Our restaurant row is haunted by the shadows of restaurants that no longer exist. Of course, there are businesses that have failed, just as businesses do anywhere. There are retirements, sales and other transformations. But here there is also before and after the floods, pre and post K. After hurricane Katrina, when the federal levees failed, the neighborhood stewed in the flood waters for weeks. There were heroic efforts by restaurateurs to save their businesses, but not everyone succeeded. Lack of housing, employees, money or even willing family led some to choose not to rebuild.
One part of our project is focused on finding out what happened. Some restaurants have been replaced — El Renconcito in the place of Pho Tau Bay, or Cafe Minh where Michael’s Mid-City Grill once stood, Little Tokyo in the space occupied by the ill-fated but delicious Chateaubriand.
Others have left empty spaces in the neighborhood. On one corner of Canal and Carrollton there now stands an overgrown lot where a Popeye’s once stood. The building next door used to be a sushi restaurant with an affordable lunchtime buffet. It now houses a furniture store.
One of the most lamented losses is Christian’s, a gourmet Creole bistro housed in a church, on the corner of Iberville and North Scott streets. One of the founders of Christian’s was Christian Ansel, a member of the same family that has run Galatoire’s in the French Quarter for a century. Chef Roland Huet made the kitchen famous. The restaurant was known for the unusual setting and for wonderful food, including sublime cold smoked soft shell crabs. Rumors abound concerning the possible return of the restaurant; but nothing seems to be happening on the site…except that it was restored and used as a church (of all things) for a while since Katrina. I would like to know the fate of Chef Michel Foucqueteau, a creative French cook who showed me a delicious way to make shrimp (not personally – I just watched him at a cooking demonstration at the Crescent City Farmer’s Market until I learned the recipe). If you know where he is, let us know. We’d love any artifacts from Christian’s as well.
And then there is this. An entire strip mall sitting empty. There used to be a Chinese restaurant here, as well as a daiquiri shop (like ’em or not, these places are popular hang outs for New Orleanians) and a smoothie stand. Now, just an entire city block of decay. A large pool of darkness in an area that otherwise sparkles with light and life. Know anything about this place?
In fact, we would welcome any comments, insights, memories or artifacts you have about any of the missing restaurants in the area. Leave a comment here or contact us through the contact tab above.