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. And, during the summer, they have one of the better special menus: $35 for three courses, selected from the main menu, from four or five possibilities per course.
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.
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.
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.