Some proprietors are meant to be bar owners and some are meant to run restaurants. I'd venture that Rudy Delgado and Alex Vest should open up a sports bar and leave the French Quarter-themed eatery to someone else. As it is now, the two concepts collide inside a loud, dark, split-level venue on Addison Road.
In 2005, Delgado and Vest opened up The Quarter in Addison. According to The Quarter's Web site, Delgado's wife, Beverly, helped to come up with the "look and feel" of the establishment. After reading that and experiencing a sincere and enthusiastic table visit from Beverly, I'm willing to bet she's also the one who initially tried to instill some heart and culture into the place too.
Walk into The Quarter and even if there's no karaoke or live music, the in-house soundtrack and numerous TVs are enough to detract from the French Quarter décor and vibe. The Mardi Gras shtick seems like a way to force a little background into what would otherwise be a lackluster sports bar that, by the way, didn't even have the Dallas Mavericks on any of the large dining room screens two nights they were playing.
Quarter appetizer sampler $18.99
N'Awlins-style shrimp po' boy $8.99
French Quarter muffuletta $8.99
Red beans and rice $11.99
10-inch shrimp scampi pizza $13.99
Baby back ribs, full order $19.99
Quarter bleu burger $7.99
Instead, on one visit, the few diners present were regaled with some sort of ultimate brutality competition that was truly, um, appetizing. On another visit, a rotating list of approximately 13 karaoke participants went full force with help from DJ Wes, who apparently thought he was running sound for a packed house at a rock club. Fork clangs and dinner conversation—even chewing—were completely drowned.
It should be a Big Easy—a great opportunity for beloved, traditional dishes and an atmosphere to celebrate the flavor of New Orleans, with a few drinks to amp up the party. Unfortunately, dining experience is not a priority at The Quarter. Drinking and Golden Tee, drinking and karaoke, and drinking and football are the foci. And the evidence is all laid out on the table.
Take the muffuletta. It's a New Orleans classic, a sandwich that should be hefty but vibrant, dramatic in flavor but homespun. The Quarter's version meant well but didn't deliver. Traditionally, a muffuletta has almost as much filling it as the bread is thick. A true re-creation of the original would contain capicola, salami, mortadella, Swiss cheese and provolone, with the olive salad acting as the star of the sandwich. At The Quarter, the bread overwhelmed the contents, and the meat was truly lacking. The olive salad was disappointingly scant—the tongue was left needing and wanting that smart twang to contrast all the starch. The size of the muffuletta loaf itself should've cued the kitchen staff: more, more, more.
Another disappointment was the N'Awlins-style shrimp po-boy. Once again, big buns came to dinner barely dressed. While that might be acceptable—encouraged, even—for a Mardi Gras bead toss, it doesn't work for a sandwich. The shrimp were just that. The puny little things were butterflied before battering, which didn't help matters. It's not wise to take something already so small and make it even thinner before asking it to withstand a deep fryer. The result was cardboard on a bun with some lettuce and tomato. Nothing short of "ugh."
The Quarter bleu burger was also a tough chew. Topped with bacon and blue cheese, the burger should have everything going for it. The overcooked patty quickly overwhelmed its fabulous accessories.
Two fleeting highlights came with The Quarter sampler (a spread of ribs, grouper fingers, bland and probably frozen chicken strips and the disappointing fried shrimp, this time served whole). The barbecue ribs were incredibly tender—slow-cooked and succulent. They pulled apart with no resistance, and the sweet barbecue sauce clung to the meat with just enough zip. The small portion the sampler provided incited fights for meat.
The grouper fingers were also a good bet. The herbed batter offers a nice reprieve from plain cornmeal or trite beer batter. The tender fish flaked to the fork and deserves a sturdy homemade tartar sauce, as opposed to the seemingly prepackaged glorified mayo with which it is served. Promisingly, The Quarter also offers a fried grouper sandwich.
Red beans and rice should've been an easy success, but the evidence of slow-cooking skills provided by the stellar ribs didn't carry over to the beans. They arrived adorned with a gummy pack of rice that must have been formed with a measuring cup. It was hard around the edges and took several minutes to loosen up when immersed in the beans. Minute rice, anyone?
Jazzy. It's a word that should easily be applied to red beans and rice. Don't need a Zatarain's or Popeye's commercial to tell you—it's a quintessential New Orleans dish. Sadly, like The Quarter itself, the red beans didn't represent the spirit or flavor of the Big Easy. They were bland and, frankly, not very fresh. The overall impression was of leftovers, not a steaming bowl of slow-cooked, well-seasoned beans. Hunks of what appeared to be pork (but what the server claimed was Italian sausage or maybe Andouille) tasted of absolutely nothing and were an insipid attempt at adding flavor.
The chicken breast that accompanies the red beans and rice is gargantuan. It was fried to a golden brown and was very juicy. It may not be the ideal companion for beans and rice, but it definitely aced the duo in flavor. It's sad that a deep fry can best an icon, but again, it mirrors The Quarter's atmospheric issues.
The handmade pizza fared moderately well. The Original Quarter shrimp scampi pizza is a white pizza with generous cheese and small bits of diced shrimp. The flavor was rich, the pie was—in contrast to the beans—exceptionally fresh, and the traditional pizza herbage wasn't overwrought. The dough, however, while thin, was remarkably limp, and slices were best eaten with a fork, not a hand.
Table displays detail daily drink specials and Quarter whatnots. Monday's $3 shot is the Royal Fuck. At The Quarter, as explained by a server, the Royal Fuck is composed of well bourbon ("you know, a cheaper bourbon," she said), peach schnapps and cranberry. A round of those and the burn of shitty whiskey only made me wish I was struggling to hear what my dining cohorts were saying in the seedier, spicier, more culturally valid surroundings of New Orleans.
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The Quarter isn't flat-out awful, nor is it wonderfully sinful. It just suffers from a misguided attempt at recreating the ultimate French Quarter Mardi Gras atmosphere. After all, the original area balances debauchery and culinary delights with practiced skill. It's a difficult ambience to replicate.
No, this problem is seen in many restaurants—proprietors use décor to attempt a genuine atmosphere instead of focusing on recipes. They end up dumbing down food to make it not so risky and bar-friendly, because that's where the real money is and probably how the rent gets paid. The result is a themed restaurant with beer signs that outshine the furnishings and football snacks that move faster than the classic dishes.
I don't recommend the muffuletta or the po' boy, but by all means, go to The Quarter for game night (football, definitely the Saints) and ribs, absurdly loud karaoke or to get Royal-ly Fuck-ed up. Just don't expect to go home with any sense of what the real French Quarter tastes like.
15201 Addison Road, Addison, 972-788-1919. Open 4 p.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday, 6 p.m.–2 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.–closing hours vary Sunday. $-$$