Hi, everyone! In my last blog, I talked about historic downtown Hammond, focusing mostly on its Saturday morning farmer’s market. After my family, best friend, and I finished picking out fresh produce, we explored West Thomas Street, a major street in the area with boutiques, restaurants, and nightclubs. But soon we worked up an appetite, so we went to Tope Là, a restaurant right next door to the farmer’s market.
Tope Là (that’s with a long “o” and silent “e”) is French for “a handshake, or a clasping of hands.” The restaurant resides in an old-style brick building, but all “oldness” ends there. Inside, the lights are kept dim, lit mostly with modern spotlights and wall lights. For anyone who’s been to Houston’s in Metairie, the two atmospheres are a lot alike, although Tope Là is smaller. There’s also a bar area with specials happening every day.
The five of us sat at an extra-long booth in the middle of the room. For a Saturday at lunchtime, business was slow—only two or three other tables were filled. I can’t say for sure, but between the bar and live music shows hosted on Friday and Saturday nights, dinner is probably when crowds are drawn in. But enough of that—let’s look at the menu! (To see it in full, go to http://www.topela.com/HOME.aspx.)
We decided to splurge and ordered three appetizers. I had the soup du jour, a recipe with crawfish, sweet potato, and corn. The soup was good, but not exactly what I imagined. I barely tasted the sweet potato. Instead, it reminded me of a cross between crawfish étouffée and corn bisque. Don’t get me wrong, those are two of my favorite dishes. It was just unexpected.
The other two appetizers were better. My parents and friend split a plate of onion rings, which were thin and crispy with little grease. The order also came with a horseradish sauce. But the hands-down best was my aunt’s crabmeat and artichoke soup. *Internal sigh.* Thick, creamy, crabby goodness that, in my opinion, beats out crab and corn bisque. YOU MUST TRY IT.
Ahem. Now, onto the main course. The pecan-crusted tilapia came my way, along with garlic mash potatoes and steamed green beans for sides. Overall, I enjoyed the meal. The batter was thick with a generous amount of pecans mixed in, and the sweet sauce was the best part of the dish. However, I did find the fish a little muddy, which took away from it. On the other hand, my aunt’s fried catfish was not muddy and quite good, so perhaps it was just the filet I had.
My dad ordered the Pasta Bake with crabmeat, a penne pasta dish smothered in cream sauce and mozzarella cheese. Talk about rich! I thought it had too much cheese, but my dad couldn’t stop raving about it. So that means you’ll have to try it for yourself!
My mom and friend, both veggie lovers, got the Grilled Vegetable Salad—warm zucchini, squash, mushroom, asparagus, eggplant, and red onion with lettuce, tomatoes, Romano cheese, and balsamic vinaigrette. Even me, a picky veggie eater, found it delicious. But a word of warning, the serving was huge. Neither of them could finish, which was sad for both—it was so good!
By the time the check came, we were all slouched in the booth, grateful the walk to the car was a short one. Dessert? Oh, yes, check out the picture below. Hats off to anyone who can put away a three-course meal at Tope Là. Like any good southern restaurant, they feed you so much at the entrée that the only “sweet” in your near future is sweet dreams!