French Quarter: 221 Royal
When the Andrew Jackson restaurant opened in 1963, if you wanted to dine in unusually beautiful circumstances the pickings around New Orleans were rather slim. We had more than our share of restaurants with the antique charm of many decades. But only a handful of restaurants could be called fancy in any contemporary way.
The Andrew Jackson was one of those. Although it would be considered laughably corny now, in the 1960s it was considered sophisticated and highly atmospheric, decorated in a frilly but modern style.
The food was up to date as well. It was inspired as much by French cooking as by New Orleans cooking, and the style in which the food was served was significantly more polished than we were used to seeing. Its radio commercial (with a background music track of Robert Goulet singing “You Stepped Out Of A Dream”) made the point that if you wanted a romantic dinner, the Andrew Jackson was the place for it.
By day, the Andrew Jackson had a substantial lunch business among businessmen who wanted an auspicious midday meal, but for whom the likes of Antoine’s and Galatoire’s were a bit too set in stone or too full of blue blood.
Owned by the Sevin and DeFelice families, the Andrew Jackson had as a menu consultant no less an authority than Warren Leruth, who was in the early years of operating his own restaurant on the West Bank. While the Andrew Jackson’s food was never on a par with that of LeRuth’s, it was very good and distinctive compared with the interchangeable menu used in most other first-class restaurants of the time.
Like other restaurants trying to establish themselves as more French than Creole, the Andrew Jackson placed a great deal of emphasis on its sauces, particularly the thick, rich ones. Egg-based sauces were much more commonly used then than now. If you can imagine most of the cream sauces we see today replaced by variations on hollandaise, you have a good idea of the kind of food that upscale restaurants purveyed back then. The Andrew Jackson’s menu was full of such dishes. Veal with bearnaise and crabmeat. Crabmeat all by itself with hollandaise.
The dish many Andrew Jackson customers ordered at lunch was turkey poulette. While that dish would now be considered a throwback, many people thought of it as gourmet cuisine then. It was slices of turkey breast topped with slices of bacon, flooded with a light béchamel sauce with mushrooms and melted cheese over the entire thing. The restaurant that was famous for turkey poulette was the Roosevelt Hotel’s cafe. But the Andrew Jackson made it better.
They flamed a lot of desserts here. The waiters look like the kind who would flame desserts, dressed as they were in tuxedos with more than a little bit of frill–particularly in the 1970s.
The end of the Andrew Jackson was a familiar story. The management’s formula was successful enough for long enough that they never altered it. But when the gourmet bistros began to set the style for dining out in New Orleans, restaurants like this looked pretentious. Especially to those of the baby boom generation, who became the major market force in the Andrew Jackson’s last years.
The place was revived as Café Anglais, a British-Creole restaurant operated by Café Sbisa’s Dr. Larry Hill. But even that was too much for the new age, and it only lasted a couple of years.