Restaurant News: Café Reconcile and Tujague's

Earlier this month, after renovations that took almost a year, Café Reconcile re-opened. The Central City restaurant is a part of Reconcile New Orleans, Inc., a foundation formed in the mid-90's to help young people facing significant challenges gain the training and experience needed to find a job. At Café Reconcile, that training is in the food service industry. More than 500 young people have graduated from the 12-week program since the restaurant first started serving customers in 2000, and many of them have been hired by local chefs and restaurateurs.


The menu at Café Reconcile is probably best described as classic New Orleans soul food with some interesting twists. There's fried seafood, red beans, smothered chicken and similar comfort food available, along with poor boys and sides like baked macaroni and cheese, collard greens with pork and mashed sweet potatoes. But there are also a few vegetarian options, and check out the monthly recipes for an idea of the kind of specials the kitchen runs.


Café Reconcile is currently open for lunch only, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and is located at 1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. You can call (504) 568-1157 to find out more.


If you follow restaurant news, you've likely heard that Tujague's may be closing. In the last few days I've heard both that Stanford Latter, who owns the physical structure in which Tujague's is located, is still considering a sale or has already closed the deal. Whether it's accurate or just representative of our fears about losing cultural touchstones – particularly in the Quarter – the rumor is that the restaurant will be turned into a T-shirt shop and/or a fried chicken joint.


I like Tujague's a lot. The boiled brisket is one of my favorite things to eat in New Orleans, and I love the kick of horseradish in their remoulade. I like the way they've held on to a set menu as well, and apart from a few misses now and then, my meals have always been good there. It may be the perfect place to take visitors from out of town who want a truly New Orleans experience. It's not the kind of restaurant at which I'd eat every night for a week, but I haven't passed a year in the last 15 or so without eating at Tujague's at least a couple of times.


So I very much hope that Tujague's stays in business and stays in the Latter family. Remember those banks that were too big to fail? Tujague's is too important to close. If it does, and the space is turned over to some cheap T-shirt peddler, we will never see its like again. That will be true even if the Latter family re-opens the restaurant at another location. You could pull up the cypress bar and the French mirror that hangs behind it and reinstall them somewhere else. You can call it Tujague's. Hell, I might even go out of nostalgia, but I bet you the brisket won't taste the same, and I promise you it won't feel like Tujague's.


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