The fourth location of The Ruby Slipper opens Friday, Jan. 24, in a building on Canal Street that once housed a McCrory's five-and-dime store. I managed to sneak into the VIP Preview that Erich and Jennifer Weishaupt, the kids behind the restaurants, hosted this week by pretending to be a VIP. And because my wife was invited. Before I was escorted from the premises, I managed to obtain a few tidbits of information for you, dear readers. Though I sacrificed my body in the process (I write this column while I convalesce from the injuries I suffered when I tripped on my way out was heaved through the service entrance onto Iberville St.), I did have the chance to rub elbows briefly with at least one famous local food writer whose name I was asked not to divulge. I would ordinarily scoff at such requests, but I watched the brute verbally abuse the wait staff, and I am convinced his threat to “beat me with a ball-peen hammer until you vote Tory!” was credible. The most I will say is that at one point he claimed to hail from Rhodesia or a place that sounded very much like it.
I had never been inside the building at 1005 Canal St. before it became the newest Ruby Slipper. But I'm familiar enough with the way that some of the beautiful, older buildings on New Orleans' premiere street were mangled over the years that I could picture it when Erich described what they found when they first walked into the place. There was a 10 foot-high drop ceiling, and when they started removing that, they found another drop ceiling above it. In large part, the work to restore the property was to remove what had been done to the original structure.
Ultimately, the process uncovered massive steel I-beams that braced the building and which are now exposed in the ceiling of the dining room. The impression these things give is that they could support something far, far larger than the current structure, and Weishaupt told me that when they were doing some excavation work to modernize the plumbing, they discovered the beams ran under the floor as well. Weishaupt told me that the I-beams were responsible, in part, for changing the original plans for the restaurant's design.
The restaurant's kitchen is large enough that the Weishaupts plan on using it as a commissary for their other locations. There were three huge walk-in freezers in place when they took the property on, and between their space on the first floor and the vacant second floor to which they have access, there's more storage space than they know what to do with.
When the high tables toward the rear of the dining room are full, the restaurant seats 132. It's a narrow space, at least in comparison to its length, and the rear third is made up of the aforementioned high tables and the bar, which runs along the lakeside wall. The Weishaupts used Peter Waring as their architect, and they used recycled or repurposed materials for most of the place.
The menu at each of the four Ruby Slipper locations is slightly different, and that's going to be the case at the newest as well. Look for items like Chicken St. Charles, in which a fried chicken breast is served over a buttermilk biscuit with poached eggs and a tasso cream sauce; Catfish St. Peter, which is farm-raised catfish over generous grit cakes, topped with sautéed spinach and tomatoes and garnished with a skewer of grilled shrimp; or the Ruby-n, a take on the reuben in which thinly sliced corned beef is combined with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and russian dressing on a marble rye bagel the restaurant gets from Laurel Street Bakery.
The Canal Street Ruby Slipper will have the same hours as the other outlets – 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., seven days a week, but given its proximity to venues like the Saenger, it's no surprise that there are plans (if vague) to expand the hours to the evening. If that happens, expect to see something more like tapas or small plates than the current breakfast-centered menu.
I know this is the second week in a row I've written about breakfast joints, but I feel the attention is justified for a number of reasons. First, Ruby Slipper is a locally-owned and wildly popular joint. They're being honored this very evening for having the best brunch in town by New Orleans Magazine's Tops of the Town reader's choice poll. Second, YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME. Third, I take comfort in the fact that there are two things which the famous local food writer and I have in common – the belief that there are too few good breakfast options in New Orleans and the fact that we both clearly married above our stations. Fourth, see item 2, hereinabove.
On that note, have a lovely weekend, and feel free to tell me all about your favorite breakfast options in the comments.