Vaucresson Café Creole
Vaucresson Café Creole

French Quarter: 624 Bourbon Street

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the first waves of the Baby Boom generation began exploring the French Quarter without their parents. These were also the years of the Summer of Love and an expansion of bohemianism among young adults who grew up in the suburbs. They found the French Quarter scene and its attendant funkiness a pleasing contrast to their parents’ worlds.

That new customer base would grow until the French Quarter began to tilt emphatically in the direction of tourist tastes.Until then, however, casual restaurants catering to locals visiting (or living in) the French Quarter found their fortunes swing upward.

Vaucresson’s Café Creole was an exemplar of the genre. Owned by an African-Creole family with New Orleans roots going back generations, it served a menu of home-style Creole dishes that would not be adopted by mainstream restaurants for another decade or more. It seems hard to believe now, but in that era panneed veal and jambalaya were rarely encountered in any kind of restaurant. That combination was the signature dish at Vaucresson’s.

That was before the Cajun influence grew as strong as it is now. The jambalaya was red, not brown, with tomato and shrimp as its main flavors. The seafood-okra gumbo was light in texture but big in flavor.

The restaurant’s environment was undiluted New Orleans. Its entrance was a carriageway on Bourbon Street. It was a couple of doors from the only intersection in town where live jazz clubs–usually with their doors open, to woo passers-by–were on all four corners. The music quickened your step into the restaurant, where you could dine in a big, dark dining room with windows onto Bourbon Street, or a courtyard at the end of the carriageway.

The most pleasant meal of all here was a late breakfast. It featured not only the standards of that meal, but Creole classics like calas (fried rice cakes) and grits and grillades. In the 1970s, both those dishes were threatened with distinction, with only Vaucresson’s and its around-the-corner neighbor the Coffee Pot keeping them alive.

Finding its way into many of the Café Creole’s dishes was a big homemade hot link sausage called chaurice. Red with pepper, its flavor was so intense that a bite would make you stop and pay attention. It was served with breakfasts, in omelettes, with red beans–all over the menu.

Although Vaucresson’s Café Creole is gone for a generation and a half now, its chaurice lives on–as we are reminded at several festivals this time of year. The Vaucresson family still makes the sausage, and turns up at the Jazz Festival and the French Quarter Festival (to name two of many places) to serve it.

The Café Creole is now the dining room of Pat O’Brien’s famous bar, whose main courtyard backs up to the one where we ate chaurice and jambalaya at Vaucresson’s during a memorable era.

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  1. David on August 27, 2015

    I have a couple of old Vaucresson Café Creole Menus from 1969. My wife who was 9 years old went there with her father. She passed 2013. Her father gave the menus to her.

    • Tom Fitzmorris on August 30, 2015

      Would you be so kind as to send me scanned copies of these? I was a regular customer there in the 1970s, but lost my menus in Katrina.

      Tastefully yours,
      Tom Fitzmorris

  2. Jonathan Villet on January 18, 2016

    Hi — if you have any old photos of the cafe I’d appreciate it — I worked at “Cafe Vaucresson” in 1972 (I thought it was on Royal Street, but I must be wrong) as a dishwasher, between high school and college. Oh those cooks were so kind to me being an out of state person , since I came from California — the food they brought back to me in my steam chamber of dish-washing was so wonderful! I quizzed them on how to make gumbo and I still brown the flour as they said to do. That place had an outdoor courtyard into which I would bring clean dishes and bring back the dirty to wash… during the cold months this proved my undoing. I developed a terrible cold which caused me to quit the job. I had a farewell cognac in the bar and the barkeep was very civil to me, the dishwasher. I see it was owned my locals — funny I cannot recall, perhaps I was the only caucasian there. Didn’t seem to matter; I was glad to have the job

  3. Gary and Terry Minneman on January 2, 2017

    We were there on our honeymoon in 1977. We have a menu. Looking back at the prices makes us laugh!