Remembering An Old Favorite
Tom Fitzmorris October 04, 2019 10:57 Dining Diary
Christian's in its Early Years, When It Finds A Clientele
I have had a lot of fun in this part of the New Orleans Menu by digging through stacks of old magazines. Here is one that I doubt many people have heard of, even though they may have even dined there without knowing the backstory.
Christian's opened shop at 1593 Veterans, about half the distance between Pontchartrain Boulevard and Bonnabel, on the lake side of Vets. It was rather well hidden, but even less known was the fact that it was more of a caterer than a restaurant, and that among the owners were some members of the Galatoire's family, working both in the kitchen and the dining room. All of these people kept the Galatoire's connection a semi-secret. But a buzz had people wondering what was going on.
It was hard to cover the presence of Chef Roland Huet, who had indeed come from Galatoire's, and was one of the city's best chefs. Co-owner Christian Ansel was also pretty obvious. The word was that Ansel had broken loose completely, and that he wanted to rework the menu and turn out a collection of forward-looking menu items. This was the era of the Creole gourmet bistros, with restaurants like Mr. B's, Clancy's, Flagons and others during the late-70s, early 80s. This was exactly the kind of restaurant that Christian's was thriving upon, and so it wouldn't be long before the caterer aspect of Christian's in the 1980s would appear.
But the Christian's in Metairie had some problems. It was not very visible. Photographs I have of the entrance make it look like a small funeral parlor. Clearly, Christian's needed a new location and a more appealing dining room.
Such a thing came along. Christian found a small, old (almost 100-year-old) church, and wondered whether people would be put off by the sacred aspect of the church as a restaurant. As it tuned out, nobody found this very sacreligious, finding it more interesting instead. And Christian's got to work on the church-to-dining room.
The article from which I got a lot of the facts here was a column in New Orleans Magazine, about four months before I took over as the editor, in late 1978. I should have written about it sooner.
And there was a lot left to say about the new restaurant, which was a tremendous success from the beginning. The classic Creole-French cooking of Christian's was tremendously successful from the get-go. It paled years later, as the bistro-quality took over. The restaurant shut down after Hurricane Katrina, which put deep water around Christian's. The place came back again as the aptly-named Redemption, owned by the people that own Tommy’s Seafood, a local seafood processor. It was run by the charming family matriarch Maria Delaunes. A few years ago it changed hands again, this time into a restaurant best liked by millennial customers in a restaurant called Vessel. Mid-City: 3835 Iberville St., 504-603-2775.