Dick & Jenny’s
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
It’s not true that New Orleans diners hate beautiful restaurants with atmosphere. But it’s easy to come to that conclusion, given the number of ramshackle dining rooms that attract large, loyal clienteles. The premises are interesting in decor, but are spartan and less than comfortable. For most of its history, you couldn’t get a reservation for fewer than five people. Waiting out back with a glass of wine was inevitable. And, somehow, chic.
But time goes on. Under the new ownership, reservations are easy to get and the menu is a little more expensive. The place looks the same.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
Although it’s not the jammed house it once was, Dick and Jenny’s in its third management era continues to serve very good, unpretentious food, occasionally with a hint of the extraordinary, sold at higher prices than in its glory days. This is the formula for keeping a steady flow of diners, as is the honest New Orleans-style well-worn look.
While most of the hip restaurants around town do most of their work on the ingredients front, Dick and Jenny’s has always put most of the emphasis on brilliant Creole cooking. Few of the raw materials have intrinsic superstar status, but what’s done with them in the kitchen creates lusty delicious. The imagination of the kitchen embraces enough exotic ideas that the eating is always exciting.
Dick is Richard Benz, whose tour of duty before he opened this place with his wife Jenny included Gautreau’s and the Upperline. Benz had his eye on a low-down, ramshackle bar on Tchoupitoulas Street. When it closed, he swooped in and bought it, opening for business in 1998. The couple remained there until Katrina, then left for Buffalo. Former managers bought the place and ran it well for some nine years, replaced by Kelly Barker and Christiano Raffignone, the owners of Christiano’s in Houma and, until 2015, Martinique in New Orleans.
The former Creole cottage dates back to 1895. Its main dining room includes the big old bar, a high ceiling, and walls covered with plates decorated by customers and friends of the restaurant. The back rooms feel like little more than walled-in carports, but through the overall funkiness of the place somehow manage to feel thoroughly comfortable. The service staff is happy and always on the run.
FULL ONLINE MENU
Corn-fried oysters, remoulade
Heads-on shrimp & grits, goat cheese, smoked tomato-horseradish brown butter
Mussels a la “NOLA BBQ” (Abita amber beer, rosemary, garlic butter, hot sauce)
Buffalo frog legs, celery-apple slaw, hot-sauce beurre blanc, blue cheese
Roasted beets salad, pecans, Brussels sprouts, feta,
Strawberry-fennel salad, lolla rosa and Bibb lettuces
Pan-seared Gulf fish, corn macque-choux, lump crabmeat, basil cream
Sauteed black drumfish, crawfish risotto, asparagus
Bouillabaisse (tomatoes, crab, shrimp, Gulf fish, mussels, steamed rice, saffron-fennel broth)
House-smoked duck breast, butterbean succotash, thyme honey
Carpetbagger filet mignon, brie fondue, fried oysters, sauce bordelaise
Crème brulee du jour
Port poached pear, honey mascarpone, candied almonds
Lemon icebox pie
Fresh fruit crisp
FOR BEST RESULTS
To avoid waiting for a table, reserve (they let you do this now), and forget about the place during major festivals. The front room is much more appealing than the back.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
The rear rooms are a shade too casual for me. The adventuresome quality of the menu during the second ownership has largely been lost, and missed by regulars. (I yearn for a venison dish I had here around 2008.)
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
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +3
- Open Sunday dinner
- Open Monday dinner
- Reservations accepted