Ruby Slipper Cafe
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
A couple of weeks ago I went to breakfast with a high school classmate I hadn’t seen in awhile. I knew from past encounters that he had a breakfast habit with clients and associates. Indeed, this day he invited his whole office staff to join us. It reminded us of how pleasant and useful breakfast meetings can be. And how few good breakfast venues there are. When a good one opens, another good one usually closes. (In 2013, the latter was the Blue Plate Cafe.)
Erich and Jennifer Weishaupt and their Ruby Slipper Cafe seem determined to turn that trend around. After opening five years ago to large and eager crowds in Mid-City, it has opened three more Ruby Slippers, all of them downtown. The most recent premier was on January 24 just past, on Canal Street at Burgundy, in the former McCrory’s. I have a feeling we will see many more Ruby Slippers as we travel down the yellow brick road.
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
From its opening day, The Ruby Slipper showed–and not for the first time–that the demand for pleasant, clever breakfasts outstrips the supply. In a category dominated by greasy-spoon egg-and-pancake joints and ordinary hotel buffets, the Ruby Slipper seems to pretend that it’s Brennan’s reincarnated. At last we break away from the limited standard issue of American breakfast dishes. Each of the four locations restaurants has a style of its own.
You can get the breakfast basics, but it’s hard not to be lured into ordering the many concoctions involving fresh crabmeat, unusual cheeses, stone-ground grits, applewood-smoked bacon, locally-made sausage, interesting vegetables for the omelettes, excellent coffee, freshly-squeezed juices, and imaginative pastries. The menu ranges so wide that you could (and I have) construct a three-course breakfast, with an appetizer and a dessert. Although sandwiches and other lunch dishes appear around midday, the breakfast option is always open. The Marigny restaurant takes one more step in serving dinner, sometime with elaborate special menus.
Erich and Jennifer Weishaupt opened the Ruby Slipper on a corner of a back street and another backstreet. But it was behind Mandina’s, so the location was easy to explain. Shortly thereafter people were always seen standing around there, waiting for tables. In 2010 a second location in the center of the CBD appeared, followed soon after by the Marigny branch, in a grand former bank whose spaciousness demanded an expanded menu.
The Mid-City original is a well-done conversion of an old grocery store, with several small rooms jammed with tables and narrow passageways. It’s more fun than cramped, because you may know everybody there. The Magazine-at-Common space had been renovated into a diner eight years ago, and works perfectly as the Ruby Slipper. The new Canal Street restaurant goes Art Deco, and takes full advantage of the familiar old McCrory’s neon sign up the front of the building. At all locations, the staff is chummy and happy to offer intelligent advice on what may well be a very unfamiliar collection of breakfast dishes. .
Eggs Blackstone (poached, tomato, bacon, hollandaise).
Migas (scrambled, Mexican style, with chorizo).
BBQ shrimp and grits.
Crabcake with hollandaise and eggs.
Eggs cochon (with pork debris and hollandaise).
Creole eggs (boudin, Creole sauce, hollandaise, eggs poached in crab boil).
Duck debris and sweet potatoes with eggs.
Eggs or oysters Sardou.
Variations on Central American breakfasts, with black beans.
Basic breakfast combinations.
Bananas Foster lost bread.
Caesar salad or spinach salad.
Chicken salad sandwich.
Ruby Slipper club sandwich (ham, turkey, guacamole, Swiss, arugula).
FOR BEST RESULTS
On weekends, you will likely wait for a table. Grab a cup of coffee and read the newspaper (if there is one that day). It almost doesn’t matter what you eat; it’s good across the spectrum, with cause for only niggling complaints. Like. . .
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
Someday, they must learn how to make good biscuits here.
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
- Value +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
- Outdoor tables, drinks only
- Open Sunday lunch
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- No reservations