Chez Pierre: A Delicious, Lost Eatery On The West Bank.

Chez Pierre’s Gretna: 2505 Whitney Ave., Gretna 1989-1992 The reputation of Warren Leruth is that he was the most skillful chef in the history of New Orleans. Whether or not that’s true (and I think it is), he was ahead of his time. The people who worked for him went forth and multiplied. But for some reasons Leruth’s influence never reached the levels to which Paul Prudhomme, Emeril, and John Besh enriched their former employees. For one thing, they seemed to have the idea that part of being a true…

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Extinct Restaurant: Maison Pierre.

Maison Pierre French Quarter: 430 Dauphine 1970s-1993 The fortunes of New Orleans were on an upswing in the late 1970s. Restaurants answered the new Baby Boom’s affluence with some uncommonly grand, expensive restaurants. These went well beyond the unstudied, comfortable dressiness of the old-line dining institutions like Antoine’s and Galatoire’s. The mainstream dining public was still dominated by the tastes of their parents, who had a taste for formality. Formality was soon to become characterized as pretension, but it hadn’t happened yet. So the few restaurants that decided to push…

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La Savoie (Extinct In Old Metairie)

La Savoie 94 Friedrichs Avenue, just off Metairie Road 1982-1984 It’s only in recent years that Metairie Road has boasted a significant restaurant community. At this writing (2013), twenty active restaurants are open on that oldest of New Orleans highways. The first signs of expansion showed up in the 1990s, but you couldn’t really say it blossomed until after Katrina. Before that, if Metairie Road was home to more than two restaurants at a time, it wouldn’t be long until one of them closed. This was true even when some…

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Ro Jé: Extinct Gourmet Eating In New Orleans East
Extinct Restaurants

Ro Jé: Extinct Gourmet Eating In New Orleans East

Ro Jé French Restaurant New Orleans East: 6940 Martin Dr. 1975-1983 When the eastern half of New Orleans began to build itself in the 1970s, everyone expected the area to become another Metairie. All the pieces were there: the major regional shopping mall, the suburban tract homes, the supermarkets. When a critical mass of Orleanians moved there, restaurants appeared. The early restaurants in New Orleans East were very good. Already there was a community of seafood houses along Hayne Boulevard, rivaling those in West End Park. That made sense, given…

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Royal Oak Restaurant & Pub
Extinct Restaurants

Royal Oak Restaurant & Pub

The Royal Oak Restaurant And Pub Gretna: Oakwood Mall 1971-1983 What was the best Greek restaurant in New Orleans history doing in a large shopping mall on the West Bank? If you stepped into the Royal Oak without knowing anything about it, you probably wouldn’t guess that it was Greek. The dining room was handsome and comfortable, with no Greek decor to speak of. Its kitchen used the best raw materials for everything, at a time when the few other Greek places served canned stuffed grape leaves and the like….

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Artesia

I can tell you because I live there: Not much happens in Abita Springs. Rapid growth in the surrounding Mandeville-Covington area (where it seems that another pine tree gets cut down every five minutes) hasn’t changed the sleepy hamlet much. The biggest development in recent years was replacement of the town’s only traffic signal by a roundabout. On the other hand, here is the place where the culinary career of one chef took the whole New Orleans restaurant world in a new direction. In the late 1990s, restaurateur and former…

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Crozier’s
Extinct Restaurants

Crozier’s

Crozier’s Lake Forest Blvd. at Bundy, New Orleans East (1976-1980) Read Lane off Read Blvd., New Orleans East, (1980-1988) 3216 W. Esplanade Ave., Metairie (1988-2000). I’ll never forget my first meal at Crozier’s. I was driving by on Lake Forest Boulevard on my way to the Plaza (when it was still a major shopping center) in the fall of 1976. I happened to glance into a small, anonymous strip mall, and saw the words “Crozier’s Restaurant Francais” on the marquee. I chuckled at the incongruity, and thought, this should be…

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Altamira, Ancestor Of Lola’s

ExtinctSquare-150x150The 1984 Expo had many restaurants, most of them highlighting the cuisines of the countries that built pavilions there. Almost none of those eateries went on after the fair ended. Of those, only Altamira survives to the present day–but not in that location nor under that name.

Altamira and its owner Angel Miranda specialized in the food of Spain. It was not the first to do so, nor would it be the last. Spanish food should be an popular style of cooking in New Orleans, a longtime former Spanish colony. But it keeps getting confused with Mexican and other Latin American cuisines, which are different in almost every way except language from Spanish cooking.

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Turci’s

ExtinctSquare-150x150No lost restaurant in New Orleans engenders the fervent yearning felt by anyone who ever ate in the original Turci’s. Although it’s been nearly four decades that it’s been gone, many people still harbor vivid memories of this great Italian restaurant. That’s because they ate there regularly when they were small children. Turci’s was decidedly a family place, where tables of six and eight and more outnumbered the deuces and fours.

Turci’s history reads like the setup for a novel. Ettore Turci (native of Bologna) and his wife Teresa (from Naples) were opera singers who came to America to perform in 1909. New Orleans had America’s oldest opera house, and a strong Italian community. The Turcis stayed. In 1917 they opened a restaurant called Turci’s Italian Gardens at 229 Bourbon Street. It thrived, then it became famous. The Turcis retired in 1943, and sold the restaurant. (One of the new owners was the father of Joe Segreto, who operated Eleven 79 in the Warehouse District until he passed away in 2015.)

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St. Charles Restaurant (Extinct)

ExtinctSquare-150x150The Central Business District has always enjoyed the presence of private dining clubs with highly upscale members. The Pickwick Club and the Boston Club are the most famous for their Mardi Gras royalty connections. They and the other such clubs are beyond my reach–private clubs can’t be reviewed unless they invite me to do so, and none of them ever have.

But a few restaurants through the years had the feeling of private clubs while actually being open to the public. The St. Charles was one such. Its occupied an improbably grand space in the architecturally fascinating (Art Deco) Masonic Temple Building, next to One Shell Square. The main dining room was the former meeting room of the Masons.

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Chez Pierre’s: Extinct.

ExtinctSquare-150x150The reputation of Warren Leruth is that he was the most skillful chef in the history of New Orleans. Whether or not that’s true, he was ahead of his time. The people who worked for him went forth and multiplied. But the influence of his and their cookery never reached the levels to which Paul Prudhomme, Emeril, and John Besh enriched their former employees. For one thing, they seemed to have the idea that part of being a true disciple of Leruth involved opening a restaurant on the West Bank.

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Bistro @ The Maison DeVille: Extinct.

If ranked by ratio of historic culinary importance to square footage, the Bistro at the Maison de Ville would top the list. A tiny restaurant, originally designed to serve the guests in a small hotel. But from its first day to its last, the Bistro (that’s what its regulars always called the place, despite the many other restaurants with “bistro” in their names) was the approximate location of the cutting edge in New Orleans restaurant cookery. It all began when the owners of the hotel hired Susan Spicer as its…

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Constantin’s, 1987-1992

ExtinctSquare-150x150The closing of Sqeal BBQ on Oak Street brings to mind the several restaurants that previously occupied that address. It was a conversion of a good-looking old house which, when it was a residence, must have been very roomy for its occupants. The ceilings are high and the windows large. I’m just guessing, but I think it was built in the early 1900s, at a time when the Oak Street commercial row just off South Carrollton Avenue was bustling.

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Home Furnishings Café

ExtinctSquare-150x150The Home Furnishings Store was more than a home furnishings store. The owners took advantage of this social aspect and installed a small café on the second floor. It was just short of being a full-service restaurant. Operating cafeteria-style, the Home Furnishings Café served salads, sandwiches, and a few hot plate specials. No serious grilling or frying, lest the process smell up the sofas and beds. The menu evolved into a nice collection of lighter eats.

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The Home Of Seafood-Stuffed Artichokes.

ExtinctSquare-150x150The popularity of Joe Pacaccio’s restaurant in its heyday was a little hard to fathom. It wasn’t the food, because most people who ate there stuck to either the basic Italian dishes (for which there were many better places in Metairie) or one or two dishes in the seafood department–about which more momentarily. It also had something to do with the gargantuan size of the portions here, particularly in light of the moderate-to-low prices.

A few years into its Bucktown run (it was in the building on the corner of Lake Avenue and Hammond Highway, a site of many other restaurants both before and after Carmine’s), Joe added two unique dishes to his menu. More to come. . .

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La Riviera

ExtinctSquare-150x150Chef Goffredo Fraccaro came to town. Born in Genoa in 1926, he worked in restaurants until he was old enough to go to sea. For decades, he cooked on ships. Sometimes one of these ships called at New Orleans. Walking around the town, he found that he liked everything about it, and disembarked permanently.

Goffredo made his way to Baton Rouge, where he cooked for a few years. He returned to New Orleans in 1969 to open the city’s first big-deal Italian restaurant. Even the name was grandiose: Il Ristorante Tre Fontane. The restaurant of the three fountains was hidden in the French Quarter on Exchange Alley, where the Pelican Club is now.

It was too soon for such a restaurant. Most New Orleanians with a taste for Italian food wanted the rustic, inexpensive Sicilian style. They couldn’t get their heads around a ten-buck Italian dinner cooked the way it was done in Northern Italy, regardless of its goodness. Tourists were not in New Orleans to eat Italian food. After three years, the Tre Fontane partnership foundered. More to come. . .

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Etienne’s Cuisine Francais

Etienne DeFelice was a Cajun, and most of his waiters were, too. But Cajuns speak French, so they fit right into the French Provincial style of the 1960s and 1970s. Etienne’s Restaurant was the apotheosis of such places, both before it moved from Uptown to Metairie and after. If you asked a fan of Etienne’s what he liked about the place, you’d invariably hear, “They make such wonderful sauces!” Sauces ran around and over almost everything. Cream sauces, hollandaise-based sauces, brown sauces with mushrooms and wine, sauces, sauces, sauces. The standard side dish–creamed spinach–was itself nearly a sauce.

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Bali Ha’i At The Beach

ExtinctSquare-150x150The Bali Ha’i was one of many restaurants across America that copied the style of Trader Vic’s and Don The Beachcomber, two wildly popular San Francisco restaurants. “Trader” Vic Bergeron (who, despite his name, was from nowhere near New Orleans) said his food was Polynesian, with hints of Hawaiian. But there really isn’t such a thing as Polynesian cuisine. Trader Vic’s served Chinese food, really, with lots of frying and sweet sauces, and without all those puzzling Chinese names. Along with rum drinks whose potency was hidden by appealing, sweet fruit juices, served in unusual cups and glasses with island motifs. More to come. . .

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Castillo’s

ExtinctSquare-150x150Carlos Castillo was a unique character. He was knowledgeable on many matters, and maintained a small library of books on many abstruse topics next to his table in the dining room. He could talk for a long time on the history of Mexico and its cuisine. And give you full dogma about how authentic Mexican food needs to be cooked, down to the tiniest details. More to come. . .

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Marchal’s

Marshall Rodriguez could have told you why no restaurant ever successfully tried to duplicate Antoine’s. Because if he couldn’t do it, then nobody can. Marshall was one of the best-liked of the old-line waiters at Antoine’s, tending to its table for the entire latter half of the twentieth century. He was everything you wanted in a regular waiter there. He knew all his customers’ preferences for everything, and had enough sway in the kitchen to get whatever they wanted. He was the personal waiter for enough regular customers of great…

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Barrow’s Shady Inn

ExtinctSquare-150x150Finishing at or near the top of the All-Time Best Fried Catfish In New Orleans list, Barrow’s Shady Inn opened during World War II in the predominantly black Hollygrove neighborhood–although, like many neighborhoods in New Orleans in those years, it was really pretty well mixed.

William Barrow knew a couple of important things in 1943. First, that he could make his place a center of social life in his neighborhood by making it attractive and classy. Practically from the time he opened, he began renovating and adding on to the restaurant. When The Beverly nightclub and casino in nearby Old Jefferson shut down in the 1950s, Barrow bought a lot of the neon signs and installed them over his door. Second, he knew how to fry catfish. He bought wild fish from Des Allemands and fried them whole, after marinating them in a recipe that would pass down to two generations of his descendants, never shared with anyone else. More to come. . .

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Clementine’s Belgian Bistrot

As far as I know, Clementine’s was the only restaurant in New Orleans that ever claimed to serve the food of Belgium. There was a bit of Belgian influence on New Orleans cookery. Myriam Guidroz, a longtime recipe writer in the Times-Picayune, was Belgian. Chef Paul Blange, who created the menu of the original Brennan’s when it was still on Bourbon Street, came across as French, but was actually Belgian. But Clementine’s was a full-time vendor of the breadth of Belgian cuisine, a style of cooking that should have been…

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Kenko

ExtinctSquare-150x150The number of sushi bars in the New Orleans area increased dramatically starting in around 1990. It had not quite reached a plateau when Kenko opened in 2000–that was still about ten years away. But that opening and soon-after closing did demonstrate that sushi would never become the new hamburger. As sushi bars went, Kenko was never one of the great ones. Nor was it substandard. If you ordered a big dinner of sushi and knew what you were doing, you would eat very well there. I dined there about. . . More to come. . .

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8115 Jeanette Street

ExtinctSquare-150x150The converted, stucco-clad house a half-block off South Carrollton Avenue on Jeannette will probably make it onto this curious list. At least six restaurants operated there in the time since it was last somebody’s home. The first of these, opening in 1989, was Shigure, a sushi bar. The small rooms were handsome but clearly residential, and a very tight fit for restaurant dining room purposes. That would prove to be a condition that every subsequent occupant had to wrestle with. The rooms were finished with dark, varnished wood, giving it a distinctly non-Asian look. More to come. . .

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Cafe Florida

ExtinctSquare-150x150Cuba has been on our minds lately, as we look forward to the opening of the island and its unique, distinctive cuisine. Cuban restaurants long have cooked their food in the New Orleans area. Café Florida was among the most memorable of local Cuban cafes. A quaint cafe in the neighborhood of Ochsner Hospital, it served a big menu of convincing Cuban food. A Cuban friend explained this: Ochsner historically has attracted many patients from Latin America. I do recall seeing hospital staffers speaking Spanish there. More to come. . .

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Three Restaurants Named Compagno’s.

ExtinctSquare-150x150Within the reach of my memory are three restaurants named Compagno’s. I’ve been told that there was yet a fourth. All them were Uptown. Two were on Fern Street. A family connection existed among the various Compagno’s restaurants, but that didn’t show up in the food. One Compagno’s was on the corner of State and Magazine, where Reginelli’s is now. The least known (and least good) was on the lake-downtown corner of Fern and Panola. It was across Fern from what would become the Bright Star, then Riccobono’s Panola Street Café (which it is now). I knew this Compagno’s well because I lived two blocks away. ¶ But the best of the three was the Compagno’s on the corner of Fern and St. Charles–the place that now houses Vincent’s. More to come. . .

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Seb’s, In The Jax Brewery.

ExtinctSquare-150x150three restaurateurs partnered to create Seb’s. Two of them were very well known to local diners: Chris Ansel–owner of Christian’s and a member of the Galatoire family–and Gunter Preuss, owner of the five-star Versailles and partner in Broussard’s. The third partner was Val Dansereau, the owner of the former Carrollton Theater, which he had turned into a catering facility. Seb’s name was an acronym of the owners’ wives’ initials: Sonya Ansel, Evelyn Preuss, and Bonnie Dansereau. More to come. . .

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Chateaubriand

ExtinctSquare-150x150Chateaubriand was the unluckiest major New Orleans restaurant in modern times. When it opened in mid-2001, it seemed to have everything going for it. The market seemed prime for steakhouses (especially USDA Prime steakhouses). Several major national steakhouse chains that previously had not given New Orleans the time of day were moving in with large investments. The location was perfect. The center of Mid-City! Where restaurants were opening right and left, filling their tables with hip young diners! Lots of parking! And the chef! Gerard Crozier, who had been called by more than a few avid diners the best French chef in New Orleans. Who, after twenty years of running a five-star bistro in New Orleans East and then Metairie, retired to discover that he wanted to get back into the game. And what a concept: a French steakhouse! You know, serving the steaks the way an upscale French restaurant does? With bearnaise and demi-glace and foie gras and all that. Appetizers like escargots and side dishes like pommes de terre Lyonnaise. More to come. . .

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Masson’s

Masson’s was a big, rambling restaurant that looked elegant through the 1960s and 1970s. That was when, year after year, it won the Holiday Restaurant Award, the equivalent at the time of today’s DiRoNa and James Beard awards. The certificates covered the better part of the wall separating the main dining room from the bar, and they wanted to make sure that you knew it.

I wish I still had a copy of Masson’s menu from those days. There would be no better illustration of how far we’ve come. It was corny even in the 1970s (hopelessly so in the 1980s), but nobody (not even the Massons, I believe) knew this. More to come. . .

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Daniel’s

ExtinctSquare-150x150We Orleanians have a taste for raffishness in our restaurants. So do a lot of visitors to our city, many of whom believe that an authentic New Orleans dining experience must take place in a patchwork building with a funny floor plan and mismatched tables and chairs. If the place is a little hard to find or otherwise inconvenient, so much the better. . . More to come. . .

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The Year In Dining, 2014

The re-establishment of Brennan’s on Royal Street overshadows the story of dining in New Orleans in 2014. Like the only comparable development in recent history (Katrina, and I’m not exaggerating), Brennan’s departure and return pose many questions about the states of both business and cuisine in the New Orleans restaurant industry. Twenty million dollars? “That’s Terry’s number,” Ralph Brennan tells me. He and Terry White are the main motive forces in the renaissance of Brennan’s. Ralph was a CPA before he got into his family’s restaurant business, so he looks at such figures with a critical eye. “I know what the real number is, but I don’t want to think about it,” he added. He didn’t tell me what the number was.
Whatever that means, of this there is no doubt: Brennan’s reconstruction–which went down to bedrock and DNA–is by many leagues the most expensive restaurant project ever undertaken in New Orleans. More to come. . .

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Andy Messina’s, 1961-2005

ExtinctSquare-150x150In those days, I could count my restaurant experiences on the fingers of one hand. I was a very picky eater and approached restaurants with trepidation. But if a roast beef poor boy was on the menu, my spirits rose. To me, roast beef poor boys were the ne plus ultra of dining out–an idea that I can’t say I am entirely dispossessed by. Messina’s roast beef was everything I hoped for that day. Which is saying something, because my frame of reference was the legendary Clarence and Lefty’s in the Eighth Ward. More to come. . .

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Vera Cruz, 1970s-2000s

ExtinctSquare-150x150Vera Cruz arrived at a time when Mexican dining was at a crossroads. Most of the old family places from the 1950s (El Ranchito and Castillo’s, to name two) were either gone or soon to be gone. Meanwhile, totally Americanized Mexican places–some of them national chains–moved in. Chi-Chi’s, Cu-Co’s, and Dos Gringos were typical of the time. More to come. . .

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Extinct: Charles Room, Sclafani’s In The Quarter.

ExtinctSquare-150x150Last month, the management, chef, and dining room staff of the Bombay Club moved to a new home a block away, under the new name “Richard Fiske’s Martini Bar And Restaurant.” It’s too soon to review, other than to say that it intends to keep the formula it used at the Bombay Club for over twenty years. More to come. . .

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Extinct: 12 Metairie Restaurants, Two With Football.

The restaurant at 3322 N. Turnbull in Metairie probably holds the record for housing the greatest number of restaurants that came and went over the years. It was built in 1968 as the home of Le Charcuterie, a spinoff of from the French Quarter’s popular La Boucherie. The owners learned a surprising truth quickly: just because a lot of people with above-average incomes were moving en masse to Metairie didn’t mean that those people would go out to dinner every night. In fact, most new Metairie people moved out there…

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