Monday, August 10, 2009

Chez Helene

When I was a very young man, in the 1970's, my Mom and Dad took me to eat at this place. My Dad did a lot of work in New Orleans and they spent lot's of time over there. Sometimes I would tag along on the weekend just for fun. Chez Helene was the real deal. Totally New Orleans. I was lucky to get to learn about places like this as a kid and I'm sure it set me on the the gastro-path I am on today. They also took me to a poboy joint called Ruby Lamas, I will see if I can dig up any info on it.

Austin Leslie's signature dish -- Fried Chicken with Persillade

CHEZ HELENE from wikipedia

The original location of the restaurant was on North Robertson Street, near the French Quarter. It became the classic "underground" restaurant, featuring good food at reasonable prices in an off-the-beaten-path location. Despite the modest surroundings, it was compared favorably to the grand New Orleans restaurants such as Brennan's, Antoine's, and Commander's Palace. In addition to receiving rave reviews from the local food critics, Chez Helene also caught the attention of national food writers such as R.W. "Johnny" Apple of The New York Times and Calvin Trillin.[7] [8] The restaurant served haute creole dishes like Oysters Rockefeller as well as down-home items like stuffed bell pepper, fried chicken livers, and mustard greens. His aunt retired in 1975 and sold the restaurant to Leslie.

Despite its commercial and culinary success, the North Robertson neighborhood became unsafe. Cab drivers would not travel to the area, and hotel concierges would no longer recommend the restaurant. Leslie moved his business to the French Quarter and opened a branch in Chicago. He also tried his hand at running a number of fried chicken outlets. But the new location did not have the same charm as the original and Leslie eventually closed Chez Helene in 1995 after thirty years of operation. After closing the Chez Helene he wrote and published the cookbook Creole-Soul.