Mardi Gras is a time of celebration and indulgence. It’s also one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States, with more than four million visitors each year.
Emeril’s Bistro 1396 is a restaurant located on Carnival’s Mardi Gras. The cost of the meal and beverages is $13.96.
When Carnival Cruise Line decided that one of the Mardi Gras “zones” would be New Orleans-themed, they realized they’d need a few items. Jazz music, cool bars… and a restaurant showcasing renowned chef Emeril Lagasse’s cuisine.
The ship’s French Quarter zone is so evocative of the legendary city, thanks to the potent potions whipped up at the Fortune Teller’s bar, the jazz emanating from the Brass Magnolia, and Emeril’s Bistro 1396, that if you didn’t know better, you’d think you’d stepped off the ship and onto the streets of New Orleans.
Emeril’s Bistro 1396, located on deck 6 in the middle of the ship, is difficult to miss since its décor extends up to deck 7 and has dramatic lighting that changes colors throughout the day. The ever-popular Alchemy Bar has seating that overlooks the deliberately garish, though tiny, restaurant.
Emeril’s Bistro’s menu include $5 Small Plates, variably priced “A Little More” entrees, $4 desserts, $4 breakfast dishes, $3 kids meals, and a market-priced seafood bar, all designed by the chef himself. (Of course, all of this is subject to change and is not accessible on Carnival’s website.)
READ MORE: Emeril’s Restaurant’s Mardi Gras Menu on Carnival’s Mardi Gras
I only tasted a few dishes, but they were all much superior to my expectations and were fairly priced for the quantities provided. In fact, I was so taken aback by the place that I returned again.
Breakfast was the reason for my first visit. Because the tables were all set with glasses and flatware and had the tiny QR codes on them to bring up the menu on our phones, it was a little perplexing. However, we were forced to order at the counter. Menus may be seen on the wall behind the counter, as well as a QR code on the counter.
In hindsight, it was wonderful to be able to sit down, choose what we wanted to eat, and then walk up and place our order. We were given a card with a number after making our order, which we placed on our table so they would know where to deliver the meal when it was ready.
The Sweet Potato Waffles, as well as the Shrimp and Grits, were on our menu. Although the Sweet Potato Waffle (which is really just one big waffle) was essentially a dessert, isn’t that what some of us crave for breakfast? It was excellent. The “whipped cream” was more like icing. One item to note: I would not have realized the waffle included sweet potato if no one had informed me.
The Shrimp & Grits were very tasty, and I was surprised at how many nicely cooked shrimp were packed into what seemed to be a tiny dish. There was also a generous quantity of sausage, the perfect amount of grits, and a delicious, spicy tomato sauce on top.
Wait for the lighting to shift before taking your picture, as a pro advice for all Instagrammers. To make my breakfast pictures appear properly, I had to remove the pink.
I had intended to dine at Emeril’s just once, particularly because there were so many other restaurants to sample on board the cruise. But the meal was so good and the costs were so low that I knew I’d be back later in the trip.
I returned a few days later to inquire about the seafood bar’s “market pricing,” which were not mentioned on the menu. They weren’t cheap, but they weren’t outrageously expensive for fresh seafood.
We decided to return to Emeril’s for supper on the final night of the trip. We just ordered one dish apiece since we had to squeeze in some sushi from Bonsai Sushi. On Mardi Gras, there are so many free choices that it was difficult for me to justify spending money on meals. But the fact that we did demonstrates just how wonderful it was.
We knew to order at the counter this time, so there was no misunderstanding and the procedure went well. We chose one dish from the “Small Plate” menu (Sizzling Cast Iron Shrimp Scampi) and one from the “A Little More” menu (Roasted Duck and Andouille Sausage Gumbo).
The shrimp scampi was delicious. The shrimp were enormous, and the meal included a generous serving of garlic bread. I felt like I was getting my money’s worth. I continued to enjoy the meal by dipping my bread into the sauce after the shrimp were gone. One caveat: I didn’t like how the pan’s handle was facing me when they delivered our purchase. Because I’m clumsy, there was a high possibility I’d burn myself despite their warnings. If you’re purchasing for children, be cautious!
The gumbo was also outstanding. Using duck instead of the usual poultry gave my gumbo a distinct flavor and richness that I hadn’t expected. Trust me, it’s not as dull as the picture seems. Quite the contrary, in fact! Although the potato salad that came with it wasn’t as excellent as the rest of the meal, it worked nicely with the gumbo and helped to round out the meal.
READ MORE: A Picky Eater’s Guide to Mardi Gras Dining at Carnival
We weren’t hungry after our lunch, but we’d just had sushi, so I can’t claim that one thing per person constitutes a complete meal. The good thing is that if you’re on a budget, you can simply go up two decks and finish your dinner with a panini or a couple of pieces of pizza!
You may choose wine, beer, or espresso-based beverages to accompany your dinner in addition to the excellent cuisine on the menu. If you’re like me and want coffee with your breakfast but don’t want to spend extra, bring it with you from another area of the ship. Coffee costs were not displayed, and I didn’t think to inquire since I wasn’t planning on ordering one.
Wine is available by the glass or the bottle, and there are New Orleans and Carnival beers to select from. We’ll have to try one of the NOLA versions the next time we’re in town for Mardi Gras and a lunch at Emeril’s.
The live music from the Fortune Teller pub next door adds a wonderful touch to the dining experience. When I came on board, Emeril’s Bistro was a hidden treasure that was underutilized. I anticipate the joint to be hopping all the time once word of mouth starts to spread.
Emeril’s Bistro is open for breakfast from 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., and then from noon until 10 p.m. for the remainder of the menu. I loved that I could come here for breakfast later in the morning and that it was open later than some of the other supper choices. You know how sometimes there’s a comedy show that you simply can’t miss?
READ NEXT: Mardi Gras Dining Guide: Which Restaurants Offer Free Food?
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