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Review: French Quarter Café

Review: French Quarter Café
Charles and Christina Barthels in their new restaurant on Park Central East.

There’s been a lot of misfortune coming out of southern Louisiana the last few years, no? Hurricanes. Crime. The Saints. It’s a shame, because in our books the biggest news to come out of the Big Easy in years is Christina Barthels, co-owner and menu mastermind at downtown’s new French Quarter Café.

The Story

Christina formerly worked at Branson’s Chateau on the Lake and Big Cedar Lodge before deciding to open her own restaurant with husband Charles Barthels, and sons Corey Barthels, 23, Stephen Sullivan, 20, and Charles Lawson, 28.

“I’ve been making bengiets since I was 10 years old,” she explains. “I’ve tried some Cajun [restaurants] here, and noticed a lot of things wrong. I wanted to be able to cook it the way it should be.” That means N’awlins staples like King Cake and the bengiets, which one person we trust says taste almost identical to those at New Orleans’s famous Café Du Monde. Christina says many of the ingredients for her dishes are so authentic, local supplier Sysco doesn’t offer them; she has to have family from Gulfport and Materie ship them to Missouri.

French Quarter Café

320 Park Central East
Prices (1-4 $): $$
Service (1-4 *): ***1/2
Food (1-4 *): ****

The Place

You would never know French Quarter used to be Geekerz. Gold-painted walls and greenery, combined with tasteful wall decorations and Fleur-de-lis shapes (including the table napkins, which are folded that way) provide a festive effect without falling into cheesy Mardi Gras territory. The silverware and China are real, the black tablecloths clean. Best of all: No TV.

Christina and Charles hope, by spring, to have French Quarter open until 3 a.m on Thursday–Saturday (they’re also working on a beer-and-wine liquor license). They’re already open for breakfast; currently 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday–Saturday, with plans to soon have the same hours on Sunday. French Quarter offers carry-out and delivers to downtown locations.

The Food

Before meeting the Barthels, I enjoyed a lunch with downtown buddy Jeff Jenkins. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. Jeff and I ordered a sampler basket as an appetizer, which came with fried oysters, hush puppies, fried alligator tail and fried shrimp. Everything was amazing. Though at $6.99 I didn’t feel there was a ton of food, it was still pretty reasonable.

Playing it safe, I ordered the shrimp po’ boy as my entrée. Local po’ boy offerings are, in all, pretty good. French Quarter’s is fantastic, loaded with fried shrimp, fresh tomato and lettuce, and a generous amount of spicy brown mustard. Best of all, it was huge—worth every penny of $5.99 and then some. The fries were equally good.

Jeff said his gumbo ($5.79) was the best he’s had in town. The chef didn’t skimp on the Andouille sausage, shrimp and chicken. Two crisp slices of garlic bread came on the side.

Jeff and I finished with an order of bengiets—three puffy, flaky, delicious, powdered sugar-covered pastries for only $1.79. Not each... total. We made a complete mess of the tablecloth.

I couldn’t help but notice what was being ordered at nearby tables. One older fellow ordered what could only be the $11.99 muffaletta ($6.99 half). To say it was enormous would be an understatement. Two thick slices of bread the size of a medium pizza crust, with meat, olive spread and cheese in between.

In true frugal Lemmon fashion, it was the price that amazed me: An appetizer, two teas, two entrees and a dessert, plus a 20 percent tip, for $30 on the button. For the quality and authenticity of the food, French Quarter is worth taking your shirt off for, but you’re not gonna lost it.

The Verdict

French Quarter is one of those rare restaurants that has a distinct mission and pulls it off with flying colors. We give it our highest recommendation.

Old to new | New to old
Jan 24, 2009 10:58 pm
 Posted by  WINGNOTZ

1st visits are not always an indicator of things to come, it does take time for the new to wear off and the old to shine through.

WINGNOTZ accompanied by two guests made patronage to the fine establishment "French Quarter" off the square.

Appetizer, the sampler basket was tasty but down on mass quantity for the price. Dipping sauce had a kick, perfect.

Plate 1 red beans and rice, rice slightly undercooked perfect ratio of beans to rice and after adding some hot sauce was home. A nice hot wing on the top would be a winner.

Plate 2 shrimp catfish hushpuppies and fries, catfish overcooked and the fish taste was lost somewhere in the making. Good spice on the fries.

Plate 3 Jambalaya, dry and over spiced, mixed some with the beans and was much better. The spice took control over powering the shrimp and sausage.

Ending, bengiets with powdered sugar were a treat, the dough was over worked but still tasty. I have dined on Cafe Du Monte bengiets and except for some heaviness there are tasty similarities.

Atmosphere, staff was awesome and friendly very good people. Outside temperature 30 deg, inside temperature 65 deg but felt colder. When the door opened we got a cold blast. WINGNOTZ's guest's wore their coats. The cajun crowd stayed home this night at one point we were the only customers dining. Good decor, good music and very comfortable. Not sure the fine dinning/cajun won me over.

The WINGNOTZ says "French Quarter" for now gets 5 WINGS out of 10.

Sep 19, 2009 08:18 pm
 Posted by  cherib

I have been to the Big Easy thousands of times and the French Quarter Cafe's fare met my expectations for a yummy cajun meal. Val was our server and she met our every need. The bowl of gumbo was chock full of okra, meats and wonderful spices, unless you have a giant appetite, you better order a cup if you want to try other goodies on the menu. The muffaletta was huge, a whole one is more than two hungry men could eat. It was a perfect blend of olive salad, cheese, meats and a wonderful bread. I ordered a half and took half of it home as I had to have some iced coffee and bengiets, which was the real reason we came in. The bengiets and coffee rivaled the Cafe du Monde--minus the flies and street performers at Cafe du Monde!

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