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New PoP Contributor, Anyah Dembling, Checks Out Tru Orleans on H St, NE

by Prince Of Petworth July 19, 2011 at 12:00 pm 40 Comments

Anyah Dembling, an energy writer by day and gastronomic explorer by night, lives and eats on H St, NE.

Having never been to New Orleans, I can’t claim to know an authentic “Big Easy” experience. I can’t describe the taste of crawfish from the bayou. I can’t wax poetic on the ripe smell of bile mixed with the hot, sticky remnants of a Hurricane spilled on to the bricks of Bourbon Street. Nor can I enchant you with a blurry story about beads, jazz musicians, and a night turned to morning that I barely remember.

But I can tell you that Tru Orleans Restaurant & Gallery makes me want a little bit of it all.

The H Street-NOLA transplant, Tru Orleans, opened its doors at the corner of 4th and H St, NE this weekend. The establishment is co-owned by partners Tru Redding (of Public Bar downtown, Sushi Rock in Arlington, Va,) and new-to-the-scene investors Brad Howard and Hans Christensen. The two-story restaurant was developed with authenticity in mind, as both the recipes and artwork hail straight from Louisiana.

The fare, influenced largely by the Easts—a third generation Louisiana family—is dominant in seafood, but ranges from items like red beans and rice with Andouille sausage, blackened tilapia, barbecue shrimp fettuccine, fried gator tenders, and Bayou crabcakes. The standout appetizer for this N’awlins newbie was Val’s Barbecue Jalapeno Shrimp, a Cajun-seasoned sauteed jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon, topped with scant slices of jalapeno, and a dollop of cream cheese to counterbalance the salt and spice. Until July 25, the restaurant is operating with a limited menu, but will soon include a raw bar and additional fried fish platters. Tru Orleans will also serve breakfast
and lunch and menus can be found here.

As far as drinks go, the cocktail menu offers a variety of New Orleans and Southern favorites including draft beer from Abita (a Louisiana brewing company), a rendition of Lynchburg Lemonade and three different Hurricanes—split into “categories” differentiated by alcohol content. Their Sazerac was well made and employs the 1859 recipe published by the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans.

Tru Orleans is one of the larger spots in the neighborhood, with outdoor patio seating, a full bar and dining room downstairs, as well as additional seating and a smaller bar upstairs in the open terrace. The restaurant is planning to feature live jazz music in the future as well.

Tru Orleans is undeniably filling a void in the west end of the H Street corridor. Its themed concept offers a lively and vibrant atmosphere and the opportunity to get a taste of the south, away from the pavement of northeast D.C., to the bubbling excitement of New Orleans.

  • anon

    Any vegan options?

    • ET

      This is a New Orleans style/them restaurant – most food either made with seafood or other meat – that is the point. Red beans and rice and maybe a jambalaya but often those have Andouille or other meat/seafood.

      And not to be unsympathetic but I would question any authenticity the owners would claim if they offered one. I know this is DC and not NOLA but still.

      • anon

        Sorry, I should have added a :)

        I was just kidding/mocking vegans who complain about steakhouses and bbq joints not having any vegan dishes.

      • elcal

        cos we all know there aren’t any vegans in NOLA.

        • parkster

          Really not many, no. And vegans in NOLA – like my boyfriend when he comes home with me – have a hard time finding vegan dishes in restaurants specializing in local cuisine. Even seeming vegetarian dishes usually involve meat flavor (eg, maque choux is often braised with bacon grease).

    • Anon2

      Everything should stay exactly the same for the sake of authenticity. God forbid businesses cater to people who are willing to spend money! GASP!

  • Kerry

    Went here Sunday night. Had a great time. The owner bought us a round of shots and they gave us complementary fried alligator meat samples. Love the atmosphere, can’t wait to go again!

    • EW

      Are you serious? After waiting at the bar for our Hurricanes, they told my friends and me they couldn’t serve alligator until the 25th. Not cool. I’ll go back, but after a few weeks once the kinks get worked out. We were slightly disappointed that their TVs weren’t working yet, as we were hoping to watch baseball there.

  • Wow, I can’t wait to try this place!

    Joints like this really make me want to move over to the H Street area, so I can enjoy it before all these unique restaurants and bars inevitably get priced out.

  • Kalorini

    How’s it compare with the hold-in-the-wall-but-extremely-delicious New Orleans Cafe on 18th Street?

  • anon

    It’s getting pretty lousy reviews on Yelp, but you can’t really trust Yelp reviews.

    • Anonymous

      It’s the unusually positive Yelp reviews that you shouldn’t trust.

    • Anonymous

      People who post reviews of restaurants that have been open for less than a month should die slow painful deaths.

      • Joesep

        Yes almost any restaurant sucks for about a month, then it might just be good.

    • Marcus Aurelius

      You can’t trust any anonymous reviews. I have a handful of friends – who can literally be counted on one hand – whose restaurant recommendations I respect. But I’ve never let a bad recommendation from a friend stop me from trying a place I really wanted to try. If a place looks interesting, don’t believe the hype or the hating – go try it out for your self. And don’t expect some place that’s been open for one day to be perfect.

  • Matthew

    It sounds good, so I’ll have to check it out, but its too bad that almost all of the dinner entrees are over $20. Can it sustain such prices after the intrigue subsides? We’ll see!

  • Stan

    I looked through their site and can’t find a Happy HOUR!!!! :-( I’m definitely keeping my fingers crossed as I’m only three blocks away. Looks like lunch is pretty reasonable.

  • TaylorStreetMan

    A huge group of us went on their opening night and had a great time! The food (what we were able to get our hands on) was great and very authentic. They have some big kinks to work out, as does every new place, but we will definitely be back in a few weeks.

    One of the owners (from Lake Charles, LA) came to our table and told us a whole string of Boudreaux-Thibodeaux jokes! Awesome!

    What I would change: the endless Mardi Gras soundtrack on a loop, and the over reliance on the MG theme in the decor/artwork. I find the cliches unappealing, but it probably won’t bother non-NOLAites too much.

    • Veronika

      aren’t you from Louisiana? do you really think the food is authentic or are you getting a kick back just to say so…

  • anon

    This review seems really off compared to the majority of other reviews, which are overwhelmingly negative: http://frozentropics.blogspot.com/2011/07/tru-orleans-opening.html

  • Duster

    Its cool that they have Abita on tap, but I wish that they would have other Louisiana Beers such as NOlA witch is actually New Orleans not Abita Springs. Also, It would be cool If they showed the Saints games every week.

    • H Street Landlord

      I like where you are going with this, but does NOLA brewing even go to other places in Louisiana, much less the South, yet?

      I know they have big expansion plans.

      I also had a blast at Bayou Bakery this weekend. Gotta love that all they sell is Abita, no screwing around.

  • Duster

    I just checked and they do not have a muffaletta on the menu. -1

  • Everyone’s a critic

    Hey PoP, it’s nice seeing original content on here and not just letters from whiny homeowners, crime reports, and pictures of people’s pets. Not that I don’t love those, too. Anyway, welcome Anyah.

  • DC

    “ripe smell of bile mixed with the hot, sticky remnants of a Hurricane”

    So you’re admitting that you don’t know anything about New Orleans and yet you’re perpetuating distasteful stereotypes.

    • TaylorStreetMan

      Yeah, I really felt that was unnecessary, especially in a restaurant review.

    • Emmaleigh504


    • anon

      I thought she was describing Adams Morgan.

    • H Street Landlord

      I own a house in Mid-City (Canal and Carrollton stand up!) and didn’t find it offensive. Let’s be honest, the Quarter does smell often. Still one of my favorite neighborhoods in the country. They need to bring back the extra cleaning SDT was doing.

      • Don Smupey

        Yeah I dont think thats unfair. You can almost smell the French Quarter from here. Its a great place but the smell and disgustingness by the end of a night is undeniable

  • Anonymous

    I’ve also heard great reviews of the nola-style restaurant that opened on 18th street near Lauriol (in the old Inti space).

  • Anonymous

    yay! another place on h! and +2 for being on the western end.

  • Veronika

    I have to say… I am a bit offended by the $16 red beans and rice… even if it does have andouille… My roots are in New Orleans and the owners know good and well that is a 3.95 side dish… I know that you’ve got to make money, but seriously? I can’t get down with that… which is cool, because I currently have alligator chillin in my freezer… all it needs is a remoulade..

    • anon

      Agree- Went for dinner after seeing mentions on PoP and Frozen tropics. My experience was, well, rather disappointing.

      I had the seafood dip (bland, with cheap cheese and crouton-hard bread), Bourbon Street wings (6 of them, nearly no flavor, little meat), and red beans and rice (small portion, no seasoning, very andouille sausage/spicy hot dog way overcooked and tasting like charcoal).

      I forget the price of the seafood dip, but I think the wings were $8 and the red beans & rice $22.

      • Veronika

        full agreement. I wasn’t expecting true authentic New Orleans fare, but it wasn’t very good at all. The dirty rice was soupy and the collards had no flavour. I won’t even mention the fresh onion garnished on top…. raw onions in your collards?? I’m pretty sure there are boxes upon boxes of Zatarain’s in the kitchen being used at every opportunity. The New Orleans soul food here has no soul. Tragic.

  • Veronika

    I also hope they are topping off their coffee at breakfast with a bit of bourbon… I mean, if you’re bringing NOLA up here, BRING IT

  • Anonymous

    Nice looking place, but lacking funk, what are the chances the owners are thinking of franchising this concept? Pretty high if you ask me, too respectable looking…FUNK IT UP!

  • jp

    I was here last night for drinks. They have a good cocktail list and the bartenders were SUPER nice. I can’t wait to go back and try the food. The menu looked great!

  • Jabberjaw

    I left very, very unimpressed with the food. I don’t think it’s a first week thing – I think it’s a recipe thing. They need a complete revamp if they’re going to charge what they charge. If you’re in the mood for the real stuff, go to Acadiana.

    • Veronika



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