Nostalgia: From Vienna to Menefee’s and Beyond

1101 N. Rampart St.

The Vienna Garden Restaurant opened in 1924 at 1101 N. Rampart St. Owned and operated by Matt and Margaret Franichevich, who resided on the top floors with their family, it was purported to be the city’s first steak house. Creole and European dishes filled out the menu of the very popular restaurant, noted for its excellence in cuisine and architectural charm.

In the late 1920s, the Franichevichs also started renting out furnished rooms above the restaurant. Matt died in 1945, but Margaret continued running the businesses. In 1959, the restaurant closed, but the family continued to live upstairs for another decade while renting out the bottom for commercial use.

For the next 12 years, businesses opened and closed rapidly at 1101 N. Rampart St., with advertisements announcing at least 11 new bar and restaurant names until 1972, when Charlie Bering opened Lu and Charlie’s Jazz Club. Appearances by local legends like Henry Butler, Ellis Marsalis, Alvin Baptiste and James Booker kept the club open and popular until 1978.

A few more live music ventures filtered in and out until 1982, when a $2 million renovation of the property (including joining the main house with the carriage house and adding a pool to the courtyard) resulted in Menefee’s, a 16,000-square-foot “pleasure palace” that included a piano lounge, 24-hour bar, disco, dining room and a men’s-only health spa, all decorated in tones of mauve and silver. The business closed in 1985 after owner Jerry Menefee died.

After a couple more short-lived nightclubs, the building remained empty from 1989 until 1994, when it was bought by Gary Bourgeois and converted it into the French Quarter Courtyard Hotel. Since 2009, it has been the New Orleans Courtyard Hotel.