First Act Food
Muriel's Jackson Square
In a restaurant town like New Orleans, sometimes the hardest thing about a night out at the theater isn’t scoring tickets to the right show. It’s making a decision about where to eat.
There are so many options that audiences can choose a different restaurant for every show in a season and never go to the same place twice.
Fortunately, some restaurants make the choice easier with tempting offers aimed specifically at theatergoers.
Muriel’s Jackson Square in the French Quarter offers a special three-course, prix fixe menu for those going to shows at Le Petit Theatre, located just a block away. For $24.50, diners have a choice among three appetizers, entrées and desserts. The entrée choices include pecan-crusted puppy drum with crabmeat relish, wood-grilled pork chop topped with sugar-cane apple glaze and a side of sweet potatoes or roasted chicken basted in lemon-thyme butter.
The restaurant also validates parking for up to five hours.
Muriel’s co-owner Rick Gratia says the special is popular. Before a Saturday showing of “Rent” at Le Petit, the restaurant served about 45 theatergoers. “We get from about 20 to 50 people here each (show) night for the regularly scheduled performances, which are every second month from September to June,” Gratia says.
Of course, options abound for dining in the French Quarter, ranging from New Orleans institutions like Antoine’s, Galatoire’s or Arnaud’s to popular spots like Bayona, Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse, Irene’s, K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen, Nola and Stella!, to name a few.
Any of these would also be convenient for audiences at Southern Rep Theatre, which sits at the edge of the French Quarter. The theater’s producing director, Julie Hamburg, says Southern Rep hasn’t yet arranged dining deals with nearby restaurants, but “we’re working on it.” In the meantime, she says many patrons choose dining spots in the Central Business District or Warehouse District.
The restaurant Luke offers something for early birds and the late-night crowd. The German and French brasserie-style café, located at 333 St. Charles Ave., offers dinner from 4 to 11 p.m. Entrees, which range in price from $11 to $29, include everything from croque monsieur grilled ham and Emmenthaler cheese sandwiches to grilled rib eye with béarnaise sauce. The bistro also offers a special menu for those in a hurry — soup, entrée of the day and dessert for $23.
Luke is also an option if you’re seeing a show a few blocks down the street at Le Chat Noir. However, the cabaret is literally next door to two restaurants, Leonardo Trattoria and Herbsaint. The latter is known for its daily gumbo specials and appetizers, or “small plates” such as shrimp and grits with tasso and okra or beef short ribs on potato cake with Dijon-horseradish dressing.
Le Chat is a big draw for the restaurant, says General Manager Joe Briand. “You can definitely tell when there is a show at Le Chat here, there’s no question,” he says. “We have actually got a little code in our reservation system that is for Le Chat so when people come in, (the server) knows that they have to get in and out in an hour and a half.”
On the other side of the Warehouse District at 800 S. Peters St., Riomar is an option for those looking for something lighter before the show. The restaurant eschews butter and cream in favor of Mediterranean-style cooking, featuring fresh seafood. “You can have a little ceviche and a salad and you can call that a meal, and you’re not sitting in the theater wondering why you ate too much,” says chef/owner Adolfo Garcia .
Riomar offers dinner as early as 6 p.m., and Garcia would like to see more theatre patrons at the restaurant. “We don’t see enough,” he says.
Garcia also owns La Boca, an Argentinean-style steakhouse at 857 Fulton. The restaurant, known for its high-quality meats and irresistible garlic fries, is one of the few white tablecloth restaurants available for late-night dining for those who want a meal well after curtain call. La Boca seats guests until midnight.
“It’s the perfect place for after theater,” Garcia says.
Downtown New Orleans doesn’t have the monopoly on theater or dining. For those catching plays or musical performances on the Tulane or Loyola university campuses, or at Anthony Bean Community Theater, the Riverbend area features several neighborhood restaurants like Dante’s Kitchen, One Restaurant & Lounge, Brightson’s and nearby Vincent’s.
Over in Metairie, patrons of the Actor’s Theatre of New Orleans have several nearby options. There are three restaurants Zea’s Bistro, Semolina’s and Serrano’s Restaurants – in the Clearview Shopping Center, and many other restaurants, such as the popular Drago’s, along or near Veterans Memorial Boulevard.
For those who can’t make up their mind on a place to eat, sometimes the best option is to combine the two. The Jefferson Performing Arts Society offers Teatro Wego! Dinner Theatre on Fridays and Saturdays for select shows. Schedules are available online at www.jpas.org. •