Brett Anderson bestows four illustrious beans upon Upperline this week, praising owner and art collector, JoAnn Clevenger, and her new chef, David Bridges, who single-handedly "dissipated the dark cloud that threatened to form over Upperline," the Uptown staple that's been on Treme and is soon celebrating a 30th anniversary.
While Anderson notes that the "gumbo is legendary" as one expects it to be, he credits Chef Bridges with "erasing fears among regulars that Upperline's relevance was fading." Bridges takes pleasure cooking foundational New Orleans cuisine, something that hasn't happened here since longtime Chef Ken Smith left in 2010? the restaurant found itself chefless three times in the span of a year. Bridges executes the restaurant's favorites effortlessly, and is allowed to express himself a bit. He awed Anderson with a lamb tasso served over crispy merliton slaw in July.
Every dish here tells a story as does Clevenger herself, who "spins the dying-art duties of a restaurant hostess into incidental theater" and has spent the last thirty years filling the restaurant with art and artists alike. Says Anderson:
The celebrated art collection, which covers nearly every inch of the restaurant's vertical surfaces, is the primary reason that judging Upperline based solely on its food is a narrow-minded pursuit.
Upperline [Photo: Yelp/Jeanne C.]