Uptown: 4100 Magazine Street
Bouligny was the restaurant which, in 1982, got everybody hip to the news that eating Uptown had changed. In a renovated firehouse on Magazine at Marengo—with a substantial parking lot, yet—it was a place you liked from the moment you set foot in the place. Lots of big windows, lots of greenery, and lots of Baby Boomers in their thirties and starting to making money.
Bouligny’s manager Tim Gannon had worked out this new restaurant concept at Stephen & Martin, and rolled out Creole Bistro 2.0 at Bouligny. The chef was Sebastian “Buster” Ambrosia, who after a few years at Commander’s Palace was the first chef of Mr. B’s Bistro, the archetype of the new casual gourmet places. His menu was decidedly Creole. A little more Cajun than usual (darker roux, andouille in new places, more cayenne). The fish was more likely to be grilled than fried—a hallmark of the bistros.
Bouligny changed my own dining schedule. I’d wind up in there two or three times a week, eating the oysters bonne femme, veal with choron sauce and fried crawfish, the grilled duck breast with a nest of vegetables. A lot of this was influenced by Chef Paul Prudhomme, who’d started cooking like this at Commander’s five years earlier. But here it was in a moderate-price, dress-down restaurant with a very cool look.
By all rights Bouligny should still be around. What happened was that the owners weren’t particularly into food. One of them was Craig Ripley, a very nice guy who was in the wrong business. (He told me that he had no sense of smell.) He was happy to get out of the restaurant hurly-burly.
Bouligny’s last years were exciting, though. In 1989, Michael Uddo took over the kitchen and started cooking the best food in Bouligny’s history. But by that time the Uptown restaurant scene was overpopulated, and the owners threw in the towel. Uddo would shortly open up his own place, the G&E Courtyard Grill, discussed elsewhere.
The name (it was that of the plantation and then the faubourg in which the place was located) lives on. John Harris of Lilette calls his new bar Bouligny.
This is one of 122 reviews of fondly-remembered but extinct restaurants from Lost Restaurants Of New Orleans, just published by Pelican. It’s available in bookstores all around town, and full of photos, graphics, menus, and memorabilia.