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Anything Goes
1975-1982
French Quarter: 727 Iberville (now a “gentleman’s club”)

Although it lasted less than three years, anyone who dined out in the 1970s remembers Anything Goes. It is near the top of The Most Preposterous Restaurants Ever Opened In New Orleans list. Its gimmicks were unforgettable. Each table was in a strange environment. One was in a giant Budweiser can. Another was in a jail cell. The servers were costumed in equally unconventional getups, and were encouraged to get as wacky as they liked as long as the table was entertained and the food served timely.

What most people don’t remember about Anything Goes are the two things that actually made it worth a visit. It was the work of Pip, Ted, and Jimmy Brennan. A couple of years earlier, after the infamous Brennan family split, they became sole owners of Brennan’s on Royal Street–at the time one of the most profitable restaurants in the world. Brennan’s was free of the money-losing satellite restaurants in Dallas and Atlanta, among other lesser restaurants in the Brennan orbit. They had to do something with the money, and Anything Goes was what.

It’s also forgotten (because it seems so unlikely now) how good the food was at Anything Goes. Some of it was served unconventionally. Their soup and salad bars, for instance, were ensconced in a boat and in an antique car, in keeping with the studied non-conformity of the place. But the groceries were of good quality, and the chefs from Brennan’s were used to turning out delicious eats.

The concept was inspired by a still-running chain of restaurants in Texas called the Magic Time Machine. It was successful here at first, but New Orleans is a different place from San Antonio, Dallas, and Austin. (Much more so in the 1970s than now.) Locals who were delighted on the first visit (when they went on their own) and the second (when they brought uninitiated friends) were less charmed on the third and fourth visits. After that, the joke was old. Since the gimmick was so dominant, you thought about whether you wanted to sit in the pyramid again before thinking about the food.

Being in a prime tourist location didn’t help. Visitors to New Orleans come to have a New Orleans-style dining experience, not an evening of amusement-park-style goofiness.

Side note: The previous occupant of the Anything Goes location was the New Orleans outpost of the Playboy Club.


18 Readers Commented

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  1. Paris N Dunson on October 12, 2014

    I enjoyed it back in 1977 with some friends and family by being greeted by gorilla hands coming out of a cage. We sat in a bathtub and the servers were Raggedy Ann and Andy. IT WAS AWESOME!!!

  2. DAVID R on October 23, 2014

    Although i was only around 10-11 years old at the time I remember this place like I just ate there yesterday. It was a magical experience for a child when your parents usually took you to boring dining establishments. I recall my fond experiences there often and I wish someone would post photos if they have some.

  3. Patrick F on November 2, 2014

    I recall going at the age of six or seven with my parents. To this day, I can still remember Ali Baba was our waiter, and the mens room was tiled with tiles that featured topless women.

  4. Claire S on November 25, 2014

    The restaurant lasted longer than the article states. We went there in the spring of 1981 on our honeymoon. I remember the bar table had board games under plexiglass. Our waiter was a Boy Scout. And there was a room with a ceiling of upside-down flower pots.

    TOM SEZ: I believe you’re right. Thanks for the update.

  5. Eric on January 9, 2015

    I remember being there in 1984 during the World’s Fair. Fingers was our waiter and we say in the jail cell. It was memorable for a 10 year old.

  6. Blake on February 4, 2015

    I ate here about 4 times in late ’70s, early ’80s. I was 9 or 10 years old. There was a downstairs lounge with a gorilla in a cell to greet you, and further inside Ed McMahon’s beer can where you could sit and have drinks. In the restaurant, I sat in an old-timey automobile, Cleopatra’s barge, and even once King Tut’s tomb, but never the Indian teepee. My only food memory was the huge banana split that came in a giant bathtub with feet set right on the table – fed about 2 – 4. A great tv commercial played on the New Orleans airwaves for advertisement.

  7. Beian on February 5, 2015

    I went there once in July ’80 and remember loving it, although I don’t remember the details other than my waiter was Bookworm. He had a big Rip Taylor mustache, and another guy named Killer Bee kept coming to the table and acting crazy.

  8. Pete Catalano on February 27, 2015

    My daughter remembers going for her birthday, but it could not have been before 1978, which is when the article says the restaurant closed. Does anyone know when Anything Goes actually closed? Could it have still been open in the 80s?

    TOMMENT:
    Yes, it seems to have been open at least as late as 1982.

  9. Tim on April 23, 2015

    We had a wonderful time at Anything Goes back in 79. I remember they had a guy in a gorilla suit that would go wild every so often to scare folks waiting in line. The room we ate in had everything on the celling just like the floor. Tables, chairs etc. We had salad from the 50’s car. We were only there one time but we wish we could go back.

  10. Heather on May 2, 2015

    I think it was a great place too. I remember asking my mother to take me there for my birthday when was around 10 or 11 and I have never forgotten it! Wish I could take my little ones there.

  11. John on June 16, 2015

    I remember going to there back in 1978. We were greeted at the door by a midget dressed in formal wear and wearing a top hat. The both we ate at was an assortment of wooden tennis racquets and the salad bar was in a MG Midget car. Very unforgettable.

  12. G. Lambert on June 20, 2015

    I have the original sign from the restaurant Anything Goes

  13. I took my Concert Choir on a tour of New Orleans in the spring of 1979!! That other major flood year. We were marooned in our hotel all day the second day there. Luckily our bus drivers parked the busses in the highest point in the lot and because they were higher off the ground were spared being flooded like all the other cars, were above the bottom of their doors. I called Anything Goes, which was our evening reservation that day and was told by the manager he would have to see if he could get enough wait staff there to accommodate our 90 people. Luck would have it he was able to and we drove to the French Quarter on the elevated freeway, watching people boating down the lower streets of the city that we passed through. The French Quarter, being the highest ground of the city, was dry. Anything Goes was the perfect setting to finish off a very stressful, trying day stuck in a hotel… with about 75 high schoolers!! It was first class entertainment and as their history of the place said, the food was great. But the part that was the best were the waiter/actors, who all had wonderful bits and jokes to play for and on the students, chaperones and staff. A most memorable night that I still enjoy telling others. Oh, we also had dinner the next night at Brennan’s! Glad to know they are still wowing people. And am glad to hear there are restaurants like Anythjng Goes was still entertaining prople even if they took the idea to Texas.

  14. mike on April 29, 2016

    was there in 1981 groucho marks was our waiter . just found some pictures of big bud can and a couple of others

  15. Mike U.K. on June 12, 2016

    Great to hear all these comments from people who were there at the time all those years ago, it does bring back some images I’d forgotten all about as my 1st and only visit was July ’80 during a wonderful visit to ‘N’awlins’ all the way from England, it really was an experience never to be forgotten, such craziness, wackiness, and seemed to fit in with the whole New Orleans vibe , such a shame I’ll never get the chance to re-live that experience as it sounds like it’s not there anymore. If anyone’s got any pictures please post them! Best wishes to the city, happy days and great memories!

  16. Crystal D on June 4, 2017

    I LOVED and remembered this restaurant in New Orleans. Too bad people today think of the place as “cheesy” and overbearing. Today’s restaurant customer (I’m thinking of myself as a Cajun cook) want not only good food, but great and entertaining atmosphere. An original place like Anything Goes could work again. Younger people are so possessed by their phones that we have become hard to keep engaged with each other, so sitting in an amazing atmosphere is one way to get people engaged with each OTHER in person. I think I will open another Anything Goes and see how it goes!

  17. Dannie on October 6, 2017

    Two coworkers and I were in New Orleans for a trauma workshop . One of them had been to Anything Goes previously so he told us we needed to eat there because the food was so good. He did not tell us anything else about the place! Even though we were scared by the gorilla “greeter”, we decided to stay. I don’t remember the booth, but I do remember the “Sorority Girl” waitress, who had been told by the house mother that we were expected. And she had instructions to make sure we had “the most mediocre time ever.” The whole time smacking her gum! She was hilarious! The strangest thing, though, was when my friend warned us not to go to the bathroom! We found out why later, when a man got up to go and suddenly there was a LOUD announcement:” Does anyone in the restaurant need to go to the bathroom? THIS gentleman is going to the bathroom! If you need to go and don’t know where it is, follow THIS gentleman” Oh…there was a spotlight shining on him! The soup bar under the hood of the sport car and the salad bar in the boat—classic! Some things you never forget!

  18. Andy on November 13, 2017

    I was an original staffer (waiter), hired 2 or 3 days after I graduated from undergrad. 1 year later I was at LSU Law School. We Opened around September 1978. I’m told the place closed in 1982. THe Prime Rib and steaks were great. The shrimp were (huge) pacific prawns. We were held to high standards (as servers and entertainers) when I was there. I knew some wonderfully talented people who worked there. I was only there a year, but that year changed how I do so many things.

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