Extinct Restaurants

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Gentilly: 2119 Law Street

Eddie’s was one of those restaurants where the anecdotes about it were as good as the cooking. And the cooking was fantastic.

The best tale was told by Bill Cosby on The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson years. One of his friends here offered to take him to what he said was the best soul food restaurant in New Orleans. Cosby related in his trademark exaggerated way the ordeal of getting to Eddie’s. How to even get to Law Street you had to go underneath an overpass next to the railroad tracks and the drainage canal. Then how you had to navigate among potholes that could swallow an automobile and leave nothing showing. When Cosby’s party got to the restaurant’s address, they weren’t sure whether this were really the place, since there was no sign on the building.

Cosby stopped exaggerating when he started in on how good the fried chicken, gumbo, and fried seafood were. Eddie’s food really was worth all this trouble, and then some.

Eddie Baquet cooked for many years around town before he opened his own place in Gentilly. He didn’t seem to be all that interested in spreading his fame, or even pulling in business from anyone other than the neighborhood. That was true of most neighborhood cafes of the time, but especially of those in the primarily African-American areas. Even Richard Collin–who blew the cover off most of the great soul food restaurants around town and introduced them to the wider market–didn’t find Eddie’s until seven years into writing his column.

Eddie was into fine details of cooking. On my radio show in 1990, he went on for about a half hour on his technique of making “Creole gumbo,” the variation most common in soul-food restaurants but not often tasted elsewhere. He made it with both seafood and sausage, both okra and file. The amazing thing about his dissertation on Creole gumbo was that he never let on exactly what went into the pot. Secret recipe, he said.

Eddie’s fried chicken and seafood were everything one could want from those classic dishes: hot, crisp, greaseless, amply served. The robust red beans and rice came with the potent hot sausage from Vaucresson’s. Poor boy sandwiches were the equals of anybody’s. If you were lucky, you could finish up with bread pudding.

The premises–a converted frame house–were much nicer inside than the rest of Law Street. It was as much a bar as a restaurant, with two large dining rooms, almost always full–especially on the days when the fried chicken buffet went up.

After Eddie Baquet died in the early 1990s, his son Wayne took over Eddie’s and kept it going for a few more years. He also opened a second, much nicer, easier-to-find restaurant called Zachary’s in the Carrollton section. Wayne shut both Eddie’s and Zachary’s down in the late 1990s, but not long after he brought his father’s recipes back to life at two restaurants called Li’l Dizzy’s. Both are good soul food vendors, but neither has the magic that was Eddie’s, a contender for Best Creole Neighborhood Restaurant Of All Time.

This is one of 122 reviews of fondly-remembered but extinct restaurants from Lost Restaurants Of New Orleans, just published by Pelican. It’s available in bookstores all around town, and full of photos, graphics, menus, and memorabilia.

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  1. I have been asked, “what chefs inspire you?” I never had any doubts about who that would be.

    You may not remember the little young Afro-hair guy, (OT), Debra Snyder (Demesme) asked you to employed at UNO cafeteria. You brought me on at Eddie’s, I believe it was the end of the 80s.

    I said all that, to let you know Sir, You are the “Chef” that inspired me. Thank you so very much.

    Sincere respect,
    Chef Otis (or OT)

  2. Lisa T on May 18, 2017

    Digging through drawers looking for stuff pertaining to my Dad, who recently passed, I found this old notebook with journal entries from 1985 and our travels cross country in our volkswagen camper we jokingly called “our two story home with guest accommodation”
    here’s an excerpt written by my 20 something year old self penned by hand in pencil no less! No laptops, tablets, cell phones or internet in those days.
    “dateline, Sunny Oakland California 1985
    The adventures of Twoman and the mad Englishman, a continuing series.
    Starting in New York mid February (1984 or 85?) we traveled cross or rather zigzag country. In the course of 4 months we put over 12,000 miles and 50 quarts of oil inot our “home away from home” a 1972 VW Camper van. Having gone through at least 30 of the 50 states, I won’t mention all by name. but folks, it constitutes a lot of memories! (note from Lisa – I can’t remember so much these days so glad I wrote anything down)
    Basically we went down the east coast to Florida spending time in Tampa, Miami, Orland and of course Key West. It’s hard to classify Kew West. I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere like it before. It has many classic features of a beach town, some Caribbean flavor, a lot of beautiful old gingerbread houses that have been restored and the oddest collection of people !! Every night at the dockside, Mallory Square, there is a street fair celebrating sunset. You never quite know who or what you will find there. Among others, we experienced where fireeaters, jugglers, a tightrope walker, a male nun in a full white habit with a rather bushy beard selling healing crystals, Uncle Sam selling $22 bills – 5 for a dollar, a girl wearing a coconut bikini top (one shell on each boob) selling, you guessed it, coconuts, a rastafarian who did weird contortions with his body and charge $5 to take his picture (it didn’t cost to look), an old black due known as the conch man, selling conch cerviche – a spicy combo of conch with salsa like veggie combo which he claimed would improve my sex life after I ate it! The list goes on!
    After the Keys we meet my Grandmother and eventually trekked off to Disney and Epcot together. They were both disappointing in comparison – manufactured and synthetic entertainment. Personally we always like the theater of reality and street life the best (note from current Lisa – that hasn’t changed much in 30 some odd years).
    New Orleans was the next major destination. It was there we had the most memorable food of the whole trip. Mark this place in your books. If you ever go to New Orleans, the restaurant is Eddies, 2119 Law Street, phone 504-945-2207. It’s a little rest. owned by the talented and personable Chef Eddie Banquet! who not only cooks up stuff that dreams are made of and loves food but shares that with his patrons by coming around and chatting to them. The first time we spent over a half hour talking about Creole cuisine and good in general, especially once he found out we were chefs. The next time we came, he sent over a “sample” actually a HUGE portion of something we had been talking about the last time. Oh yes, not only great food but cheap even putting the quality aside, which is hard to do, the prices were amazing. Warning, this restaurant is in the midst of “hood” – it almost put us off going inside when we found it, but we saw several cops come in to pick up orders as well as locals. In reality – friendly people you couldn’t find anywhere else!
    Interesting report. Unfortunately, Eddie’s on Law Street is long gone. However, a spinoff is still around: Li’l Dizzy’s on 1500 Esplanade. It’s owned by Eddie’s son.Pretty good.