L’Escale

ExtinctSquare-150x150“Extravagance Unchained” read the headline on the review. L’Escale was without question the most extravagant restaurant ever opened in New Orleans. Not even R’Evolution is quite as ambitious, although the prices were similar. More to come. . .

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Extinct Restaurants: Teddy’s Grill

The year was 2006. Teddy’s was a mess, thanks to not one but three levee breaks–more than enough to send the Katrina flood waters to a ruinous level. As I write this in 2014, that whole section of town–while continually rebuilding–still shows many scars of its having been a no-man’s-land for a long time. But Teddy’s endeared itself for enough people for such a long time that I’m still often asked about its future. More to come. . .

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Tavern On The Park

It’s a brave restaurateur who opens shop in a neighborhood with few or no other restaurants. Most people, when running dining options through their minds, do so geographically. Even when you have a good idea about what kind of dinner you want, you sort through the options by neighborhood. (As proof of this, I offer a statistic: of the three lists of all local restaurants here on NOMenu.Com, the one sorted by neighborhood is by far the most popular.) The neighborhood of the Tavern on the Park had no other restaurants. Nor was it on the way to nearby restaurant-rich neighborhoods. So it didn’t pop up on would-be diners’ mental screens. More to come. . .

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The Bounty
* NOMenu.com

The Bounty

There was a spate of new restaurant construction along the west side of West End Park in the mid-1970s. The Bounty was the longest-lived of those. With partners, John Fury created and managed the Bounty in its first decade years. Fury was a longtime operator of neighborhood-style New Orleans restaurants. The menu he assembled at The Bounty included all the fried and broiled fish you could get everywhere in West End. But it went on to include a few Italian dishes of surprising goodness, excellent fried chicken, barbecue shrimp, and a full line of steaks. The Bounty was a little fancier. . . keep reading. . . .

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Berdou’s
Extinct Restaurants

Berdou’s

The most unconventional way to enter the dining room of Berdou’s would have been to jump off the Mississippi River Bridge (the old one, the only one we had then) on the West Bank downslope. There it was, a few hundred feet straight down. I don’t think anybody tried it, but it was a good description of the location for non-West Bankers. On the outside, Berdou’s looked like a neighborhood restaurant. The kind of place you’d go for a poor boy and a beer. Inside, it was a much more…

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DiPiazza’s
* NOMenu.com

DiPiazza’s

Anthony DiPiazza passed away a few months after Katrina. His last chaffing gig–and there quite a few that bore his stamp–was partnership with his friend Joe Segreto at Eleven 79. Like all of Anthony’s restaurants, that one was deliciously Italian, with more than a few surprises along the way.

A microscopic café in the French Quarter captured Anthony’s style best, though. In its first years, DiPiazza’s served the best food per unit floor space of any restaurant in New Orleans. The room (it’s now the Louisiana Bistro) had space for only 30 or so seats. During the heyday, all of them stayed occupied, as were the pair of pews on the sidewalk in front, with people waiting patiently for their turn at Anthony’s food. keep reading. . . .

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Miss Ruby’s
* NOMenu.com

Miss Ruby’s

Miss Ruby’s first premises were in an old paper warehouse. It underwent only a utilitarian renovation to turn into a restaurant. The location–St. Philip at Chartres–is now well known as the address of Irene’s Cuisine is now. The dining room was even smaller than Irene’s, and the kitchen minuscule.

The day’s offerings filled a sheet of lined paper with longhand. The house specialty was chicken–broiled one day, fried the next, chicken and dumplings the day after that. All this was home style and . . . keep reading. . . .

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Hong Kong, 1960s-2005
* NOMenu.com

Hong Kong, 1960s-2005

The Hong Kong is remembered more fondly by more people than any other extinct Chinese restaurant, and for the usual reason: atmospherically, it was unforgettable. Occupying the spot where Brisbi’s is now, its big dining room windows looked out onto the New Basin Canal, the inlet from the lake leading to the New Orleans marina. What could be nicer than a booth next to one of those windows, in a romantically dim dining room, with paper lanterns and dragons all around, and eating an exotic dinner while watching the boats sail by? keep reading. . . .

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Martin’s On Upperline
* NOMenu.com

Martin’s On Upperline

“The Galatoire’s of Uptown!” The first restaurant I ever heard called that was Martin’s. It had no connection with the illustrious French Quarter restaurant, but the encomium rang true. The kind of palate that loved Galatoire’s in those days would find a comfortable home at Martin’s. Its menu included the same range of Creole-French cookery, from shrimp remoulade and a half-dozen trout entrees to complicated chicken dishes and lamb chops, plus a scattering of veal liver, sweetbreads, and such like. All of it made for great eating. You didn’t have to be spurred along by. . . keep reading. . . .

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Norby’s
* NOMenu.com

Norby’s

The first of the two times I ate at Norby’s, this impression of Lee’s Bar returned to my mind immediately. I didn’t get an unwelcome feeling, but I didn’t get a smile, either. In those days (the 1960s), servers were nowhere near as chummy as they are now. They certainly would not have asked, “Is this your first time dining with us?” They kept their distance, and. . . keep on reading. . . .

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Fitzgerald’s
* NOMenu.com

Fitzgerald’s

“For many people Fitzgerald’s is the only restaurant in town,” Richard Collin once wrote. That was an accurate statement. Even people who thought that Fitzgerald’s wasn’t as good as it once was would always bring it up in any conversation about dining out, as if it were as essential to the local dining scene as Antoine’s. Fitzgerald’s must have been a fine place indeed at some time. Just not in my time. Read More. . .

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Red Onion
* NOMenu.com

Red Onion

Fine-dining restaurants were very slow to arrive in Metairie. In the 1960s and earlier, if you wanted to dine out in that prosperous, populous suburb, your choices were Elmwood Plantation, Sclafani’s, or the House of Lee. From there the pickings dropped to bad chain steakhouses or neighborhood cafés. If those wouldn’t do, you went to the French Quarter. Then, suddenly, the hits just kept on coming. The Red Onion was the first of those. A partnership of restaurateurs that included Frank Occhipinti (whose first restaurant was in the Quality Inn on Tulane Avenue) and Joe Segreto (he now owns Eleven 79, and has run many restaurants in his long career) built a large new building along the lines of Elmwood Plantation. Read More. . .

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La Caridad

Diners who celebrate the growing number of Caribbean eateries may be surprised to learn that this is not the first time we have enjoyed that resource. In the 1970s, many new Spanish-colonial restaurants opened here. Many of them were even on Magazine Street, where after the Caribbean taste vanished completely for a couple of decades it returned in our times. Read More. . .

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Jade East
Extinct Restaurants

Jade East

New Orleans East: 7011 Read Blvd. Algiers: 3600 MacArthur Blvd. 1976-1995 One of the five or ten best Chinese restaurants in the annals of New Orleans dining, the Jade East’s original New Orleans East location was several steps above the other 100 or so Chinese restaurants of its day. This began with its handsomeness, in a time when most Chinese dining rooms were either stark or overloaded with golden dragons, red wallpaper and similarly corny decor. Even more impressive was its kitchen. The Jade East not only had a menu…

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Vaucresson Café Creole
Extinct Restaurants

Vaucresson Café Creole

French Quarter: 624 Bourbon Street 1965-1974 In the 1960s and early 1970s, the first waves of the Baby Boom generation began exploring the French Quarter without their parents. These were also the years of the Summer of Love and an expansion of bohemianism among young adults who grew up in the suburbs. They found the French Quarter scene and its attendant funkiness a pleasing contrast to their parents’ worlds. That new customer base would grow until the French Quarter began to tilt emphatically in the direction of tourist tastes.Until then,…

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TV Dinners ;)
Matters Of Taste

TV Dinners ;)

How Have TV Dinners Changed, And Why? Simply put, they’re different in the same way television is different from what it was when TV dinners first came out. Click here for the cartoon. How To Tell A Vegan. What to tell him or her is another question. But now that you know this. . .well, come to think of it, you already knew it, or else this wouldn’t be funny. Click here for the cartoon.

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El Patio
Extinct Restaurants

El Patio

For most of the time it was open, El Patio was without question the best Mexican restaurant in the New Orleans area. There were not many cantinas around here that were up to Texan standards–let alone Mexican–in those days. But even in the much larger, more interesting Mexican category now days, El Patio would still be a standout. Its extensive, ambitious menu offered excitement in terms of variety, originality and sheer goodness.
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Richard’s, Home Of Northern Coffee.
Extinct Restaurants

Richard’s, Home Of Northern Coffee.

Gentilly Woods: 3944 Chef Menteur Hwy. 1951-1992 A restaurant doesn’t need to be good to have a devoted following. One of these days, I’m going to make a list of such places. It won’t be difficult. It will be inexplicable. The only clue I have is that all such restaurants have certain peculiarities that make them stick out in your memory. Richard’s Restaurant stood at the eastern exit of Gentilly. Not the entrance. Don’t ask for a logical explanation of what I mean by that, because I don’t have one….

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La Cuisine

Lakeview: 225 West Harrison Avenue 1965-2005 This restaurant proved that everything sounds more delicious in French. The restaurant’s name in English would be, “The Kitchen.” It’s like the difference between saucisson and hot dogs. But La Cuisine had little Frenchness beyond having a Cajun in the kitchen and dining room. Lete Boulion–Mr. Lee to most of his customers–managed La Cuisine off and on for most of its history. Mr. Lee was the oldest of the old pros, already thirty-five years on the job when he opened La Cuisine. He was…

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Ruby Red’s

I’d better start off by saying that I’m not 100 percent sure that Ruby Red’s is not open somewhere. Since the original Ruby Red’s closed, other locations have come and gone in Harvey, Belle Chasse, and (most recently, and for a very short run) in the CBD. Looking further back, we find that a Ruby Red’s operated for quite a long time in Fat City. Some even made it out of town: there was once at least one Ruby Red’s in Houston (on Westheimer.) This appreciation is entirely for the…

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2013 In Dining
Sides

2013 In Dining

During the past year, it became harder to have a thoroughly enjoyable dinner in a New Orleans restaurant. That’s not the same thing as saying our restaurants have dwindled or become terrible. Ours is still the the best native culinary culture in America. We still have hundreds of good-to-great restaurants. But on the whole they are giving us less gustatory pleasure than they did a year ago at this time. That thought that came to me often during 2013. Every time it did, I thought a long time about why…

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A Christmas Toast, 2013

erry Christmas to you! And all other foodies! This food commentator Does his Yule duties To summarize winter’s Summer’s, fall’s and last spring’s Gastronomical news And our appetites’ swings. Sixty-four openings And one surprise meltdown Don’t capture the status Of eating in our town. Chefs make much baloney And their own house-cured hams But neglect the flavors, And offer tepid yams. Ambient noise increases Tablecloths disappear Some bread? We beg the waiter. Sorry, not since last year. Creativity comes Before all other ends It’s what a chef claims now When…

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China Blossom

Gretna: 1801 Stumpf Blvd. (at Wright) Among the most regretted restaurant closings triggered by Hurricane Katrina, the China Blossom was during its twenty years a credible nominee for Best Chinese Restaurant in New Orleans. Particularly in its cooking of first-class local fish and shellfish, it was not merely good at batting out the old standards, but inventive in a way that few Chinese restaurant are these days. The China Blossom came to be after Trey Yuen closed its branch in the Jax Brewery. Then and now, Chinese food was a…

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Cafe Pontchartrain/The Silver Whistle
Extinct Restaurants

Cafe Pontchartrain/The Silver Whistle

Cafe Pontchartrain The Silver Whistle The Pontchartrain Hotel, 2031 St. Charles Avenue 1927-2005 From the smallest hamlet to the biggest city, there’s always one restaurant where the big names in the community go to have breakfast with others of their kind. For many decades in New Orleans, that place was the coffee shop of the Pontchartrain Hotel. Every morning at seven, a changing cast of highly-recognizable men (they were all men, at least on all the occasions when I saw them there) sat down with chicory coffee, the hotel’s famous…

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Saia’s On The Lake
Extinct Restaurants

Saia’s On The Lake

Saia’s On The Lake 2003-2005 Saia’s On The Lake was the reincarnation of the Beef Room, a steakhouse founded in the 1960s on Causeway Boulevard at I-10. The Beef Room was the successor to the Sirloin Room on South Claiborne well before that. (All of this is covered in an article elsewhere in the Extinct Restaurants department of NOMenu.com.) The Saia family took over the Beef Room in the 1980s and moved it across the intersection to a larger building. But it was hard to get to, and after fighting…

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Muses
Extinct Restaurants

Muses

Muses 2003 Muses was a rare exception to my habit of staying away from newly-opened restaurants. I wandered in thinking I would be dining at Rico’s, which had shown promise in the three years it was at the corner of Hammond Highway and Lake Avenue. That Bucktown address already had a history of restaurants coming and going over about twenty years. Indeed, Rico’s sign was still up. But I found a new restaurant with a style and menu quite upscale of what Rico’s had been. Muses and its chef-owner were…

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Hammond Highway @ Lake Avenue, Part 2

200 Metairie-Hammond Highway 1970s-Present This is the second of a two-part look at the restaurant on the corner of Hammond Highway and Lake Avenue. Since the 1970s, it has been the home of over a half-dozen different restaurants. In the first installment, we covered the extinct eateries C’Est La Vie, Carmine’s, and Rico’s Bucktown Café. We continue with. . . Muses 2003 Muses was a rare exception to my habit of staying away from newly-opened restaurants. I wandered in thinking I would be dining at Rico’s, which had shown promise…

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Rico’s Bucktown Café
Extinct Restaurants

Rico’s Bucktown Café

Rico’s Bucktown Café 2001-2003 After Carmine’s left, the restaurant building at the corner of Hammond Highway and Lake Avenue underwent a renovation. When it reopened in 2001, it did so with a promising future. Its new owner was one of the most familiar figures in New Orleans dining circles. George Rico was a character. For longer than anyone can remember, he was in charge of the front door at Commander’s Palace. He rose to that position after starting as a busboy–which was what he was doing at Commander’s when the…

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Carmine’s
Extinct Restaurants

Carmine’s

Carmine’s Mid 1980’s-late 1990s. The most successful restaurant ever at the corner of Hammond Highway at Lake Avenue was the creation of Joe Pacaccio, a long-time New Orleans restaurateur. He opened at a time when the restaurant community was expanding and innovating. He also had the good luck (or sense) to choose a spot that had come to be cool. Baby Boomers, in their twenties and thirties, loved the worn-out antique buildings of Bucktown’s old fishing community. They were also ready to try something new. Carmine’s was half seafood, half…

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C’Est la Vie
Extinct Restaurants

C’Est la Vie

C’Est la Vie Late 1970s-early 1980s The first restaurant I can remember at this location was C’Est La Vie. The name tells us that these were the days when you could give a French name to a straight-ahead New Orleans restaurant without implying that French food was served there. (Compare this to the wide use of “laissez le bon temps rouler!” to give a New Orleans touch to a party of crawfish and beer.) C’Est la Vie had not caught on in the times where I went there. Mostly, it…

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Hammond Highway @ Lake Avenue, Part 1

For reasons that have never been clear, certain restaurant locations have hosted an inordinately large number of eateries over the years. The restaurants open, the restaurant close. Some of the exits are due to poor performance. But just as often the food and service are interesting and good. The only explanation I have for this effect is that the locations are less good than they seem. They’re visible, convenient, and attractive. But some little thing makes people stay away in droves long enough that the restaurant doesn’t make it. This…

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Ro Jé French Restaurant
Extinct Restaurants

Ro Jé French Restaurant

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. Made sense, given the…

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Sophia’s Rotisserie
Extinct Restaurants

Sophia’s Rotisserie

Sophia’s Rotisserie Metairie: 1301 Veterans Blvd. Carrollton: 8124 Nelson 1989-2000? The rotisserie is generally considered by chefs and serious eaters to be the last word in roasting chickens. Yet for a long time–until Zea made it into a major specialty–it was difficult to find a rotisserie restaurant anywhere in the New Orleans area. The Brennan’s tried at the Palace Café but couldn’t make a go of it at first. (They tried again with better luck in the 2000s.) Even the chains failed at rotisserie (anybody remember Kenny Rogers’ Roasters?) None…

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Weaver’s
Extinct Restaurants

Weaver’s

Weaver’s Lakeview: 800 Navarre Ave 1945-2005 Weaver’s was a quaint poor boy shop that reminded me of the ice cream and sweet shops that used to be common in every neighborhood around town. The walls were covered with New Orleans memorabilia, and the tables and chairs would look more at home at Angelo Brocato’s than in a poor boy shop. Nothing about Weaver’s suggested modern marketing. They made their poor boys one at a time from good ingredients and well-tuned recipes. The roast beef had the classic flavor that any…

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Bacchi
Extinct Restaurants

Bacchi

Bacchi Lakeview: 1900 Harrison Ave. 1992-1994 Harrison Avenue between Canal Boulevard and City Park has always been the commercial (and, more or less, the geographical) center of the Lakeview neighborhood. The permanent paved parking lots in the neutral ground attest to a lot of business going on. Although a fair number of restaurants has always existed in that stretch, things started getting really delicious in the early 1990s. New, original bistros in Lakeview were good enough to attract people from other parts of town. That momentum was growing nicely in…

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