Local seafood restaurant welcomes back Mardi Gras revelers at St. Charles and Napoleon Avenue
Superior Seafood has spent the past decade offering a fun Mardi Gras experience to diners along the parade route, and they are in full swing of providing that once again. Manager of Superior Seafood John Michael Rowland is delighted to welcome back patrons for Mardi Gras parades.
“Mardi Gras is good for the heart and soul of New Orleans,” Rowland said.
Superior Seafood brought Napoleon and St. Charles Avenue back to life 11 years ago after taking over the formerly abandoned Copeland’s restaurant. They have become friends to people from all around Louisiana and the Gulf Coast area, who have made their Mardi Gras traditions inside Superior Seafood’s dining room, and balcony over-looking the route.
Rowland says Superior Seafood has gained a large footprint being a restaurant on the parade route. No matter what krewe is rolling, this corner attracts an array of parade goers who take full advantage of the amenities and accessibility the turn in the route provides. That means a stop to buy a frozen pomegranate mojito to-go, or a quick break to enjoy the view of floats turning the corner from Napoleon Avenue before they walk deeper into the route. Rowland says companies and families book the tables in the windows far in advance every year, even last year amid heightened restrictions.
“We were pivoting left, pivoting right and making changes, trying to figure out how to make everything work,” Rowland said. “People would get dressed up and they’d call and say they still want their table. It was great because at the time, we were still in the thick of COVID-19 so it was good to see that everyone still had a good attitude towards it all.”
This is a big weekend for restaurants, and Superior Seafood has its staff ready with “Mardi Gras survival packs,” said Rowland. Inside the packs, employees find a Mardi Gras t-shirt, Tylenol, five-hour energy shots and protein packed snacks to cure any oncoming exhaustion.
“We make sure to take care of them so they have enough energy to get through the week,” Rowland says.
Just like when you were a kid, running through the tunnel of team members before your big sports match, Rowland gets the same feeling from parade throws hanging in the oak trees the night before Bacchus. The crowd from Uptown the day before disperses to Mid City for the Krewe of Endymion, and his staff receives some quiet relief, and a good dinner rush. Rowland always drives down St. Charles Avenue after dinner service on Endymion Saturday to prepare himself for the restaurant’s biggest day of Carnival, Bacchus Sunday.
“The stretch between Napoleon and Louisiana has this calm before the storm,” Rowland said. “It’s almost a surreal moment of silence with this fluttering toilet paper from Krewe of Tucks and arch of ladders before the fun and festivities that ensue the next day. It’s very calming taking that drive.”
Rowland and his staff are always looking ahead, and next up on the schedule is Ash Wednesday. Most places will have a breather after Mardi Gras, but not Superior Seafood.
“Being a seafood restaurant in a Catholic town, on a non-meat-eating holiday, we’re very busy,” Rowland said. “That’s followed up by the first Friday in Lent, which is another seafood only holiday. We just keep rolling and rolling through.”
Certainty is beginning to be served to the nation slowly but surely. New Orleans is certainly soaking it all up this Mardi Gras and Rowland is enjoying seeing the city be itself again.
“It’s important for us to get back to being who we are,” said Rowland. “To show the world we have a great time in a responsible manner and throw the best party on Earth.”
Member share stories of finding love in the kitchen & maintaining peace amongst the chaos
Long before the po-boy became a menu staple, even before they were being slung for free from the Martin Brothers to ‘poor boys,’ there was the Peacemaker. Oyster sandwiches, otherwise known as an oyster loaf, were originally marketed for seafood saloons as a “peacemaker” between husband and wife. Upon returning home after a long day of suspected presumptuous behavior, the husband, often arrived with a French bread loaf stuffed with fried oysters in tow to keep the peace between the couple. She didn’t have to worry about dinner; thus, a happy wife. Dating back to 1851, New Orleans newspapers ran ads for seafood saloons, bars, and restaurants selling stuffed oyster loaves, and the original po-boy was born. Today, the modern peacemaker po-boy is typically a combination to satisfy both parties. All’s well that ends well.
At Mahony’s Po-boys and Seafood, the peacemaker is a combination of fried oysters and shrimp topped with bacon and cheddar. If you’re at Acme Oyster House, the po-boy is split in half, one side oysters, one side shrimp with the addition of Tabasco-infused mayo for a spicy kick.
In the fast-paced restaurant industry, things are always changing, but it’s in the kitchen where these hard-working chefs and owners find peace among the chaos. Let’s meet three couples who met and fell in love in their home away from home, the restaurant.
Holly & Eli
Holly and Eli Cure own Antoni’s Italian Cafe in Lafayette. The casual Italian eatery has stood for 25 years, since 1996. It was 17 years later the former owners sold their beloved café to an even more beloved couple, Holly and Eli. The two met while working at the former Blue Dog Café. “We were friends first, and you know,” Holly said as she trailed off in giggles. “The rest is history.”
She left to work at Antoni’s in 2008, and soon after Eli joined her there in the kitchen. When they were offered to buy Antoni’s in 2013, it was a dream.
“That’s the ultimate goal, to own your own place,” said Holly.
Eli works front and back of house, while Holly mas moved on to a 9 to 5 office job, but it was their time working together in the restaurant that remains the binding element of their relationship. “I think we both bring our own strengths to the table, and it sort of fits together like a puzzle piece. I couldn’t do it without him, and he couldn’t do it without me,” Holly said. “To have a constant in the swirling madness is comforting.”
You can find Holly greeting diners on the weekends, and she teaches a wine class to the service staff twice a year.
“I still remain very involved,’ ‘It’s really important for me to be visible to our guests,” said Holly. “They’ve known me forever. A lot of our guests have been coming to Antoni’s since 2008 or before, so they’ve seen the entire trajectory of what we’ve done.”
When they aren’t at Antoni’s, the couple is in their home kitchen making tacos or gumbo!
Chef Aom and Frankie
Chef Aom Srisuk and her husband Frankie Weinberg opened Pomelo together. This boutique restaurant serves Thai comfort food on Magazine Street. Their story of origin, however, is more detailed than just meeting, getting married, and starting a business together. Aom has worked in restaurants her entire life. She was 21 when she met Frankie while waitressing at her family’s restaurant in the small beach town of Cha Am. Frankie, a fresh college graduate, was teaching English in Thailand. He became more enamored with Aom with every visit to the cafe. Once his one-year teaching contract was up, he returned home to Baltimore while staying in touch with Aom.
“I spent every penny I earned to travel to Thailand to see Aom or vice versa,” said Weinberg.
Eventually, the long distance and changing time zones became too much for the couple, but they did remain in touch. Frankie nearly proposed before they parted ways, but Aom was given a great opportunity from her mother to run one of their restaurants in Bangkok. Frankie continued his work as a business professor at Loyola University New Orleans.
“I said to myself ‘I can’t ask her to step away from this.’ So, she didn’t know,” said Weinberg. “And I’m there on the island, ready to propose, with the ring burning a proverbial hole in my pocket for 8 weeks.”
It simply wasn’t the right time. Seventeen years later, Frankie returned to Thailand on sabbatical. The two picked up where they left off, and eventually moved to and married in New Orleans. Pomelo is something the couple has always envisioned for themselves, Frankie even remembers having a sketchbook from his time in Thailand where he would sketch ideas of the interior.
Frankie sticks with his day job as a Professor of Business Management but keeps a presence at Pomelo greeting customers and managing the social media accounts. Aom finds peace seeing Frankie interact with customers, while Frankie is calmed by knowing Aom is building something special in the kitchen.
When Aom and Frankie aren’t at Pomelo, they enjoy being together in their kitchen at home cooking Japanese food, Aom’s favorite cuisine second to Thai. Frankie says they frequent the neighborhood joint Frankie and Johnny’s from time to time for some classic New Orleans comfort food.
Michael and Laura
Michael Boudreaux and his wife Laura have been married just over 20 years. When he was working as a manager at Outback Steakhouse on the Westbank in the 1990s, there was a moment where decided he was done with restaurant management. He returned home to Baton Rouge and started graduate school at Louisiana State University. Boudreaux took on a part-time job at Juban’s Restaurant in the catering department. It was at a Christmas catering event he met Laura Juban, daughter of the owners. She would help with events on occasion, but they didn’t engage much at first.
“I saw her, said ‘hey’ and she just kind of walked off,” said Boudreaux.
Over the course of the next few months, Michael and Laura grew closer. The pair “began to click and work well together,” Boudreaux said. Their affinity for one another continued to grow and ultimately culminated with their marriage in 2000.
A few months later, Boudreaux acquired the family business, renovated the space, and reopened the restaurant on Valentine’s Day 2001. With Laura by his side, it just felt right. Juban’s has since closed due to the pandemic but plans to reopen again in 2022, on April Fool’s Day, no joke!
“Laura is very type A, straight laced, ‘She’s my safety, I’m her excitement.” Boudreaux said.
Excitement would be an understatement when the couple learned Michael was in possession of a winning lottery ticket, unbeknownst to him. He and Laura had switched vehicles for the day, and she discovered a generous stack of tickets beneath the sun visor. Boudreaux owned up but admitted they were purchased “only if he had quarters on hand.”
Upon some sifting and cross referencing numbers, the two realized one was the golden ticket. Boudreaux credits Laura for squirreling away the money until the time was right, and it ultimately helped them survive the financial woes of the pandemic.
By Nicole Koster
Leidenheimer Baking Company Celebrates 125 years
Adapting to technology and listening to customers and employees are main ingredients in their recipe for success
Gumbo, crawfish etouffee, turtle soup, BBQ shrimp, oysters Rockefeller, snowballs, king cakes, pralines, beignets and bananas foster are all traditional New Orleans comfort foods. Add the po-boy to that list, have it ‘dressed’ on Leidenheimer French Bread (lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, ketchup and mayo) and the list is complete!
Leidenheimer Baking Company celebrated their 125th anniversary last year, standing with only a handful of other New Orleans family-owned businesses who have been in operation for over a century. Current President and owner of Leidenheimer Baking Co., Sandy Whann (Robert J. Whann IV) says this is a anniversary to remember. Baking bread for family-owned restaurants and family dinner tables has always been the Leidenheimer way, a true constant in the lives of New Orleanians. Whann is grateful to the city for allowing his family to make a living, in turn allowing restaurant owners to do the same. This anniversary means everything to him and his family.
“We’ve always valued our relationships with the many restauranteurs and po-boy shop owners in New Orleans and the surrounding areas,” Whann said. “That gave our entire family a great sense of pride, and really a mission. We knew that what we did provided for them to make a living.”
Whann is fourth generation at Leidenheimer. Now his son William and daughter Katie open doors as the fifth generation. Katie runs social media marketing, while William helps with day-to-day operations. Whann’s sister Katherine runs all administrative and back of the house operations, while his brother-in-law is head of operations.
His daughter Katie feels eternally grateful knowing she is part of “New Orleans cultcha.” It is plainly put by famous cartoon embodiments of New Orleans Vic and Nat’ly, created by late local artist Bunny Matthews, vibrantly printed on the side of local Leidenheimer distribution vans.
“We take pride in being a part of something that is so engrained in the culture of this city,” Katie said. “This city means a lot to us. Having the opportunity to be part of something much bigger than just our family.”
It was Sandy’s great grandfather George H. Leidenheimer who founded the bakery in 1896. A baker from Deidesheim, Germany, he traveled to New Orleans to be with cousins who were also bakers. The bakery honored his German roots, but Leidenheimer soon noticed a greater demand for French bread from his customers.
French bread gained its popularity in the 20th century and gave rise to the po-boy sandwich during the streetcar strike of 1929. It was the Martin brothers, Bennie and Clovis, who fed out-of-work streetcar operators for free, as “poor-boys,” from their French Market coffee stand. Leidenheimer passed away in 1918, not living to see the fruition of the “poor-boy” sandwich. Whann believes his great grandfather is looking down upon New Orleans in awe of the evolution of his French bread.
“He would probably be amazed at the technology that we’ve been able to implement, where we’ve remained faithful to the formulas and to the process, but we’ve used technology to make it more consistent,” said Whann. “He’d find it to be, hopefully, the same as when he made it. Of course, he was not making the same exact products that we are today. In the early days, his products were far more European in influence, in terms of heavier, more brown dense breads from his native Germany. As the wonderful melting pot that was, and is New Orleans, it became more the French bread that we enjoy today.”
Whann credits his employees and customers for being the reason Leidenheimer has been able to adapt in challenging times. His bottom line is to always be there for his employees and customers.
“We want to be there for our employees,” Whann said. “They’re here for us, we want to be here for them. You have to listen to your employees, and you have to listen to your customers. And really listen and understand what they need.”
His family bakery has seen New Orleans in tough times, through many global milestones like the Spanish flu and both World Wars, but Leidenheimer has remained resilient. The COVID-19 pandemic is no different.
“There is a sense in the restaurant industry, particularly in New Orleans, that we’re all in this thing together, and I think COVID-19 has really amplified that,” Whann said. “It has been the dedication of many longtime employees, managers and customers who have been very understanding.”
Another key ingredient to Leidenheimer’s success has been growing a presence on social media. Katie Whann is fifth generation and has taken the bakery to Instagram to meet their audience, aka “fans,” Katie calls them.
“We created an Instagram account and revamped our website at the same time. Doing both of those in tandem opened our eyes to a whole new world which has been really fantastic,” said Katie. “It has given us the opportunity to communicate with restaurants across the country.”
The restaurant scene in New Orleans is very tight knit. That relationship between restauranteurs, restaurants, and their patrons has only strengthened since the start of the pandemic. Whann stands as witness to just how important these restaurants are in the daily lives of New Orleanians, and all around the state of Louisiana.
“Our neighborhood restaurants, our sandwich shops, our wonderful French Quarter white tablecloth restaurants, all play a role in many families’ lives in this city. It is a spiritual relationship here,” says Whann. “There is something that we get from gathering in these restaurants with our friends, our families, our loved ones. These restauranteurs and their employees are like extended parts of our own family.”
Whann is a firm believer that the restaurant community of New Orleans will move past the struggles of COVID-19 and continue to safely provide a space for families to gather and share meals for years to come. It is the city’s historic family-owned restaurants who keep the oil lamps burning with hope.
“If you’re ever at a table and overhear a beloved waitress greeting a regular customer and asking about their family, their grandmother, the new grandchild - it is an uplifting experience that they have kept going through COVID-19,” Whann said. “We all need healing from this thing, and what they provide to me, and to so many others, is invaluable. It’s remarkable what they do, particularly under the circumstances in which they’ve had to do it.”
The circumstances for Leidenheimer haven’t been easy either. During quarantine of 2020, and after Hurricane Ida blew through South Louisiana, the office staff transitioned to remote work, but the bakery is where the magic happens.
“It’s next to impossible to remotely bake bread,” Whann explains. “We can outfit their homes with modems, but we can’t outfit them with tunnel ovens and mixers.”
It was no small feat, but the bakery continued to drop bags of fresh bread to customers and feed frontline workers through partnerships with local vendors and the #loavesoflove campaign. Whann listened and jumped in without hesitation when President of JMH Hospitality Glen Armantrout, which owns Mahony’s Po-boys & Seafood, approached him with the idea for #loavesoflove.
“I called up Leidenheimer, among others including Blue Plate, Tabasco, Chisesi, and rallied the forces,” said Armantrout. “For every tray that someone bought, the second one was delivered free of charge to a front-line location choice. It took off. We ended up preparing nearly 10,000 meals.”
Armantrout attests to how much of a pillar Leidenheimer has been for the New Orleans restaurant community, and the taste of their French bread has been unmatched for decades.
“Leidenheimer bread in simplest terms is ‘perfect,’” Armantrout said. “It’s got that nice crunch on the exterior and a billowy, pillow-like inside. They’ve been consistent with us, and they’re good friends of the restaurant and always have been.”
Paul Rotner, CEO of Acme Oyster House and former board member of the LRAEF, knows his po-boy’s are not complete without being served on the “best French bread in the world.” Acme Oyster House offers a ‘10 napkin roast beef po-boy’ on their menu, and Rotner vows “you need every one, plus 10 more” to enjoy the traditional New Orleans gravy-soaked delicacy on Leidenheimer bread.
Whann was born and raised in New Orleans, and has seen his French bread become a “tasty blank canvas” for chefs all over the country.
“We happen to be in a city with the most talented chefs and restauranteurs in the country,” Whann says, “and to sit back and watch what they do with our product is very rewarding.”
Tujague’s Restaurant has been in business since 1856, celebrating their 165th anniversary last year. Executive Chef Gus Martin loves Leidenheimer bread and has used it as an essential ingredient throughout his culinary career. “Leidenheimer is a staple in New Orleans cooking,” Martin said. “From the beginning of the meal to the end.”
The Leidenheimer influence is clear. With its unmistakable flaky top and light, airy inside, their bread is truly a New Orleans original. Let us not forget either, the famous muffuletta buns they sell, and the ‘pistolet’ dinner loaves that restaurant guests break bear handed while awaiting their meal. You’ll even eat a slice or two served with a side of gumbo, or drenched in rum sauce as bread pudding. Leidenheimer is New Orleans culture you can eat.
“Their bread has influenced so many great dishes of our city. I’ve used their bread throughout the majority of my career,” said Martin. “I love the versatility of their bread in my cooking at Tujague’s.”
Ralph Brennan has been serving guests at his family restaurants for decades, and has “served Leidenheimer bread in our restaurants for a long as I can remember,” he said.
As Brennan’s is celebrating its 75th anniversary, he is grateful to Whann and his family who have “been great supporters of our community and our industry.”
Fifty years from now, Whann hopes Leidenheimer will still be a family-run operation, and that the work he and his family are doing now will pave the way for Leidenheimer’s success.
“I hope were still focused on our customers,” Whann said. “I’m confident, that if we’re in business and successful, we will continue to focus on quality. I hope we’ve been able to create an environment that offers our employees the opportunity to grow, and is a place that our employees would recommend to their friends as a rewarding place to work. If those things are happening 50 years from now, I know we’ll be a successful company.”
It is the bakery’s legacy of quality and customer service that he hopes will remain once it is time to pass the torch, or loaf, if you will.
By Nicole Koster
Baton Rouge restaurateur Michael Boudreaux reflects on personal encounters which shaped his career
Michael Boudreaux has spent the last 30 years honing his restaurant business acumen. His career in the industry began at Outback Steakhouse where he was the Bloomin’ Onion guy” while working his way through the management trainee program and later becoming manager at the Marrero location on the Westbank of New Orleans in 1997.
He attributes mentorship as the key to his personal and professional development. When leaving Outback, he had an exit interview at a local donut shop with Bruce Attinger, formerly of Outback and currently with Walk-On’s (and past LRA Chair), that lasted three and a half hours. Attinger challenged and inspired him in a way he still fondly recalls to this day.
“Bruce saw something in the young me, and that talk was really the springboard for what followed,” said Boudreaux. “I still hold him in the highest regard and value his wisdom and guidance.”
His desire to return to his hometown of Baton Rouge to finish his degree at Louisiana State University landed him at Juban’s Restaurant in their catering division managing off-site events. It was there he first met his now wife, Laura Juban, daughter of then partners Ken and Carroll Juban.
In 2000, Juban’s Restaurant underwent a renovation, vastly expanding its footprint from 5,000 to 16,000 square feet, with nine private rooms and a maximum seated capacity of 450. Boudreaux would assume the general manager role, soon followed by that of husband and son-in-law.
In 2008, Boudreaux bought the Silver Spoon, a lunch spot on Jefferson Highway. Two years later, he took on two partners, Jeff Conaway and Chef Nathan Gresham, and transformed the space into the now popular Beausoleil Restaurant and Bar, featuring Louisiana farm to table cuisine. Over the following years, the group doubled in size, and in 2015 purchased Christina’s, a diner in downtown Baton Rouge. Further expansion with his wife and in-laws included Adrian’s on the opposite side of town.
Like many of his colleagues, the pandemic forced Boudreaux and his family and partners to evaluate and adjust the circumstances for each property. They opted to close Christina’s since most downtown Baton Rouge employees transitioned to remote work. Admittedly, Adrian’s suffered from an identity crisis from the start, and with its issues further compounded by the onslaught of pandemic woes, was forced to close as well.
Ironically, the pandemic did present an opportunity for a new venture. In the fall of 2020, Boudreaux teamed up with LRA past Chairman Peter Sclafani and Kiva Guidroz of Making Raving Fans Hospitality Group, whom he knew through the LRA and restaurant community for years. Because of the uncertainty in the market, Juban’s was put on hold, but the closure did make way for the three to turn their attention towards a new concept - SoLou Patio Restaurant Bar. The restaurant offers southern comfort food with a twist in a posh indoor/outdoor atmosphere complete with sprawling live oak trees and a signature Instagramable wall.
“Recently, I was standing at the bar next to Michael, and as I looked around I couldn’t help but notice he and I were the oldest ones in the restaurant,” laughed Sclafani. “There was a group of young people dancing on the patio, and the vibe was just electric. I asked Michael, ‘How did we come up with something this good?’”
With inspired dishes like crawfish beignets, shrimp corndogs, fried cauliflower tossed in a Thai chili sauce, a Cajun charcuterie board and so much more, the menu is as dynamic as the cocktail list. Notables include a frozen mint julep and the Strawberry Hill, concocted with Ponchatoula strawberry infused gin.
Occupying the former Rum House location on Perkins Road, the restaurant is situated just a stone’s throw away from Juban’s, which is currently undergoing a renovation and plans to reopen on April Fool’s Day (no, it’s no prank). With Juban’s long-standing fine dining reputation in the Capitol City, this highly anticipated revitalization will culminate in a refreshed menu while maintaining some notable staples including the infamous Halleluiah crab.
The restaurant will operate under a new overarching theme, “company loves history.” “With this renovation, we’re reimagining what fine dining is,” said Boudreaux.
This year, Boudreaux will serve as Chair of the LRA, the association’s most important leadership position. His involvement with the association began back in 2004, when he volunteered to accompany Chef Terry McDonner to mentor three Louisiana ProStart classes in the Baton Rouge area. Boudreaux attributes that experience as the catalyst for his continued volunteer service to the association and joined the Greater Baton Rouge Chapter Board and later volunteered to chair its annual golf tournament.
After those ProStart encounters, I was hooked. To see high school juniors and seniors interested in what Chef Terry, and even young Mike Boudreaux, had to share, was so cool.
Under Boudreaux’s leadership, the golf tournament fundraiser tripled its contribution to the LRA Education Foundation that year. In 2021, the tournament yielded a whopping $20,000 for the charitable arm of the LRA.
In 2008, he joined the LRA State Board of Directors and went on to become the GBR Chapter President in 2010. Since, he’s served as chair for chapter leadership, showcase, communications and advocacy/PAC committees. In 2017, he was elected as the LRA At Large Member on the Executive Committee and has served as the Secretary, Treasurer, and Vice Chair, leading to this year as chair.
“I’ve known Michael for over 20 years, first as a competitor and later as a colleague on our LRA Board,” said LRA President & CEO Stan Harris. “Early in my tenure, our leaders had their eye on him for future leadership and noted his friendly personality and willingness to get things done. We are fortunate to have him as our 2022 State Chair and to quote LRA past Chair Peter Sclafani, ‘we want him to be Michael Boudreaux!’”
“Michael has incredible work ethic and interpersonal skills. Whether he was waiting tables and interacting with the guests or talking with the kitchen staff, he’s just a really friendly person,” said Attinger.
The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) was established in 1946 to advocate on behalf of the state’s foodservice and hospitality industries.