Canal Street Bistro Beginnings and Contributions

Canal Street Bistro is a small and quaint white table cloth restaurant located at 3903 Canal Street. It is surrounded by a multitude of other businesses such as Home Finance Bank, Jacob Schoen and Son’s Funeral Home,Redemption , and Mandina’s. The building has been around for a few decades, originally it was built as a residential home but it was split up and the bottom floor opened for commercial use. It has been home to many businesses mostly law offices and finance companies, but it was also home the infamous Eco Café, which is where our story begins.

According to front of house manager Seth Gray in an interview we conducted, “Eco Café had a bad reputation that we are still trying to recover from. They had terrible food and slow service.” Eco Café once served coffee, vegan, and vegetarian dishes. About three years ago Monica Ramsey took over the Eco Café. Monica has recently won the up and coming business woman of the year from NALB, and own the Canal St. Inn a block away from the restaurant, as well as a finance company in the area. She is a local and lives in the area so when she saw an opportunity to start a new business venture she pounced.  When she acquired the property the building was completely destroyed and in keeping with the one good tradition of Eco Café which is being environmentally friendly, she remodeled the building with almost 65% recycled material. In addition to that she installed heat controlled windows made out of recycled glass.

After remodeling the building Monica wanted to distance Canal Street Bistro away from the bad reputation of Eco Café. To do this they incorporated the Eco Café menu as a “cornerstone” but expanded to other diets as well. Another thing they kept true to was using local farm fresh ingredients in their menu. They are so committed to this farm fresh local concept that they change their menu to suit food availability of the seasons. They also have a tent at the local Crescent City’s Farmers Market to establish better farmer connections and to help the local farmers and fisheries.  Monica’s overall goal for establishing this restaurant was to create something new and improved for the New Orleans food tradition. She saw it as an opportunity to take it where she thinks the future of New Orleans food will be, not to recapture what it was (reference to Pre-Katrina).

Monica then added Chef Guillermo Peters to the family. Chef Guillermo is a German Mexican who is more than passionate about food. He grew up in Mexico and started cooking as child with his mother. He specializes in Mesoamerican cuisine and strives for food that is simple and tastes good.  Chef Guillermo Peters once owed an authentic Mexican restaurant in Kenner which was very successful and before that he owned a successful Salsa company for 20 years. He decided to start a career in food when he was working at an auto shop and cooked for his costumers. From there he discovered he had a unique style and wanted to expand. His food philosophy is “Respect the ingredient if it is fresh you don’t have to cover it up. No fusion it creates confusion” The chef is so particular about the quality of his food that he has no qualms about send food back to vendors if it does not pass is personal inspection and if the quality is good no price is a problem.

The final ingredient to make Canal Street Bistro Complete was Seth Gray the front of house manager. Seth had bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of New Orleans, with a focus on the relationship between food and culture, and the cultural distinctiveness of Latin America. Seth brought the final organization to Canal Street Bistro. Together all three made an excellent restaurant with food that is literally to die for and for once it’s worth its price. The restaurant strives for a more up class clientele and specializes in breakfast and lunch however they have dinners on Friday and Saturday, and this month they will be expanding their dinner hours to include Wednesday and Thursday. In the beginning business was slow going and they relied mostly on the other restaurants for business. But now as the word of mouth spreads it is picking up and they have now have their very own regulars.

On April 4, 2012 we were invited to their reception. We had a blast. They gave us free wine and tequila (a love of Chef Guillermo) as well as samples of their menu. The reception was intended to help network the restaurant to other restaurant owners in the New Orleans area. Many people showed up and all had a good time, even Poppy Tooker showed up. All in all it was a great evening made better by the fact that it was free and I got to meet some pretty interesting people. It also goes to show that Monica is not all about making money she wants to be a part of the community as well as contribute to it in any way she can.

Discovering food

Hello all, I’m Austen Dooley and this is my first ever blog post so please bear with me. During this semester we have been assigned a research project for Applied Anthropology with Dr. Beriss that deals with the cluster of restaurant in the Canal and Carrollton area of New Orleans. This project is titled the Restaurant Row Recovery Project and our main objective is to discover why this cluster of restaurants exists in this particular neighborhood and why it is so successful. In addition to answering those questions we will also look at the Restaurants progression since Katrina and their feelings towards the Laffite green way project and the new big box retail that is set to break ground as well as the new Mid City Market.  The last question which is more holistically is what the individual restaurants believe the future of this restaurant row will be.  To answer these we have split the class into groups of two and each group was assigned at least two restaurants to research. We will conduct interviews with managers and owner as well as the wait staff, and possibly some regulars if we’re lucky. We will also do some research on the history of the buildings that the present restaurants occupy and in addition do some observations in the restaurants and what I’m most excited about…eating food!


My research partner, Kathleen DeMajo and I were assigned Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza and Canal St. Bistro. I have been a resident of the New Orleans most of my life and to be honest I haven’t been to any of the restaurants in the Canal and Carrollton area with the exception of Juan’s Flying Burrito. Needless to say I was a little nervous and intimidated by the project. However once I started to visit the neighborhood and get acquainted with my assigned restaurants, I began to understand why this particular area is so special, and my fears began to dissipate as we jumped in to our research.  First Kathleen and I visited Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza.  We unintentionally went on a Tuesday afternoon which as it turns out is one of their busiest night due to their 1$ draft beer special. This turned out to be blessing and a curse for us because we able to see a lot of regulars as they came in for their weekly Tuesday visit but the staff in turn were busy and did not have much time to chat with us. We did get to have a quick interview with a server Candice who had been with the restaurant for three years. She explained to us the sincere relationship between the restaurant and the customers which is the foundation of Theo’s Neighborhood Pizza.  While we were doing our initial observation I decided to try Theo’s new Bacon and Blue Cheese Pizza (check out their menu), if you’re a fan of bacon, blue cheese, spinach, tomatoes, and garlic (which are some of my favorites) this pizza is the right one for you, however you might need a breath mint after. I was amazed by how friendly everyone was both the costumers and the staff. Numerous people smiled and nodded as they passed by sometimes an awkward wave or a slight nod. When we first arrived we observed a group of older men setting at the table eating. At first we thought nothing about it just men getting a late lunch or early dinner, however after an hour they were done with their meal and still drinking 1$ draft beer. As the dinner rush came in they greet numerous people coming in and had extended conversations about families and politics. Like I said they did this on numerous occasion, and when we asked Candice about them she told us that they frequented the restaurant many times a week and over the years had established many relationships with Theo’s other customers as well as the staff. This was the first indication to me that this restaurant cluster in the Canal and Carrollton area were more important to the community than just a typical restaurant, this cluster brings people together and that’s something special.

We are still awaiting a response from the owners of Theo’s (which at the moment is not looking promising) to ask them some of the broader questions of our research. But if they do not reply the manager said he would be happy to assist any way he can.  That all for now on the next blog I will comment on my amazing interview with Seth Gray the general manager of Canal St. Bistro and a former researcher of the Restaurant Row Recovery Project.