grand isle shrimp and grits

She Said, He Said at Grand Isle in New Orleans

Just in case you need to catch up on my New Orleans adventure here are some interesting facts about NOLA and here’s how I navigated the Big Easy.

When I was initially planning my trip to New Orleans, I knew that I wanted to eat some extremely good food, but I didn’t want to eat at the traditional stops in the French Quarters. I wanted to try and eat like a local and I did just that at Grand Isle.

grand isle logo

Grand Isle is a really cool seafood restaurant on Fulton Street promenade in downtown New Orleans. It’s conveniently located to several hotels including Loews New Orleans, Harrah’s New Orleans, Omni Riverfront and the hotel where I stayed, Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery. The restaurant has been in business since 2007, but recently has welcomed a new member to their family, Executive Chef Ryan Haigler. Chef Haigler has unveiled some new dishes bringing in his signature style and experience from growing up in South Carolina cooking with Gullah women. He is passionate about creating good and filling food and you can taste that in his food. I’ll tell you more about that a little further down.

Photo Courtesy of Grand Isle Restaurant

Photo Courtesy of Grand Isle Restaurant

Before I even knew exactly where the restaurant was, I had already decided that I was going to walk because I was tired of fighting traffic. To my pleasant surprise, I only had to walk a block and I was there. I was meeting my friend Brandon there and OF COURSE I was on time (I’m notoriously late to social gatherings with my friends) and made it there before him. I like to be surprised when I enter establishments so I didn’t look at the restaurant pictures before I visited. When I walked in, I was in awe of the open space that reminded me of maybe being in a boathouse or yacht club which completely made sense for a seafood restaurant.

I was seated and got to visit for a while with Chef Haigler. Ironically, about 10 minutes before I walked in the door, they launched their new summer menu so Chef Haigler told me all about it. They took a lot of their traditional proteins on their menu and prepared them in new, fresh and exciting ways, including Alligator Wings, Creole Tomato Pie, Prince Edward Island Mussels Aioli, Daube Glace, Island Jerk Grilled Chicken Salad Poboy and more.

After talking with the chef, Brandon FINALLY decided to grace me with his appearance and the eating and drinking began.

grand isle blood orange margatini

First up was a Blood Orange Margatini.

She Said: YES!! This drink was not too sweet, but not too bitter either. It was cool, light, refreshing and packed a great punch.

grand isle smoked fried oysters

Next up were the Smoked Fried Oysters.

She Said: OH MY GAWD! This is a sure fire party in my mouth. The oysters were extremely crispy on the outside but tender and juicy on the inside. There was a hint of heat as well, so serving them with halved tomatoes was a good call. The garlic aioli on the side tied everything together. I wanted more of these, but we had more food to try. Brandon doesn’t eat oysters so I ate them ALL!

Grand isle catfish

Next was the Creole Catfish-Fried “Des Allemands” catfish served over simmered San marzan tomatoes and “jazzmen” rice on the side.

She Said: I know the catfish is suppose to be the star of this show and it was really, really good, but I fell in love with the tomatoes and “jazzmen” rice. I’ve never been a huge tomato fan, but the seasoning and preparation of these made me keep eating them long after the catfish was gone. At one point, I told them to leave the plate because I was still eating tomatoes and rice.

He Said: This dish was an unusual spin on catfish, as it relied less on the catfish itself, but instead placed most of its flavor in the total package of the catfish and the chef-made creole sauce it sat upon. The chef clearly had the mixture in mind, as you won’t find much added flavor on the catfish (which was fried to a more than satisfactory level of crispness), but you will find a taste of total New Orleans when you dip it in its bed of Creole sauce.

grand isle alligator wings

EEEEKKK Alligator Wings-The front legs of medium sized alligators, marinated in Jerk seasoning for 48 hours, fried, taken out to rest, fried again, then tossed in a sweet hot peach glaze served with whipped bleu cheese.

She Said: Gator does not taste like chicken as people will have you to believe. Gator tastes like gator. I had a tiny piece because umm it’s gator. I did however thoroughly enjoy the whipped bleu cheese. Chef Haigler told me they puree bleu cheese and add heavy cream to it and whip it all together. Yall! I kept sticking my fork in it while Brandon enjoyed the wings.

He Said:I know the NAME may throw some off (as well as the manner of preparation), but let me assure you, what you’re getting is nothing like what you’re expecting. What you get are nicely sized, wing-shaped pieces of alligator meat that are quite tasty. The wings have a seasoned taste to them, and while I was forewarned that they would be a bit spicy, I did not find them to be offensively spicy, if at all. The meat is not tough and gamy, but instead is very tender and easy to bite off the bone. You will also find these to be very meat-intensive wings, not cluttered with fatty “danger zones” that make you want to skip areas of traditional chicken wings. Though my manner of eating these large wings was very “interactive”, I did not find my face or hands to be excessively greasy, which was very nice. Although this was listed in the Appetizer area of the menu, the serving size (in addition to the size of the wings) could easily be a main course for those who don’t desire a huge dish.

grand isle shrimp and grits

Shrimp and Grits

She Said: Whoa! I think this may be my favorite dish. At some point of reading the description I completely ignored “andouille gravy” and was so surprised at the andouille forward flavor when tasting the sauce. If you’re not a pork eater or a fan of smoked sausage, this is not the dish for you. The grits were creamy, the shrimp were tender and the andouille gravy was smoky without being too dark. I could taste Chef Haigler’s South Carolina roots in this dish. A definite winner! Brandon tries to limit his pork intake so he only had a spoonful.

grand isle mahi mahi

Chili Butter Baked Mahi Mahi-Popcorn rice cake, Silver Queen corn maque choux, heirloom tomato sofrito

She Said: This dish was so light and flavorful. Chef Haigler has taken great care of treating the Mahi Mahi with respect and integrity. It was flaky, cooked to perfection and paired nicely with the other ingredients.

He Said: This is a dish that I can clearly see being a favorite amongst tourists and locals, alike. The buttery rich goodness of the fish delights your taste buds at initiation and never lets go. I found myself delightfully resisting the urge to eat it quickly, as the rich flavor of the fish, mixed in the glazed (I forget what the glazing sauce was), is something you’ll want to slowly savor. The aftertaste is a treat that makes this dish a gift that keeps giving. The chef-made popcorn rice cake complements, as well as compliments, this treat of the senses. The chef is really on to something here, and this would be the FIRST entree, I would recommend to anyone who wanted to eat here.

grand isle wyagu daube

Wagyu Daube-Creole Cream cheese and shrimp stuffed manicotti, heirloom tomato-parmesan broth, grilled lemon

She Said: I’m not exactly sure why “Daube” is called “Daube” but I can eat this everyday. The beef was tender, the heirloom tomato-parmesan broth cut the richness of the creole cream cheese and shrimp stuffed manicotti perfectly. In a perfect world, I would have the shrimp and grits as an appetizer and the Wagyu Daube as the entree at least twice a week. Brandon was in a mild food coma at this point and was dozing off LOL!

jada and brandon

Our overall thoughts on Grand Isle:

She Said: The atmosphere was fantastic. Some locals were having a huge party in the back room and tourist walking on Fulton Street kept stumbling in. The service was excellent. I can’t remember what our server’s name was but he was very knowledgeable and took pride in his job. The food was so ridiculously good and was outside of the box from the normal Cajun or Creole cuisine that you would find in New Orleans. Anytime I am in New Orleans, Grand Isle will be on my agenda to visit.

He Said: This is a restaurant that may find tourists a delightful treat, as it is in the Fulton Alley area of the culture-packed CBD/French Quarter area of the city. What sets this place apart is its care for the dining guests. From the moment you walk in, you feel included and you’re comforted by an extremely attentive and courteous wait staff. They value not only your enjoyment of the food, but your comfort level as well. I would highly recommend.

Next up… Cooking in New Orleans!

*Disclaimer: Our experience at Grand Isle was complimentary however all opinions are 100% honest and belong to Jada and Brandon.

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  • Adena F July 28, 2015 03.22 pm

    That looks AMAZING!!! Everything!! I’ve always wanted to travel to New Orleans and now this place will be on my top list of places to eat. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jada July 28, 2015 03.37 pm

      This was my first trip to New Orleans and it was absolutely fantastic!

  • Kaywanda Lamb July 28, 2015 04.26 pm

    I’m a La girl and I love this post! Detailed and thorough. Great pics! Great job fellow #blmgirl

  • LaShawn August 02, 2015 08.24 pm

    I’m laughing at “Gator tastes like gator” because that is the exact sort of thing I would say! LOL.


About Me

Hi I'm Jada! I'm a blogger and freelance writer. I love all things related to travel, food, and entertainment.

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