High Hat Cafe co-owner Chip Apperson and his wife didn’t necessarily intend to come to New Orleans and get people hooked on anything when they moved to city from Memphis, TN. “My wife and I had always fantasized about living here in New Orleans,” Chip said. “We visited here many times and when we sold our restaurant in Memphis, we decided it was time to make that move. Opening a restaurant was not in the plan. We were just going to enjoy the city for a while. But my old friend, Chef Adolfo Garcia, talked me into getting back into the restaurant business.”
He continued, “The High Hat is a partnership between Adolfo and I. I have always been on the fine dining end of the restaurant business and decided that at this point in my career, I was very interested in doing something more casual, ‘neighborhoody,’ and more accessible. So, Adolfo and I schemed up a southern style neighborhood café. No white table cloths or fussy wine list, just a casual place where people from all walks of life could come and enjoy very good food cooked with fresh ingredients by people who know how to cook.”
The casualness of the High Hat Cafe is exactly what attracted us to it in the first place. As soon as you step in, you feel the coziness and neighborhood-ness of the restaurant, the kind you’ll find on many New Orleans corners, where the waiters and waitresses know your name and what you order.
And when it comes to ordering, you've got plenty to choose from! From the fried catfish and hushpuppies to the fried chicken and pimento macaroni and cheese to the mustard greens and black-eyed peas, the food is absolutely something to write home about! “We’re pretty much a good southern style, soul food restaurant where everything is made from scratch,” Chip added. “We have an excellent gumbo ya-ya with chicken and Andouille sausage in it. We do what I think is some of the best BBQ shrimp in New Orleans. We only use Gulf shrimp, fish, and US farm-raised catfish in our kitchen and we do our best to source as much of the produce locally as we can. Right now, citrus is in season and we’re getting some really great mixed baby greens and arugula from the Delachaise Community Garden down the street. We also buy a lot of stuff from Hollygrove Market as well.”
As you can see, using fresh, local ingredients is definitely important at High Hat. “Using local ingredients is good for the local economy. It’s going to be the freshest, and often we know who’s growing it or the area it’s coming from. In some cases, we actually know the people who are growing the produce. We’re even using some beef and lamb from Two Run Farm outside of Jackson, MS.”
And we couldn’t leave without talking about the pimento cheese! “It’s a funny thing, my brother’s mother-in-law is from a small town in south central Georgia and in Georgia, pimento cheese is the state food like gumbo is the state food of Louisiana. There are just as many recipes for pimento cheese in Georgia as there are for gumbo in Louisiana. Our pimento cheese is made with good, sharp cheddar cheese, grated onions, garlic, dill, and of course pimento, the little red pepper. We melt it on top of hamburgers and French fries, mix it in our macaroni and cheese and put some on top, and serve it just by itself as an appetizer with some house made pickles and little French bread croutons, deviled ham, and stuffed eggs. It’s amazing how this pimento cheese has just found it’s way to four or five different places on our menu!”
The High Hat Café features daily specials, including fried chicken with red beans on Mondays and with the famous pimento mac and cheese on Tuesdays. “On Saturday and Sunday at lunch, we do four different breakfast/brunch specials, and one of them is waffles with fried chicken and eggs. People are going crazy about it! We just put a Rueben sandwich on the menu, which I think is really special because we make our own corned beef and we found a great bread that actually tastes like rye, some good sauerkraut, and Russian dressing that we make here. Other than that, Ryan Iriarte, who is a manager here, and our number one bartender, have a really nice cocktail program. Ryan’s making several different types of bitters and liquors, basically infusing different flavors into neutral grain spirits.”
Chip concluded, “The High Hat Cafe is a restaurant that kind of seeks its own way. We listen to our customers and we like to hear what people say about what we’re doing and change accordingly, maneuvering, and meandering. It’s special.”
For more information about The High Hat Cafe, please visit their website, Facebook, and Twitter.
High Hat Cafe
4500 Freret St.
New Orleans, LA 70115