Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sun Ray Grill Gretna | International Fare

Here's my article on Sun Ray Grill Gretna that appeared in the March 2011 issue of The West Bank Beacon.

As a young man, Dana Deutsch traveled extensively and sampled cuisines around the world. In 1996, he decided to duplicate many of the recipes he tasted and opened the first Sun Ray Grill at 2600 Belle Chasse Highway next to Meadowcrest Hospital in Gretna. The original location was small with a limited menu that included coffee, sandwiches, and daily specials. As business grew Dana expanded the menu. Dana opened his second location on Pink Street in Metairie in 1998, and his third in the Cotton Mill on Annunciation Street in the Warehouse District in 2000.

In 2000, Dana hired Tom Hinyup, a graduate of the Delgado Community College Culinary Arts program, to work at the Gretna location. In 2005, Tom became managing partner of Sun Ray Grill Gretna. The restaurant expanded in 2005, too.

The menu at Sun Ray has something to please everyone. As Dana describes it: “Our menus tell a story of past travels and adventures across our wonderful world. It is a story told using the senses, by an earnest food- loving beach bum.”

The appetizer list is extensive. Over the years, I have sampled many of them. The portabella fries are strips of fresh portabella mushrooms served with a creamy Caesar dressing ($6.75). The spinach & artichoke dip ($7.25) and the taqueria guacamole ($7.25) are delicious. Other appetizers categorized as “Social Dishes,” to be shared, include Siam ribs ($9.75), crispy spring rolls ($7.25), and one of my favorites - the goat cheese fritters that are pan-fried and topped with tasso and sweet onion marmalade & spicy toasted pecans. So good!

In addition to “typical” chicken, shrimp, or steak quesadillas ($9.75 - $11) – at Sun Ray you will find a crispy tortilla filled with sautéed portabella mushrooms, roasted garlic, tomato, onion and fresh basil with melted jack cheese ($10.50). And for the nacho lovers – try their “Penthouse Nachos” with your choice of either roasted duck ($10.50) or chicken ($9.50).

Sun Ray’s salads are very popular and for good reason. I am a big fan of the Sonoma salad (small $4.75, large $7.50) with baby spinach, shaved red onion, crushed pecan, smoky bacon, & Danish bleu cheese with a balsamic vinaigerette. The most popular salad is the pecan-crusted chicken salad ($11.50) – romaine lettuce, cabbage mix, tomato, onion and cheddar cheese with Creole honey mustard dressing topped with a sliced pecan-crusted chicken breast. One of the newest additions to the salad menu is the crab cakes (1 for $15; 2 for $22.50), jumbo lump crab cakes drizzled with green onion aioli, served over a spring mix salad tossed with fresh lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil. I have to try this one next time!

Sun Ray’s burgers are ½ pound of choice beef. You can choose from one of 6 different styles of burgers including the Mississippi Bleu ($10.50), the Big Easy with grilled onions, homemade pickled jalapenos, melted Swiss cheese and Russian dressing ($10.50), and the Smokey Mountain ($10.50) topped with bourbon BBQ sauce, melted jack and cheddar cheese, bacon and fried onions. All burgers are served on freshly-baked buns provided by the renowned Vietnamese bakery - Duong Phong Bakery in New Orleans East.

There is a choice of 4 sandwiches. The Cubano ($9.50) is hand-carved roasted pig, ham, melted Swiss, mustard, and a crunchy dill pickles on pressed bread. The Santa Fe Burrito with a choice of either chicken ($9) or steak fajita ($9.50). The Bangkok Roll ($8.75) is sliced grilled chicken, cucumbers, cilantro, purple cabbage, coconut rice and spicy peanut sauce wrapped in a tomato tortilla. Finally, the Maui Waui ($14) is grilled hoisin-glazed Ahi, charred pineapple, chopped pickled jalapenos, and cilantro on a toasted bun. All burgers and sandwiches are served with a choice of fries, fruit, or slaw. Add $1 for sweet potato fries.

The breadth of the entrée menu is impressive. All steaks are hand-cut on premises. I recently enjoyed the grilled filet mignon rubbed with sea salt, olive oil and freshly-ground black pepper served with a choice of mashed potatoes or fries, and either Tuscan spinach or asparagus ($24). The steak was tender and juicy! The spicy Siam ribs are popular (half slab $14.50; whole slab $21) – slow smoked baby back ribs brushed with Sun Ray’s in-house Thai BBQ glaze, served with sweet potato fries and sesame slaw.

The chicken Athena is a big hit as well: grilled chicken breasts topped with crumbled goat cheese and a sauté of artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and basil ($15). One of the staff’s favorites – and now one of my new favorites – is the Avery Island roast duck ($21) which is a roasted half of a duckling coated with house-made pepper jelly glaze served with a spinach & spicy tasso dressing. C’est si bon!

Don’t worry seafood lovers – there’s plenty available for you on the menu. The fish taco platter with a choice of either crispy fish ($14.75) or lobster ($20.50) is served with full sides of guacamole, rice and creamy black beans. The Ahi tuna with two sesames ($18.50) is served with sesame ponzu sauce, steamed coconut rice, cucumber salad, and pickled ginger. Other selections include: shrimp and grits ($19.25), grilled fish of the day (market price), gulf fish with BBQ shrimp (add $5.50 to the market price), and shrimp, crab and olive pasta ($16.50).

Sun Ray makes all of its desserts so make sure to ask for the day’s dessert menu. One seasonal dessert this year is the king cake crème brulee.

The restaurant has a full bar and a wine selection by the bottle and glass. On Wednesday nights diners get 20% off the bottled wine prices. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. where top shelf margaritas are only $5.

Sun Ray Grill Gretna takes reservations. They also have a private party room that seats up to 25. The restaurant is kid-friendly, offers a children’s menu, and provides crayons for doodling. This came in handy with my 3-year-old great-nephew in tow last week.

Sun Ray Grill Gretna prides itself on fresh ingredients and its broad appeal. The staff is made up of a team of longtime employees committed to consistency and a pleasant dining experience.

Sun Ray Grill Gretna’s address is 2600 Belle Chasse Highway (next to Ochsner West Bank). The phone number is 391-0053. They are open 7 days a week and the hours are 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday – Thursday; 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. Fridays; 11:30 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 11:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m. Sundays. The web page is and you can “friend” Sun Ray Gretna on Facebook to follow the daily specials and deals.

At the Gretna location, Dana Deutsch began a group of neighborhood restaurants each with a subtly different menu and theme. Today all 3 locations are thriving. Sun Ray Grill Gretna’s menu is ambitious and innovative. In my experience, Sun Ray Grill Gretna achieves the lofty goals of its menu without being flashy. And, most importantly, our palates are dazzled without draining our wallets. Kudos to Tom Hinyup and his team!

Reprinted with permission of The West Bank Beacon.

Sun Ray Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 8, 2011

Good Eats at French Quarter Festival

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - I love working in the French Quarter!

French Quarter Fest is in full swing. Some of New Orleans' finest restaurants are serving up their specialities. Yesterday and today a few of us from work spent our lunch hour grazing among them. Here's the list of what my group ate.

At Jackson Square:

Tujague's - Brisket with their signature horseradish sauce, $5. The brisket is tender and flavorful with the perfect amount of horseradish. It's one of my favorites at the Fest.

*Dickie Brennan's Bourbon House - BBQ shrimp po'boy, $6. The shrimp are sauteed in small batches with just the right amount of butter and spices then stuffed into a 5-inch "heel" of French bread. Highly recommended!

Mrs. Wheat's - Meat pie, $4. Turnover filled with steaming hot mixture of meat and spices. I love these meat pies at festivals.

Jacques Imo's - Slow-roasted Duck po'boy, $6. Tender duck topped with slaw. The meat not well-seasoned and a bit bland.

Crepes a la Cart - Strawberry & Nutella crepes, $5. Watch your crepe being made. Delicate crepes filled with just the right amount of Nutella and fresh Louisiana strawberries.

Woldenberg Park:

Love At First Bite - Cochon de lait po'boy, $7. Mounds of juicy pork topped with a little slaw and creole mustard. Same vendor as Jazz Fest. C'est si bon!

*GW Fins - Fish taco, $3. Chunks of perfectly grilled fresh fish on a small white corn tortilla with a little bit of fresh cilantro and slaw topped with Chef Flynn's house-made hot sauce. A must have!

Boucherie - Krispy Kreme bread pudding, $4. Yes, you read that right. Bread pudding made with doughnuts topped with a butter rum sauce. Lawd, gawd. Talk about rich ... and good!

Quintin's Ice Cream - Cafe au lait, $4. Creamy, not too sweet. Nice way to cool off.

So, there it is. My 2011 French Quarter Festival Graze Report. Bon appetit, y'all!!

(To read more about food at the Fest all weekend, check out Colleen Rush's reviews here.)

* = Don't miss.