Horrendous recent disasters aside, New Orleans still shines in the popular imagination as a bastion of culinary and cultural wonderfulness. Maybe it’s the any-excuse-for-a-party spirit, maybe it’s the spicy flavor of both food and people. Or maybe it’s the fact that, in the French Quarter, you can drink beer in the street while getting your palm read by a former trapeze artist from Malta. Well, here’s a little more evidence that the Big Easy still evokes romance, even after the flood: Brothers and business partners Walter and Alexander Slawski, who already run Vinegar Hill’s South African eatery The Shebeen, plan to open another place on the Corner, and they’re calling it Zydeco: Bourbon Street BBQ.
It’s not just the name, says Walter Slawski, that will recall free and easy days in the Delta. With an atmosphere that has, as he describes it, “that shabby French feel,” Zydeco will serve up a New Orleanian menu at both lunch and dinner—stuff like crayfish etouffee, cornmeal-crusted catfish, and po’boys. Slawski also promises “upscale barbecue” (pulled pork, pulled chicken, brisket) and veggie options like green gumbo and salads. Red beans and rice! Hush puppies! Lift up your shirt! (Wait—scratch that.)
Slawski concedes, without any prompting, that Zydeco’s spot on Elliewood Avenue—which has housed a succession of short-lived businesses, most recently A.J.’s—has a reputation as a “doomed space.” But, he says, “I’ve heard the same about 247 Ridge-McIntire,” where The Shebeen is bubbling along just fine, thank you. He plans to hedge his bets by running some catering, maybe offering delivery, and installing a women’s bathroom.
Yep, you read that right. “The most striking thing that I have found during late-night excursions” to the Corner, UVA grad Slawski explains, “has been the lack of bathrooms…particularly for women.” Being anonymous and genderless, Restaurantarama can neither confirm nor deny this assertion. However, we are happy to pass on the information to all you fed-up Corner-crawling females. The Slawskis will provide not only a lavatory, but an actual women’s lounge—“really just a big comfortable ‘rest stop,’” says Slawski. We can only assume the lounge will not involve earning beads through any potentially compromising activities. Lift up your shirt! (Wait—scratch that.)
The Slawskis are aiming for a late August opening.
Last week, we reported a rumor that the Hardware Store would become the latest local eatery to join über-developer Coran Capshaw’s list of restaurant holdings. This, as we’ve since been informed, was complete hooey. Well, such is the nature of the grapevine. What we’ve found out is that a) Capshaw is not buying the Hardware Store, at least not at the moment, and b) If anyone buys it, they will not do so for months to come. Says owner Stan Epstein, “Come on down for a hamburger, it’s business as usual.”
Epstein does concede that, as he delicately puts it, “there have been interested parties who have come and looked.” The Hardware Store is currently in its 30th year, making it one of the Downtown Mall’s longest-running businesses. According to Epstein, there’s been occasional interest in the property over the years, but things have especially heated up within the last year. The current “boomtown” atmosphere, as Epstein calls it, certainly stands in sharp contrast to the Mall’s rocky early days. And though Epstein speaks fondly of his and his wife Marilyn’s three-decade journey at Hardware’s helm, in the end, he succinctly concludes: “At the right price, anything is for sale.”
We still can’t confirm it, but Restaurantarama has a definite feeling that something is brewing over there. But hey: We’ve been wrong before.