Gentilly: 5235 Franklin Ave.
The last time I saw Vincent and Janine Bologna–who owned Teddy’s Grill for twenty-five years–we were all headed to the Convention Center for the annual Restaurant Expo. As we walked they told me that they had decided not to reopen Teddy’s Grill, and instead would put all their energies into their catering business.
The year was 2006. Teddy’s was a mess, thanks to not one but three levee breaks–more than enough to send the Katrina flood waters to a ruinous level. As I write this in 2014, that whole section of town–while continually rebuilding–still shows many scars of its having been a no-man’s-land for a long time.
But Teddy’s endeared itself for enough people for such a long time that I’m still often asked about its future. (Someone just called about it on the radio last week, triggering this article.)
Teddy’s drew its clientele primarily from the Gentilly area, which was a prosperous suburb before Metairie really got started. Later, a lot of customers came from the nearby University of New Orleans.
That’s my Teddy’s story. I lived on and off campus for three years, and whenever the idea of going out to eat was floated among my compatriots, Teddy’s was high on the list of possibilities.
Because at Teddy’s we found, among many other things, a seriously good roast beef poor boy. Teddy’s was one of the few specialists in that essential sandwich that made big claims for the quality of its beef. It had been a grocery store and butcher shop in its early days, and itsroast beef sandwiches reflected that institutional expertise.
Teddy Gabb was the original owner. As supermarkets took away a lot of customers from little grocery shops like his, he found his sandwich business more than keeping up with the loss–a familiar story around town. He ran it for about a decade, then sold the place to Vincent Bologna in 1961. It was a hands-on family operation, with Vincent in the kitchen and Janine at the cash register. Later, their three children came in to help
The Bologna-era Teddy’s was a beneficiary of the rapid growth of LSUNO (as UNO was called then). Particularly in the 1970s, his place sometimes looked like a college hangout. UNO being the commuter school it was, an unusually large number of students had a full appreciation of the poor boy sandwich.
Vincent expanded the shop little by little, adding basic neighborhood-restaurant platters to the menu. These ranged from red beans and spaghetti and meatballs to fried chicken and seafood. The place never became atmospheric–I remember the seating as being mostly at picnic tables–but it was a nicer-looking place in the 1990s than it was in the 1970s and before.
Somewhere along the way Teddy’s began serving–then became famous for–its whole-loaf poor boys. Enough for six people or more, they were an instant party. The most famous customers for the whole-loaf jobs was jazz clarinet virtuoso Pete Fountain, who came in weekly when he was in town for two or three of the loaves.
There was enough business by those days for Teddy’s to get some nearby competition. The Po-Boy Bakery–which evolved after Katrina into Koz’s in Harahan and Lakeview–also got into the whole-loaf thing, making those sandwiches a micro-regional item of food culture. To this day, memories of the two competitors are confused in the minds of many. Easy way to keep them straight: Only Teddy’s had a big bull mounted above its entrance.