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.