Recently, I had a friend visiting from out of town, so I took him to the High Hat Cafe. It is a restaurant I have been wanting to try but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I had heard good things about it so I couldn’t wait to experience this landmark restaurant.
From the outside it was pretty non-descript. It looks like a restaurant that opened in a strip mall and is still hanging on in there over the years. The inside definitely shows it’s been a staple of the community for some time now; old pictures hanging on the wall, old fashioned tables and chairs and it hasn’t had a makeover in some time. It was hard to tell the difference between the staff and customers because everyone was dressed for a casual evening stroll and some looked like they rolled right out of bed. That’s not to say it was a turnoff for me… honestly, some of the best food I’ve eaten were in hole-in-the wall places. I wish I could say this was one of those times.
We both tried the Chicken and Andouille Gumbo Ya-Ya. Now before you go asking me what a gumbo ya-ya is, I had to look it up myself, ‘cause apparently it’s a thing down here. It depends on who you talk to and where you google the answer, but it could be from a book with the same name about Louisiana folklore, written by Lyle Saxon. It’s also rumored to have been spoken by chef Paul Prudhomme when he tried some good gumbo and replied it tastes so good it makes you say yaya. Others say it means “everybody talks at once”. Though that doesn’t sound food related, it could be if you imagine the cacophony of sounds when many people are talking, competing for your attention, is akin to the many flavors in gumbo competing for your taste buds. Now this particular gumbo was not thick enough for my taste, for starters. Maybe it’s just my preference, but I prefer my gumbo to be more stew consistency and less soupy. I also wasn’t particular to the many pieces of floating fat that were starting to congeal as the gumbo cooled. When you live in the city that boasts gumbo on near about every street corner, gas station and eatery, you have got to step your game up!
We both decided to order the side dish plate, which boasts 3 side dishes and cornbread. This way we could sample many different flavors. Together we tried the pimento mac n cheese, field greens, green beans with apple smoke wood bacon, creamy grits, sweet potato salad, and hushpuppies. The Mac n cheese was very peppery, but tasty, if you could get past the overwhelming flavor of black pepper. The field greens were to die for. A definite 5-star rating in both our books. The green beans were tasty but there were more fat particles than bacon bits, so it made the dish too greasy, and that just turns my taste buds off. The creamy grits were delicious. I wasn’t sure what to expect with the sweet potato salad. Didn’t really know what it was to be honest but if you imagine potato salad, and substituting sweet potatoes for regular potatoes, viola, sweet potato salad. Original concept. I give it props for originality. If you like potato salad, this might be right up your alley. The hush puppies were tasty but too greasy. My fingers were definitely more touchably soft after eating a few of those. The cornbread was horrible. We both spit it out on the first bite.
Overall, the High Hat was decent but not memorable. It is a great family restaurant you can bring the kids too when they are young and learning table manners; the “starter restaurant” if you will. It is a place to get a decent meal for a good price.