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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Dinner with the Boy

May 18, 2017

On the list of “Things I Love to Do Most,” having a steak dinner with my 15-year old son would be a shoo-in for the top 10. It would vie for placement alongside “having breakfast with my 15-year old son.”

Several years ago, I was worried that my son and daughter were growing up too fast and I was going to miss out on time spent with them. It was true that time was moving too fast, but I haven’t missed out on anything. The activities have just changed.

Movies are the thing with my daughter and me (another of the top 10 things I love to do most). When she’s home from college, she’ll pile up in the bed with my wife and me and watch movies if we can stay awake, sometimes long after my wife and I have fallen asleep. My daughter and I also share a unique enthusiasm and love for music (again, a top 10).

My son and I are into football and food. We both enjoy breakfast, and we both love steak. Five or six years ago we took a father-son snow-skiing trip to Utah and I introduced him to his first USDA Certified Prime steak. He was hooked. Since then it’s been our go-to meal for any special occasion. Our family thinks nothing of driving a couple of hours for a good meal, and he’ll go anywhere if there’s a big, char-grilled slab of beef at the other end of the trip.

I was thinking about that snow-skiing dinner this past weekend when he and I were sharing a Friday evening steak dinner at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse in New Orleans. We were down for Mother’s Day weekend and my wife and daughter weren’t going to be able to join us until Saturday afternoon.

My son and I were on a boy’s night out at one of the best steakhouses in the country. Ruth’s Chris’ is a go-to when we are in other cities, and I have frequented the Crescent City Steakhouse several times in the past year. But Dickie Brennan’s is everything I love in a steakhouse— it’s independent, it’s local, the service is Brennan-worthy and always spot-on, every detail is accounted for, and the food is excellent.

I have a hard time eating out in New Orleans. I am always looking for new places to try, seeking out new dishes and ideas to bring back to our restaurants, and I tend to leave some of the old standbys alone.

That wasn’t the case on this trip. We hit a good mix of both. We started with a pure St. John boys steak dinner at Dickie Brennan’s. The next morning, we walked to The Ruby Slipper for breakfast. I have several go-to breakfast joints down there, but The Ruby Slipper has been winning out most mornings, lately.

For lunch, I took him to one of my old-line favorites, Casamento’s. He loves oysters, and the best in the city are served at that quaint little tile-lined space on Magazine and Napoleon. I knew we only had a few days left before they do the traditional closing for the summer months, and we got in just under the wire. He liked the place so much he wanted to go back that night and again the next day. We didn’t because our restaurant to-do list is long, and it’s been there for 98 years, odds are good it’ll be there for a few `more decades.

After the girls arrived that evening, we had an excellent dinner at The Franklin in the Marigny. It’s a small tastefully decorated space that truly feels like a small neighborhood café. We started with lamb spareribs with a fig barbeque sauce that was one of the more flavorful and satisfying dishes I have eaten in months. My entrée was a seared hanger steak with a rich demi-glace that was perfection on a plate, and worthy of any steak-frites dish I have ever eaten in Paris, or otherwise. Seriously, it was so good, my son finished off half of mine after demolishing his entree.

The next morning, we ate at a neighborhood bakery for breakfast and finished the trip with a Mother’s Day lunch at Cavan on St. Charles. The weekend was filled with great food, but on this Monday morning, I keep going back to the dinner with my son at that small two-top in the corner at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse.

We talked about his future, and what opportunities were out there for him. Now that he is on the verge of his 16th birthday, our conversations have “grown up” a little. Years ago, dinner discussions were filled with subjects such as, “If you could invent a superhero, what would your superpowers be? What would your hideout look like? What would your superhero wear?” These days it’s, “What do you plan to do after college? Let’s start to lay out a plan for your professional career in the future,” between statements such as, “This might be the best steak I’ve ever eaten in my life,” and “Dad, are you going to eat the rest of that steak?”

The boy can eat. He is 6’1” 200 pounds of walking, talking human disposal. He can eat all of his and half of yours and still be ready for more. Though the food is only part of it. It’s the time shared that means the most. The food is a vehicle.

Neither of us hunts much. We rarely fish, and never play golf. We love travel, food, and football. Instead of spending time together in a deer stand, we find ourselves at a two-top in the corner at Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse. One is not better than the other, it is just how it is with us, and I wouldn’t change a single thing.

Feeling blessed, today.


View today’s recipe: Pineapple Mousse

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