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 pretty funny.
I entered into a spare but pleasant room, the walls interrupted only with a few framed French posters. I had escargots, enormously aromatic with garlic butter. A salad of whole romaine lettuce leaves with a simple but amazingly good vinaigrette. And tournedos Gerard, a filet mignon topped with a round of pate de foie gras and surrounded by a cream sauce with small shrimp. I’d never seen the like of that last dish (remember, this was thirty years ago), and couldn’t believe how good it was.
I wrote a review of it that night, and the next day gave it forth on the radio: ten out of ten rating, one of only four such in the whole city.
I went back a few days later, had another spectacular meal, and spoke to Eveline Crozier, wife of chef-owner Gerard Crozier.
I learned that they remembered not only my first visit but where I sat and what I ate (amazingly, Gerard recalled this until the day he died). The day I was there was only the second day they were open. That Gerard had been the sous chef under Willy Coln at the Royal Sonesta Hotel. That both she and Gerard were natives of Lyon. That she liked Rhone wines, and that the guy who had a little wine shop next door was a fine fellow.
At first, Crozier’s was open for lunch and dinner, and on the lunch menu they offered a hamburger, even though Gerard hated cooking them. He reached a critical mass one day while I was there for lunch. Someone in the room (not me, I assure you) ordered the burger. When the waitress brought the order into the kitchen, I heard a shout, with a French accent, “No more f—–g ham-bur-GUERRE!” And that was the end of that.
It was also the beginning of a menu that stayed with the restaurant for the rest of its history, and even a bit beyond. Gerard added a few more items, staying with French classic cookery, all prepared as well as could be imagined.
Among the best were homemade duck pate (still unequaled anywhere in these parts), coq au vin, sauteed veal with lemon and wine butter sauce, steak au poivre, fish with fennel or capers, and pommes de terre dauphinois. That last item was a side dish–the last word in potatoes au gratin–and some people, I’m sure, went to Crozier’s just for that. Gerard’s rice pilaf appeared to be just rice, but had a flavor I still am trying, in vain, to reproduce.
At lunch, Gerard’s omelettes were really the thing to get. I never had an omelette better than those were: perfectly golden yellow, without so much as a fleck of brown; moist, but fluffy at the same time. He showed me how he did it a few times, but I can’t quite get that, either.
After a few years, the Croziers were able to buy their own building, a much more comfortable space. They stayed, however, in New Orleans East. They went to a dinner-only schedule, made possible by their growing reputation around town. It was a full house almost every night, until a few developments made business decline. The cops began enforcing anti-DWI rules rigorously and publicized the names of those caught. The demographics of New Orleans East shifted away from those who are probable patrons of French restaurants. And Uptown, where most of Crozier’s customers always came from, suddenly found itself with many new chic restaurants.
So Gerard and Evelyn relocated to Metairie–in another anonymous strip mall. They were near a neighborhood where many of their regular customers lived, and the Uptowners had easy access to the place. The new restaurant was nicer than either of the two before it, and the place took off.
Through all of this, the most impressive quality of Crozier’s was its consistency. The tournedos Gerard tasted and looked exactly the same twenty-five years after that first time. So did everything else. There was a downside: the menu changed very, very little over the years. But if you had a hunger for dish you’d had there before, you would get it exactly as you remembered it.
Crozier’s remained a busy place until Gerard and Eveline sold it in 2000, saying they were going to retire. The people who bought it got all the recipes, kept most of the staff, and continued with the same menu. But it was never the same after Gerard left, and after several re-namings and re-toolings, it finally gave up the ghost in 2004. An assortment of neighborhood-style restaurants came and went. The current occupant of the old Metairie Crozier’s is Bistro Orleans.
The Croziers came out of their premature retirement to open Chateaubriand Steakhouse. Steak had always been a big deal at Crozier’s, and they amplified it. But they ran into a truly awful string of bad luck. They opened right before 9/11. As soon as that had played out, the city started putting in the streetcar tracks on North Carrollton, making the restaurant seem inaccessible for two years. When that was over, beef prices doubled. That was just starting to ease when Katrina put two feet of water into the place.
The Croziers threw up their hands and moved to Knoxville. Briefly, they operated a little French restaurant, but found that Knoxville people didn’t really get it. They shut the place down.
To stay active, Eveline opened a UPS shipping store. Gerard became a greeter at Wal-Mart. He said that he loved doing that, because me met lots of people, and they all seemed to like him enough to call him “Frenchie.” Gerard and Eveline continued running (they had both run marathons, which explained their wiry frames) and playing golf.
On September 30, 2009, Gerard died suddenly and inexplicably while watching television. He was not quite sixty-four.