French Quarter: 400 Chartres
The Tally-Ho was one of the quirkiest restaurants in the French Quarter. Which is saying something. But that’s what people liked about The Tally-Ho and its owners, Bert and Tillie.
Most of the Tally-Ho’s customers were local. All of them said the same thing about the place: that it served the best breakfast in town. That was not really true. But the Tally-Ho did indeed serve an excellent breakfast. And not a bad lunch, either.
The place was was the most ordinary of diners. Most of the service was at a lunch counter. Bert, the owner and cook, stood at a flat-top grill and cranked out the bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns, and sandwiches. His wife Tillie was the waitress. She’d get to you when she could. So would Bert. This was not a restaurant to come to when you were in a hurry.
In fact, it wasn’t really the best restaurant to visit if it were essential that you eat there. They had a way of closing early, or not opening at all, unpredictably. The cause of this was that Bert and Tillie could work themselves up into quite a row. I don’t know whether their fights were real or trumped up for dramatic effect, but they could be intense. If it were bad enough, they’d just close for the rest of the day.
Of course, this dynamic was an attraction to a lot of their customers. And there was another one: Bert’s cheese omelette.
How good could a cheese omelette get? you might well ask. Well, these were in a class by themselves. They were big and moist and fluffy and unscorched–a rare enough thing right there. What made them great was an additive Bert had on the back of the stove. A juicy blend of finely-chopped onions and bell peppers was spooned into the omelette before they were folded over. It made that omelette was so good that even as you ate it you were thinking about the next one.
I don’t know what happened to Bert and Tillie. The Tally-Ho closed for awhile, and then reopened with new owners, a new menu, and a new style. It was much more ambitious than Bert and Tillie’s Tally-Ho, with things like alligator sausage and pancakes so enormous that I can’t imagine many people ever finished one.
What did not remain was the cheese omelette. Somehow, the recipe was lost. I’ve tried to recreate it at home dozens of times, and what I get is good but not what I remember. Bert’s cheese omelette really was magical.
A major renovation of the historic building occupied by the Tally-Ho made it unlikely that it (or any other restaurant) will ever return. All we can do is keep trying to reproduce that omelette.