Cafe 615 (Da Wabbit)
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
A bit before the storm, this old joint (and that’s what it was) got a facelift and a new name–one that could only be understood in New Orleans. The menu and the waitresses’ T-shirts say, “Cafe 615, Home of Da Wabbit.” (Cf “Ruth’s Chris,” “Pascal’s Manale.”)
The improvements at Da Wabbit (Cafe 615 seems all wrong for the place, and who can remember a number, anyway?) is another encouraging signs that, after two decades of slim pickings, the dining scene on the West Bank is getting better. It’s a reliable restaurant with more good food than immediately meets the eye. It would be the Mandina’s of the West Bank of Tony Mandina’s were’t already there.
We all have to go to Gretna once in awhile, and it’s good to find a delicious neighborhood Creole place to eat.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
It seems strange to say that the best reason to come here is to get a load of the vintage sign outside. That’s almost true. It depicts (in enamel by day, neon at night) a cartoon hare who looks like a blood relative of Bugs Bunny. Under the graphic is the legend “DA-WABBIT Drive In.” (The latter is 1950s lingo for a place with a parking lot.) But it’s the food that makes this old roadhouse worth searching for. All West Bankers know about it, but it’s only a legend to most East Bankers.
It’s a classic New Orleans neighborhood eatery. You expect fried seafood platters, red beans on Monday, poor boy sandwiches, fried chicken. You don’t expect specials like blackened tuna and steak with crabmeat. It comes out hot, garnished with good side dishes, and seasoned the way it ought to be. That fried chicken is a major draw.
Kepler Street is the continuation of Fourth and Fifth Streets, the major route through the suburban West Bank communities before the West Bank Expressway opened in the 1950s. Da Wabbit opened shop in 1947, and has been slinging hash ever since. For much of its more recent history, it was more than a little raffish, better known as a bar with card games in the back rooms than for its food. The current owners took over in the early 2000s, gave it a more respectable official (but eminently forgettable) new name, performed a serious renovation to the interior, fixed the neon sign neon, and reopened as a much better place to eat.
The floor plan is shaped like a keyhole, with the more pleasant tables–topped with brown butcher paper–in the circular part. The bar, which also has tables for dining, is the flat end of the keyhole. The interior shows few signs of the restaurant’s actual age, and is as pleasant as any other good neighborhood cafe. Waitresses who wear “Cafe 615 Home Of Da Wabbit” T-shirts are like that lady who lives next door to you.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Oysters brochette (fried, wrapped in bacon, remoulade sauce)
Frog legs Provençal (pan-fried, capers, onions, tomatoes, olives, garlic butter sauce)
Fried calamari, marinara sauce
Chicken & andouille gumbo
Fried oyster, shrimp, or catfish poor boy
Hot roast beef poor boy (ask for easy on the gravy)
Fried seafood platters
Fried or slow-smoked chicken
Blackened steak, garlic butter compound
Seared duck breast, orange cane syrup glaze
Blackened yellowfin tuna, beurre blanc sauce
Bacon-wrapped pork medallions, orange cane syrup glaze
Shrimp etouffee with fried catfish
Hamburger steak, mushrooms, onions, gravy
Louisiana crawfish au gratin, pasta
Red beans and rice (MO)
Chicken stew and rice (TU) .
Shrimp and beef stuffed bell peppers, mac ‘n’ cheese (WE)
Smothered rabbit with white beans and rice (TH)
Catfish plate, potato salad (FR)
Bananas Foster ice cream cake
Housemade bread pudding, whiskey sauce
FOR BEST RESULTS
Order one appetizer per two people. These are very large. Although you might get the idea that this is a place where only regulars are welcome, in fact it’s among the friendliest neighborhood joints in town.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
They need to fix the neon on the west side of the sign. Or maybe not.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment
- Consistency +1
- Value +2
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness -1
- Local Color +2
- Good for business meetings
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- No reservations