June 25, 2012: I learned today to my great disappointment that the New Orleans Showboat Restaurant has closed and will not reopen.---------------------------------------------------
I've been flying back and forth between Ohio and Japan for a full year. We bought property in Wooster, Ohio and are in the process of building a house. For reasons known only to the FAA, getting out of Cleveland's airport when bound for Tokyo is always a challenge. There are no direct flights. As a result, I always have to catch an early morning flight to somewhere else. For example, this time I am flying to Chicago's O'Hare airport and catching a flight from there. Tomorrow morning's flight from Cleveland departs at 7:39 a.m.
In order to avoid driving up to Cleveland during the morning rush hour, I normally spend at night at the Hampton Inn. Dinner is usually the next door TGIF. Today, however, I discovered a closed and abandoned restaurant has been renamed and reopened, so I decided to check it out.
Wow. I have eaten at restaurants on four continents and in a dozen countries. I've had meals that cost well over a hundred dollars a plate, and meals that cost pennies. The New Orleans Showboat Restaurant is easily one of the finest restaurants I have ever encountered. The decor is fashionable and upscale, the food is delicious, and the staff is so friendly they could teach human relations to McDonalds. A special shoutout goes to my new best friend, Jenn, who works as greeter. If the cold, formal, detached greeters (er, "hosts", as they like to be known) at any of the top flight restaurants in Ginza were half this friendly I'd eat there daily and smile at their extortionary prices.
Yeah, yeah, I know. All you gourmand wannabes out there are desperate to find out about the food. I ordered the Jamabalaya (which is customizable with a choice of five different items cooked into a delightful, moist, slightly spicy cajun rice that forms the base). At first glance the $5.99 for crayfish seems extreme, but the crayfish they serve are cocktail-shrimp size, juicy, and bursting with sweetness, a far cry from the dry, muddy-water tasting, three-ounce, pan-fried crayfish that passes for "gourmet" at most top-flight restaurants. And there are so many of them! The Jambalaya was overflowing with succulent bites of sweet crayfish. I also had shrimp, carrots, and broccoli. Maybe I'm no gourmand, but this was the best Jambalaya I have ever had.
Along with the dinner came rich, warm, fresh from the oven, garlic-butter dinner rolls. I don't know how they make these, but if you like garlic they are as heavenly as one could ever hope for, immensely better than the "proper" sliced and toasted garlic bread most places serve that crunches so well it cuts the roof of the your mouth. I could have filled up on buttery garlic dinner rolls and coffee and been content to pay anything they asked. I have paid hundreds of dollars for food half as good, ambience as phony as a Hollywood platinum blonde, and staff so cold they might as well be walking dead.
My total bill including tip, two double Captain Morgans, Jambalaya with my choice of toppings, sweet potato pie, and coffee was $50, so the place is not cheap, but it is well worth the money. I'd much rather spend $50 at The New Orleans Showboat Restaurant than $10 at a fast food joint or $20 at a family restaurant. When it comes to value, there is no substitute for friendly staff, fresh from the oven garlic dinner rolls, and spicy Jambalaya with sweet minature crayfish.