According to Tom Fitzmorris, the New Orleans area had 809 restaurants in operation at the end August of 2005. Many of the greats had already been lost, including such losses as Maylie’s and LeRuth’s. But many other classics, the loss of which the Crescent City could have never foreseen, loomed very near on the horizon. Hurricane Katrina eviscerated New Orleans of many more eateries, including some, like Bruning’s and Café Sbisa that had survived until that point since the nineteenth century. Other Katrina victims include Christian’s (named as such because it was in an old church), Mandich, and the original Ruth’s Chris on Broad.
Today, Mr. Fitzmorris places the number of restaurants “open around town” at 1349, a much greater number the days when we were just arising from the shock of Katrina, and even when compared to the good times prior to the storm. Nevertheless, the past few weeks have brought about the closing of a good number of restaurants with long histories in these parts:
Dick and Jenny’s – at 30 years old, this is probably the youngest restaurant on the list. It is also likely to retain its name and décor. Nevertheless, the restaurant was sold to the folks that own Martinque and Christiano’s in Thibodeaux, and the menu here is expected to become sort of a New Orleans version of Christiano’s.
Bozo’s – I wasn’t a huge fan of this 70+ year old dank establishment that slung fried seafood as its primary offering. That aside, some people loved it, and it filled a necessary spot in our city’s repertoire. It was just announced that Ed McIntyre (of Mr. Ed’s, Austin’s, and Cheese Burger Eddie’s fame) is going to open up a fried seafood restaurant in the former Bozo’s location.
Charlie’s Seafood – you know, on Jefferson Highway. Yeah, in River Ridge. Or is that Harahan? It had been there since the 50’s and was almost a victim of Katrina, had Frank Brigtsen not saved it (and actually made it better than it ever was). Frank was pushed out of operating in the iconic building, with its glass tiles and disagreeing signs, by a landlord that is purportedly trying to woo CVS to build at that location.
The Camellia Grill – This one is still open, but under what name, no one is quite sure. That which has yet to change remains threatened, though. The owner may be forced to change the iconic façade of the building, and remove unique items from the menu. Frankly, the owner of the brand is being a real baby about the whole thing, as he was collecting hundreds of thousands in Royalties and ended a successful business venture for the operator/building owner and for himself over a missed payment of less than $200.
Brennan’s – We’ve all heard this story. Leggo/4, the mortgage holder acquired the building after the restaurant couldn’t pay the note; the owners are suing each other; the employees didn’t even get their last paychecks. Nevertheless, they insist that they will reopen. HAHAHAHAHA. Good riddance.
This makes me wonder if the restaurant culture in the city is undergoing some odd transformation right now. If it is I’m not sure how long it will be until we realize all of the fallout, but I’m not certain I’ll appreciate all of the effects.