Courtyards for dining are not nearly as common in the French Quarter as most people believe. Café Amelie's large, well-planted space is not only among the most attractive, but casual and affordable enough that it gets a lot of walk-in business from strollers on Royal Street. During spring and fall it is especially busy, and builds long waiting lists during the festival season in April and May.
Cafe Amelie had the mixed luck to open in 2005. The months before Katrina were successful enough for the restaurant to reopen not long after the storm and to receive a great welcome from locals. It occupies what is known to architecture buffs as the Princess of Monaco Courtyard--named for a New Orleans girl who grew up here, moved to Europe, and found her actual price in the 1800s. The carriage house portion of the restaurant dates to the prosperous 1830s. Chef Jerry Mixon--who worked with Paul Prudhomme and Kevin Vizard, among other chefs--has run the restaurant with manager Danny Akers since the beginning.
The courtyard is the focus, shady and breezy, with lush plantings all about. Broad umbrellas defeat falling leaves and even light drizzle. Summer days find the courtyard still full, with customers dressed very lightly. Heaters during the winter keep the space usable until it gets really cold. The carriagehouse dining rooms are decorated in an antique style that seems more Southern than Creole, but that works. The rooms are small, with low ceilings, which may strike some as claustrophobic, bit windows onto the courtyard help.
Reservations are a must to avoid waiting, but during the springtime festivals they go to more or less a first-com-first-served system.