“Restaurant Row”-Redemption & Juicy Lucy’s

When I think of New Orleans, one of the first things I think of is the amazing food we have here. There are, without a doubt, hundreds of restaurants to choose from when visiting New Orleans. Dr. Beriss, my classmates, and myself are particularly interested in a cluster of restaurants in mid-city that is referred to as “restaurant row”. Dr. Beriss has paired off the class in the hopes of gaining some insight as to why this cluster of restaurants is here and what the future holds for them. Stephanie (my partner) and I are responsible for Juicy Lucy’s and Redemption.

For this blog entry, I would like to give an overview of each restaurant so that my next blog entry can focus on my interviews with the owners, managers, and staff of each.

Located at 133 North Carrolton Ave, you will find a 120 year old building with a lot of history. This former home of Fiesta Latina and Lil’ Ray’s Diner, is now the home of Juicy Lucy’s. This very casual, but comfortable, atmosphere become immediately noticeable as you enter the building. There is no hostess and the uniform of the waitstaff seems to be jeans paired with a shirt displaying the Juicy Lucy’s logo.

At the bar, one will find several slot machines, which is why you must be 18+ to enter the restaurant. Most items on the menu arrive in a black basket topped with a blue and white  checkered paper. I couldn’t help but to notice the sounds of a local radio station playing throughout the restaurant, only because one of my favorite songs were on.

Just a few minutes away at 3835 Iberville St., you will find a building that was built in 1914. If you look closely, you will notice that the building very much resembles that of a church. This is because it was, in fact, the former home of Grace Lutheran Church. Later, the church was transformed into a fine dining restaurant called Christians.

(www.restaurant.com)

Then, in February 2011, Christian’s was purchased by Tommy and Maria Delaune and renamed Redemption. 

(Picture from Redemption’s Facebook Page)

One would immediately notice how formal the restaurant is, from the waitstaff to the table setup. The beautiful, and original, stained glass windows allow the perfect amount of sunlight to enter as you enjoy your meal. The sound of light jazz fills the air, much like a Sunday brunch. I think it is very important to note that the mission statement for this restaurant does an excellent job at explaining the unique history of its’ existence.

Until next time, Laissez les Bon Temps Roulez!

-Sam

Continuing The Restaurant Row Recovery Project

Contributed by: Deyna Cimino

In 2010 David Beriss began the Restaurant Row Recovery Project with a small group of grad students in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Orleans. Two years later Beriss is continuing the research on just what the cluster of restaurants means to Mid City, New Orleans. Our Applied Anthropology class, consisting of mostly undergraduates and a few zealous grads, are once again tackling the question: “What makes it work?”  Our class has been paired into groups of two. Each team responsible for two-three restaurants from Little Tokyo to Juan’s Flying Burrito and from Mandina‘s to Café Minh successfully covering the Canal/Carrollton dining possibilities (in case you’re like me and need a visual here’s a map-courtesy The Times-Picayune and Erin Kinchen).

It is our aim to use whatever weapons necessary, whether they are guidebooks, written archives, or our fellow 2010 researchers to do our best in finding out why the restaurant row exists and what keeps it ticking. I, Deyna Cimino, have been paired with Jenny Frerirchs. Our assignment is to research Venezia’s (located at 134 N. Carrollton Avenue) and Lemonade Parade (4709 S.Carrollton Avenue).

Photo borrowed from InthekNOwla.com

Lemonade Parade is a brightly colored shack-styled one-stop-shop for drinks and desserts. Their menu has a bunch of refreshing items to offer so check them out. Venezia’s is an authentic red gravy savory Italian adventure. Looking forward our fieldwork so that I can try their Eggplant Vatican.

Photo borrowed from: hickswrites.blogspot.com

While researching the area for our initial post, I’ve enjoyed the pictures and history that we’re unearthing. My parents have deep connections with the area—as children, young adults, and also during their professional careers. Talking with them about their take on the block, what it used to be and what it is now, has definitely reinforced that New Orleans’ food culture is ever-changing yet manages to take its own comforting shape in past, present, and hopefully future generations. Lemonade Parade used to be Manuel’s Hot Tamales (est. 1933). It was a small roll-down stand where both my parents remember anticipating a hot batch of Manuel’s finest.

So far in our research, we’ve looked at reviews from the Virtual Tourist where user Virtous_Tourist describes Venezia’s as “softly lit and not terribly fancy […]white table cloths share space with plain vinyl chairs, [where] decades old wall hangings set the stage.” Looking at articles about Manuel’s, the restaurant is almost always described as nostalgic, a legend, or as definitively New Orleans. Lemonade Parade feels like their famous “Rising Sun” (a tangerine, orange, banana smoothie) tastes. Their building is bright and screams summertime and sprinkler fun—even in the winter. So far, it looks like they’re living up Manuel’s reputation. GoNola describes them as “nostalgia for all ages.”  In a Restaurant Spotlight by InthekNOla.com, Mike and Lori Bettencourtt, owners, explain that they originally intended to make the shop a po-boy shack called The Porch. With smoothies this good, I feel like they made the right choice going with Lemonade Parade.

Jenny and I will work with the rest of our classmates to see how this Restaurant Row fits with the current plans with the Laffite Greenway Project and the Mid-City Market scheduled to break ground as soon as this month and reach completion in 2014. We plan to ask the following questions:

1.    What neighborhoods contribute/are affected by the Restaurant Row?

2.    How does the Laffite Greenway Project and Mid-City Market compete/assist the established area?

3.    Why is this a Restaurant Row?

4.    How did it get to be a Restaurant Row?

5.   What is the future for the area?

6.   How are the restaurants related with the community/ with activists inside the community?

Jenny and I are working up interview questions and are planning to visit both places this week. Hopefully we’ll have interview results for the next blog post (depending on owners schedules). That’s all for now. Handing the torch to Troung. Good luck you guys.

Testing the Waters on the RestRow Blog

This seriously makes me feel as though I have been thrust upon a stage and told to sing a song I have never learned. This is my first blog for anything, ever, so please do not judge too harshly ladies and gentlemen of the classroom.

Hello all, I am Haley and I have teamed up with Claire to focus our part of the Restaurant Row project on Juan’s Flying Burrito, http://www.juansflyingburrito.com/ and Wit’s Inn, http://witsinn.com/. Juan’s is located @ 4724 S. Carrollton Ave. and Wit’s can be found @ 141 N. Carrollton Ave. on each side of Canal St.

In doing research for this first post, I have found lots of interesting information on the immediate Canal and Carrollton area. However, specific information on my buildings has been proving to be more difficult and time consuming. I had hoped to have all kinds of neat and interesting facts to share with you all. Claire and I have already gotten to do our first visit to Juan’s. It was quite fun and we got to speak with some of the staff, take photos, enjoy some of their wonderful quesadillas (I had the Luau, sub chicken for shrimp – to.die.for.!), and enjoy some of their in house margaritas. Juan’s has placed in the top 3 for multiple categories in Gambit Weekly’s Best of Lists for multiple years, Wit’s has even found its way into the press as well.

Pre-Katrina I was a resident of the area. I lived in a duplex at the corner of S. Bernadotte and Cleveland streets. Thinking back on it now, I wish I had been aware of what was to come. Although I did patron several of our assigned locales, I wish I had spent more time at the locations that did not return once the city began to revive its self.  I did find a good pre-Katrina website,  http://www.gnocdc.org/orleans/4/45/snapshot.html. Perhaps some of you have already seen it. I also found a city tour guide from around 1935! http://www.archive.org/stream/neworleanscity00writmiss/neworleanscity00writmiss_djvu.txt Some of the descriptions of city night life may be giggle inducing. I included it because it does mention a few Mid-City establishments plus it is an interesting read. Good luck to all and I look forward to seeing what all of our research produces! Till next time guys.

Minh-City Cafe

One of my research adventures took place at Cafe Minh. It is located in what used to be Michael’s Mid-City Grill before the storm. When the latter restaurant did not re-open Post-Katrina, Chef Minh Bui decided that it would be a fitting abode for his Cafe Minh.

With his roots in Vietnam, Chef Minh got his New Orleans start cooking at places such as Emeril’s and Commander’s Palace. After mastering his skills, he developed a Vietnamese-French fusion cuisine that contains hints of local Creole cooking. His first restaurant Lemongrass was opened next to Angelo Brocato’s on Carrollton Avenue. A second location of Lemongrass located in the International House hotel was opened, and a third restaurant called 56 Degrees was also opened in the Whitney Hotel. Before Katrina, both the Carrollton location and 56 Degrees closed. After the storm, Chef Minh decided he wanted to return to Mid-City and opened Cafe Minh at its current location.

Cafe Minh fits perfectly in the Restaurant Row even though it is not physically in line with the others. About a block into Canal Street, it is still in close walking distance of the area, however. One thing we can recognize about the Restaurant Row is that even though there may be similar types of food (for instance, Wit’s Inn, Venezia, Theo’s, Papa John’s and Domino’s all have pizza), there is still enough variety throughout the restaurants that they are all able to survive. Among the Asian restaurants, you may find that Little Tokyo, Doson’s Noodle House, Yummy Yummy, and even Cafe Minh have similar items on the menu. Yet because of the creativity of the chefs, the different environments of the restaurants themselves, and the specific cravings of those searching out food, co-existing is not a problem for these places.

Another similarity I have noticed between the Asian restaurants is that the owners or head chefs all learned to cook in their birth countries. This seems to come full circle as they originally learn to cook in the authentic way of their birthplace, then they end up drifting into another type of cuisine (whether it be another Asian cuisine or something completely different), and in the end, they come back to their original style of cooking, adding a bit of their own flair. That little bit of flair and originality is what sets each of these restaurants apart from the other.

During my visit, I discovered that the food at Cafe Minh is excellent, however, when one typically thinks of the item he or she is ordering, one might not get exactly what they are expecting. For instance, when I ordered the fried eggplant, I did not expect it to be topped with mozzarella, on top of tomatoes, on top of a bed of lettuce, on top of toast. It was amazing nonetheless. This is an example of Chef Minh’s genius at work.

For dessert I had the white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, and it was divine. Colorful and divine.

Also, while visiting Cafe Minh, I immediately noticed all of the artwork on the walls. With the high ceilings and ambient lighting, I almost felt that I was in an art gallery for a moment. The bartender even told me that the artwork is rotated by several local artists throughout the year.

When wandering Mid-City and you find yourself wanting something different than the norm, try stopping by Cafe Minh. If anything, the experience is one you’re unlikely to find anywhere else on Restaurant Row.

Carrollton Avenue’s Transformation

This is a photo of Carrollton's 3600 block circa 1950. Although it was taken several blocks from our research area, it is important to note that the same fate has befallen this strip of businesses as has happened on "the row" - they have since been replaced by 5 Happiness Restaurant.

When I explained to Arthur that part of my project was to map out a history of the neighborhood, he launched into a vividly detailed description of what “the row” looked like when the Brocato family moved there in 1979. The only other food establishments on the street at the time were Venezia (still standing) and Hazel’s Po-Boy’s, an establishment since closed. The Red Door Bar was also around back then, and according to Arthur its clientele isn’t as rough and tumble as it was in the old days. Everything changes with time. The rest of the street was filled with businesses that were functional for the neighborhood. On one side, (Brocato’s side) stood Fashion Forward, David’s Beauty Salon, Johnson’s Hardware, and a used car dealership where Kjean’s now stands. Across the street was Ace’s Pool hall (now Wit’s Inn), a washing machine repair center (now Doson’s), and a sign painting business. A bit further down the road towards City Park was Chaubaud’s Marine, Music City, and a tire repair shop. There was also a small market nearby where neighborhood residents could grocery shop. The building where Brocato’s itself now resides was three different bakeries beginning in the 1920’s.

It seems as though this strip of Carrollton was a sort of one-stop-shop for daily errands. When I asked Arthur what he thought of the neighborhood now in comparison to what it was back then, he told me that things have definitely changed, but he isn’t sure whether or not they’ve changed for the better. He explained that as far as a restaurant boom is concerned, he felt that “the row” had reached it’s peak right before Katrina. Restaurants in general on Carrollton Avenue have come back strong post-K, but Arthur isn’t sure that that’s best for everybody’s business. On one hand, he reasons, variety can bring people to the neighborhood more regularly to eat, but on the other, there might reach a point where there are too many establishments vying for a set group of clientele. Judging by the line out the door on a summer Friday night, I don’t think that Brocato’s has much to worry about. Nevertheless, it is fun to reminisce about spending a productive afternoon in the 70‘s on Carrollton where one could park the car and walk to get one’s hair cut, pick out a new outfit, break for a classic Italian lunch and possibly wind down by playing some pool.

Arthur’s mixed feelings about the numerous food establishments got me wondering what other residents of New Orleans and specifically Mid City think about the changes to the area. If you can recall what Carrollton was like prior to its present incarnation, please feel free to chime in and comment! I’d love to hear what pieces of history our residents have to offer.

This is the intersection of Carrollton and Esplanade circa 1950. Bayou St. John is to the viewer's left and City Park is to the right.

Photos: Upper- courtesy of  www.old-new-orleans.com Lower: courtesy of www.neworleanscitypark.com

Shadows

All that is left of Popeyes at Canal and Carrollton.

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.

The church that was Christian's.

The church that was Christian's.

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.

Empty strip mall, 5 years after the floods.

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.