a cool fall morning and get you over the hump of what you did the night before. Lucile's also offers Cajun Orange Juice, an alcoholic concoction that blends liquor with a pound of Halloween-candy juice. I have never tasted anything so sweet in my entire life, but I drank it anyway and also offered my daughter a sip, which she enjoyed immensely. My generous act drew an admonishment from my wife: "That's got alcohol in it; it's too early!" But the impact of the anti-drinking sentiment was lessened somewhat by my realization that she wasn't suggesting it was too early for young Allison to drink -- just that it was too early in the day.
In order to get seats, our group had to divide itself between two tables. Our disappointment at this was soon assuaged by two heaping plates of beignets, which is Cajun for "crack." Allison's brother tucked into the confections with a vengeance and only occasionally came up for air, each time covered with powdered sugar. Lucile's is a very kid-friendly place, supplying children's menus, tubs of crayons and sippy cups. They even brought out an array of beads -- but it seemed odd that no one had to earn them.
At first I had trouble reading the menu, but after another round of Marys, the Cajun lingo just rolled off my tongue. Most of the dishes are listed not by price, but by atomic weight, with many significantly more dense than enriched plutonium. I ordered a concoction of eggs, beans and taters that I doused with Lucile's hot sauce, and managed to stuff half of it down my gullet before admitting defeat. I finally looked up at the waitress and said, "Take it from me before I hurt myself."
I can't recommend Lucile's enough. Just one Mary will erase the pain of the night before; have a few, and you'll be in prime condition for watching football the rest of the day. Without having to go to New Orleans.
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