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Dinner Comes with a Side of History at American Sector

On Thursday evenings from 5-8, modern American cuisine comes with a side of history at the National World War II museum. Feeding the belly and the mind never tasted so good.

As a kid, I always made fun of my dad for inadvertently giving my brothers and me history lessons at the dinner table. I guess, though, that it is actually a thing.

“Dinner + History” is one of several new collaborations between The American Sector Restaurant + Bar and the National World War II Museum to provide patrons with an opportunity to enjoy food or drink from the restaurant and explore a select museum exhibit. On Thursday evenings from 5:00 until 8:00 p.m., American Sector customers receive free admission into one of the museum’s galleries or special exhibits with any purchase from the restaurant. Arrive early to allow ample time to explore the exhibit, which closes at 8:00 p.m.

american sector entrance
The entrance and courtyard at American Sector. (Photo: Emily Ramirez Hernandez)

Since the only requirement to visiting a Thursday night exhibit is that restaurant-goers purchase something, diners can make their own decisions about how much money to drop.

The Food

If you are on a budget or itching to fill your noggin as opposed to your belly, stick to the American Sector’s Happy Hour, which conveniently overlaps with “Dinner + History” between 5:00 and 7:00 pm. Select cocktails as well as draft beer, sangria, house cocktails, and house wines are half price.

The crisp $9 Sector Lemonade is made with fresh-squeezed lemon juice, basil, mint, and soda, and spiked with Cathead Honeysuckle vodka, a regionally produced spirit from Mississippi.

Recently overhauled, the new menu captures the nexus of modern American cuisine and Old-World nostalgia.

Snacks include a Bavarian Soft Pretzel Fonduta for $7, Chicken Pot Pie Meat Pies for $4, and, my favorite, the Crawfish Boil Fritters (essentially a croquette made with crawfish, sweet corn, andouille, and remoulade sauce for dipping) for $8. All the happy hour snack specials are $8 or under.

american sector duck
The duck at American Sector comes garnished with micro greens from the on-site Victory Garden. (Photo: Emily Ramirez Hernandez)

However, the American Sector really warrants more than just a few bites or a cocktail. For those who have been to the American Sector in the past, you may already have noticed that just the happy hour menu items are completely different from what they once were.

With the restaurant’s overhaul in May, executive sous chef Eric Cook, sous chef Brooke Foster, and their colleagues crafted a completely new and more upscale menu with items inspired by the nexus of modern American food and drink and Old-World nostalgia. Chef Cook calls it “approachable food with French technique,” and it is true that the casual observer would not realize the hours and hours of experimentation and labor that make this food what it is.

After their meal, visitors can explore a specified exhibit for free and will leave with a deeper understanding of the ‘war that changed the world.’

American Sector's S'mores Pie photo courtesy of American Sector
S’mores pie. (Photo courtesy American Sector)

The crispy oyster BLT small plate, one of what sous chef Foster calls “her babies,” is light, yet still flavorful. The oysters are Parmesan-crusted over a bed of tomato jam with pieces of arugula from the Victory Garden (more on that below) and pork belly tossed in. The Bacon Braised Duck –  Foster’s other baby – is probably the star of the menu. Perched on a bed of jalapeno cream cheese, the duck, with candied pork belly and sugar cane glaze, is, as my husband put it after his first bite, “out of control.”  Spicy, savory, and sweet meld together to create one very satisfying bite after another. At $24, it is pricey but worth it. Consider splitting it with a friend. And for dessert? Try the s’mores pie, a far more elegant take on the campfire favorite.

The History

The World War II Museum’s Victory Garden is a major player, contributing seasonal vegetables and herbs for the restaurant’s new “Victory Garden to Table” menu. Today’s Victory Garden at the museum harks back to the so-called victory gardens – there were more than 20 million at their peak – that Americans planted “from sea to shining sea” during the war to help with the prevention of a food shortage. Most of what American Sector’s chefs are unable to get from their Victory Garden, they purchase from local producers. The menu will evolve as the seasons do.

road to berlin
The entrance to the Road to Berlin exhibit; on Thursdays you can view the exhibit for free after purchasing a menu item from American Sector. (Photo: Emily Ramirez Hernandez)

Eating a salad fresh from the Victory Garden seems almost as though history is built right into these meals – and with “Dinner + History” it essentially is. Though the exhibits on display for this program may rotate, the Road to Berlin: European Theater Galleries has been the choice of late. This multi-media, interactive exhibit shows visitors how American soldiers in Europe helped to defeat the Axis powers during World War II. Visitors can walk through the winter hell that was Battle of the Bulge, while newspaper clippings and newsreels help bring the war to life, and will leave with a deeper understanding of the “war that changed the world” and the United States’ role in it.

I should tell my childhood self that dinner with a side of history is not so bad after all.

Emily Ramírez Hernández is the child of New Orleans natives whose families have been in the city for generations. Emily's earliest memories of New Orleans include joyful car rides over bumpy streets, eating dripping roast beef po-boys at Domilise's, and catching bouncy balls during Mardi Gras parades with cousins. An urban planner by day and freelance writer by night, when she is off the clock she enjoys biking around town, belly dancing, and catching nerdlesque shows.

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