None of the individual changes at FredRick’s Deli were sweeping, and that was by design. But taken together, they’re adding up to a new direction for this longtime CBD lunch counter, one tied to the more high-profile wave of redevelopment taking shape around it.
Last week, the old deli finally unfurled its new name, signaling a new start. Now called Bienvenue Bar & Grill, the eatery at 312 St. Charles Ave. has a small, newly installed bar, expanding hours and some revamped menu staples.
A group of new owners bought FredRick’s back in September, but made changes slowly.
“We wanted to live in the place for a while before we did anything, see what worked and see what people liked,” said Ryan Haro, the new proprietor. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel but we can do some things differently.”
Haro, who has worked across the local service industry, also has the CBD café Haro Coffee a few blocks away at 703 Carondelet St.
The former FredRick’s had been a convenience store when business partners Fred Rost and Rick Lewis took over in 2000. They turned it into a cafe for short order breakfasts, sandwiches and plate lunches. They opened only on weekdays, served customers drawn mostly from the surrounding office buildings and closed in the afternoon.
In the years since, many downtown offices have emptied, and more hotels and apartment developments have taken their place. More are on the way. When Rost and Lewis were ready to retire, they found buyers with ideas for a neighborhood eatery in a changing neighborhood.
“There are more people down here after hours now but there still aren’t a lot of places to stop in and just get an easy bite to eat and a drink,” said Haro. “That’s the opportunity for us.”
Video poker, laptop chargers
Like the other changes, new hours for Bienvenue Bar & Grill are coming along gradually. It’s open weekdays until 6 p.m. and weekends until 3 p.m., though Haro said eventually those hours will extend to 10 p.m. or so. During Carnival, with grandstands and parade spectators lining the sidewalk outside, it will keep later hours.
FredRick’s always had a full liquor license, though this was scarcely used beyond parade days or for furnishnig some lunchtime longnecks. Haro and his partners built a new bar upfront by the cash register. In back, in self-serve grocery coolers, they are slowly building up a larger selection of beer, with more craft canned beer to come.
The look is much the same, though freshened up. There’s a vintage tile floor done in an intricate fleur de lis pattern, and there’s a little video poker corral in the corner. Now, the dining counter has plugs for charging phones and laptops.
From the open diner kitchen, cooks still ladle out red beans and gumbo, build po-boys and fried seafood platters and heat up big muffulettas in the broiler. Now, though, they’re also grilling seafood for salads and sandwiches, making burger patties by hand and prepping the fried chicken breast in house too.
Like before, there are breakfast sandwiches, omelets and biscuits, and Haro will eventually bring over the same coffee and hot chocolate he serves at his own coffee shop.
Lewis, who reports that he’s now happily retired, has been dropping by for lunch and a look around. He gives Haro a thumbs up.
“I’ve been impressed with what they’ve done with it to be honest,” Lewis said. “They’re making it into a real New Orleans deli and pub, I think downtown needs that.”
Bienvenue Bar & Grill
312 St. Charles Ave., 504-587-7133
Initial hours are Mon.-Fri., 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.